PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team ended last season without an NCAA tournament bid, and when the Cardinals looked back, they saw the difference between getting in and being left out was slim.
As they enter the 2013-14 season with 20 returning players, they’re vowing not to take any nights off or have lapses of intensity.
“I think it was emotion every night. We were two games away from making the tournament,” coach Bob Emery said. “If we took care of business in a couple games we should’ve won, against teams we should’ve beaten, then we would’ve been in the tournament.
“That was our main problem last year, and that’s our main focus this year.”
Plattsburgh begins the season by hosting Potsdam in a SUNY Athletic Conference game tonight. The Cardinals are ranked fifth in the first USCHO.com Division III Men’s Hockey Poll of the season and were picked first in the SUNYAC Preseason Poll.
While the Cardinals lost just one forward — Jared Docking — who was a regular in the lineup last year, they had some holes to fill in the back. They lost three defensemen who dressed for more than 20 games, including four-year players Paul Puglisi and Mike Grace.
They’ve brought in two freshmen and also boosted the defensive corps by putting Nick Jensen there full time.
“Anytime you lose two guys that played 20 minutes a game, it’s going to hurt the team,” junior blueliner Preston Kaye said. “But the new guys are willing to step up, and having Nick Jensen back there is definitely going to help our transition.”
Newcomer Derek Patterson has been injured most of the preseason, but Kaye and Emery both said the other freshman, Patrick Hermans, has been impressive.
The Cardinals have some size on the blue line. Five of the eight defensemen are 6 feet or taller, including 6-foot-5-inch Patterson as well as Jensen and Kaye, who both stand 6 feet 3 inches. Four of them weigh in at more than 215 pounds.