By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Coach Bob Emery said the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team needs to get back to its bread and butter: tough defense.
The 10th-ranked Cardinals are 2-2 since returning from the semester break, and Emery said they played poor defense in their two losses.
They host Middlebury and Williams this weekend for the last two nonconference games on their schedule.
The Cardinals (9-5-1) started the year with an increased focus on goal scoring, but Emery stipulated that it couldn’t be at the expense of defense. Lately, he said, the defense has lapsed. He thought they played poorly in their own end in a 3-2 loss to Amherst in the Cardinal Classic, and then they allowed a season-high five goals while falling to Castleton last Saturday.
“So this first semester our forwards did not do a good job creating turnovers, finishing checks, playing physical. So I mentioned that a lot, I taught that a lot and preached it a lot,” Emery said. “And I think our defense thought, ‘OK, we’re the bomb back here. We don’t need to play defense anymore. It’s our forwards that are the reason why we’re not being good.’
“Bang. Two games later, it’s our defense. So I think, you know, it’s a focus problem.”
The season has been an up-and-down one for Plattsburgh. The team started the season with two weekend sweeps, and it hasn’t had a four-point weekend since. The Cardinals split their last two weekends.
“It’s hard to put a finger on our lack of success, if you will, of our season,” Emery said. “I think our season started off maybe too easy for us. All our games were at home. We didn’t have any real tough opponents outside of Oswego. So I think it gave us a false sense of hope that we might have been better than we were.
“Coach (Steve) Moffat has done really a lot of work watching video with players this week. We’re trying to find the answers to the problems.”
Plattsburgh met Middlebury already this season, dropping a 3-2 game in the PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout. The Panthers (5-6-2) have suffered six losses since then, including a 3-1 setback against Norwich on Tuesday, and have fallen out of the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll.
Louis Belisle and Derek Pimentel lead the team with 11 points each. Nick BonDurant has been in goal for eight games this season, but the Panthers have also used three other netminders. Liam Moorfield-Yee, a freshman, played the last two games.
“Against Middlebury, we gotta watch out for their stretch guy — the guy trying to get behind our defense,” Emery said. “Cost us two goals last time we played them on two bad changeups in the second period.
“That’s going to be the focus. Defense first, doing the little things, possess the puck and try to take advantage of scoring chances when we have them. But it’s gotta be defense first. You cannot beat a good hockey team without playing defense.”
No. 13 Williams (7-2-1) tied Trinity and beat Wesleyan last weekend. The Ephs are 5-0-1 in their last six games.
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Cardinal Q&A To watch Plattsburgh State coach Bob Emery discuss the season, visit blog.pressrepublican.com/play-ball.