---- — This weekend the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team plays what forward Mark Constantine calls “one of the biggest games of the year.”
But not until Saturday.
First the Cardinals visit Cortland tonight, and then they’ll meet archrival Oswego, trying to keep the Lakers out of their minds until Saturday.
“It’s hard to do obviously because it’s Oswego. But just gotta have it in your mind-set that we have to win the first game first,” Constantine said. “Even if we do beat Oswego and we lose to Cortland, it’s a bad weekend. It’s not a winning weekend.”
Plattsburgh (6-2, 5-1 SUNYAC), ranked seventh, lost its Friday game the last two weeks, so it will start the weekend by trying to stop that trend.
Cortland (2-6-1, 2-4) lost to and tied with Neumann in a nonconference series last week. The Red Dragons’ SUNY Athletic Conference wins came against Morrisville and Fredonia. They put up four goals against Oswego in October, losing 7-4.
“I hope we have the leadership going into Cortland (tonight) because a lot of people think it’s a trap game,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “Cortland’s been in every game they’ve played, and we’re not doing ourselves any justice as a player, as a coach, as a team, as a hockey program if we’re overlooking Cortland. Because they’re well coached, and they’re going to be well prepared.”
Oswego (7-0, 6-0) is ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll, and it’s also first in the SUNYAC standings, a game ahead of Plattsburgh. The Lakers feature the top two scorers in Division III, Paul Rodrigues (7-13-20) and Luke Moodie (9-10-19).
As a team, they average 6.43 goals per game, which is tied for most in the country. Constantine said the strategy for facing such a high-scoring team is simple.
“Defense,” he said. “Blocking shots, helping the goaltender out, get pucks out of the zone. Try to score goals as well — get on their goalie, score more goals. They might not be used to it. So block shots, score goals. Just play the game.”
Plattsburgh’s scoring has been up this season, although last weekend the Cardinals had trouble capitalizing on opportunities at times.
“I think the Middlebury game was a little bit of last year. We didn’t find the net on our Grade-A scoring chances,” Emery said. “Then we played St. Thomas the next night, played a great game defensively, played a great game offensively and only had two goals to show for it.
“So we gotta just keep working hard, and try to find that back of the net. And I think the goals will come. Especially with the young team that we have, eventually they’ll come.”
Constantine, a sophomore, has team-highs with five goals and 10 points, and freshman Luke Baleshta also has 10 points, including a team-leading seven assists.
The Cardinals beat the Lakers 3-2 in last year’s SUNYAC championship game, ending Oswego’s seven-game unbeaten streak in the rivalry.
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