---- — PLATTSBURGH — For the Plattsburgh State lacrosse team to win the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament championship today, the Cardinals will have to beat the best — the very best.
The second-seeded Cardinals (14-3) will play a noon contest at top-seeded Cortland, which is also ranked No. 1 in the country in Division III.
This will be the first-ever SUNYAC Tournament finals appearance for the Cardinals.
The Red Dragons advanced to the finals with Wednesday’s 16-5 win over fourth-seeded Potsdam, while the Cardinals were a 15-7 winner over third-seeded The College at Brockport.
Cortland survived three overtime games earlier in the season against Stevens Institute (12-11), Ithaca (9-8) and RIT (12-11). The Red Dragons’ toughest test in SUNYAC play came on March 30 in a 15-12 win in Plattsburgh.
Since that game, Cortland has been on a roll. In eight victories following the Plattsburgh contest, the closest game for the Red Dragons was a 10-5 victory over Potsdam in regular season play.
The Cardinals have also been on a roll. Since back-to-back losses to Cortland and St. Lawrence University, Plattsburgh has won six games in a row.
The Cardinals finished the regular season with conference wins over Oswego (11-10, overtime), Oneonta (16-6), Brockport (9-5), Potsdam (15-9) and Geneseo (14-5).
Plattsburgh, which is ranked 19th nationally, then recorded a win over Brockport in its first-ever home playoff game.
The leading scorers for the Cardinals are Joey Kramer (43-12-55), Brendan Damm (35-16-51), Tim Lawrence (30-16-46), Brett McClelland (24-18-42), Nick Travers (20-7-27) and Tom Duggan (17-10-27).
Gordie Gehring has compiled a 13-3 record in goal for the Cardinals and has made 121 saves on the year.
Plattsburgh, in 17 games, has scored 215 goals and allowed 118.
Cortland, meanwhile, has outscored its opponents, 205-94, and has outshot its foes by a 689-457 margin.
The Red Dragons have eight players with 13 points or more, led by Zach Hopps (24-33-57), Joe Slavik (29-20-49), Cody Consul (23-19-42) and Matt Rakoczy (26-6-32).
Mike Kaminski sports a 15-0 record in net for Cortland and has made 140 saves during the season.
In the first meeting of the season between the two teams, the Red Dragons outscored the Cardinals, 5-2, in the fourth period to prevail in what was the first conference game of the season for both.
Cortland jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening period, but Plattsburgh scored seven goals in the second period to pull into an 8-all halftime tie. The two teams were then tied, at 10-all, after three.
Rakoczy led the way for the Red Dragons with four goals, while Slavik added three goals and Hopps two goals and three assists.
Kramer led the Cardinals with four goals, followed by Lawrence with three and Duggan with two.
The winner of today’s game advances into the NCAA Tournament. Should Plattsburgh lose, it would await word on a possible at-large berth into the event.
The Cardinals, however, have their sights on winning.