— PLATTSBURGH — Defense is always the emphasis for the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team.
But this year there’s an increased focus on the offense.
The Cardinals averaged 3.29 goals per game last season, which put them well down the list in Division III. And in their last 10 games, they scored just 2.3 per night.
Plattsburgh, which returns 18 players to this year’s team, begins the regular season tonight against SUNY Athletic Conference foe Morrisville at Stafford Ice Arena. The Cardinals are looking to boost their offensive production this season.
Senior forward Patrick Jobb said they can do that by simply getting more pucks to the net.
“Just shooting the puck. I think a lot of times we pass up opportunities — make that extra play or make the nice pass,” he said. “Just getting pucks on net and having guys being there when it gets there.”
Sophomore Jake Mooney added that they need to be more opportunistic — bury the chances they do get.
Plattsburgh brought in 11 freshmen, and Mooney said a lot of them are “skill guys.”
Coach Bob Emery doesn’t expect the newcomers to make a big impact right away, but he said some of them have the potential to be goal-scorers for the Cardinals.
“Yeah, we don’t have one bad guy in the bunch in the freshman class right on through,” Emery said. “So it’s going to be some tough decisions for the first game.” He added that everyone will likely get in the lineup over the first two games.
Plattsburgh graduated its points leader from last year, Kyle Kudroch, but returns three of its top five scorers.
Emery will be looking to some second-year players in particular for offensive production.
“I just think we have some guys in that sophomore class that we have high expectations for. Alex Jensen, Jake Mooney and Mark Constantine,” he said. “Those three guys we brought in for the same reason — to put some points on the board.
“You can’t expect that out of them their first year. I don’t want to put pressure on them, but I think the expectations from the coaching staff are there for those three this year. And we’re hoping they don’t get the sophomore jinx.”
Mooney led the freshmen and was fifth overall last year with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists), and Jensen was right behind him with a 6-10-16 scoring line. Constantine finished with six goals and seven assists.
Mooney said he won’t try to change much.
“Obviously I’d like to improve on my season last year and be even better this year. But overall, just the same player. Go out and do my thing,” he said. “I’d like to hope that I’m one of those players (who can be counted on for goals). I think I’ll be given the opportunity to be one of those players, but it’s all about taking advantage of the chances. And hopefully I can do that this year.”
Nick Jensen, a junior forward, is the team’s top returning scorer; he had a team-high 10 goals last year along with 10 assists to put him tied for second in the point standings with Jared Docking (6-14-20).
Jobb is one player who didn’t see the puck go in as much as he would’ve liked last season. After scoring three goals, the senior forward is looking to find the net more.
“I need to pick up my game from what I did last year and get back to how I played the year before to help the team out,” Jobb said.
But don’t think all the talk about offense means defense will take a back seat. Emery said the Cardinals have to make sure they’re not sacrificing anything defensively as they try to increase scoring.
“I think a lot of times when you talk about, ‘We gotta score, we gotta score’, guys think, ‘OK, we don’t have to play defense,’” Emery said. “So I think it’s a mental thing, and I think it comes down to myself and the staff reconfirming all the time, sure we want to score more goals, but it’s about defense first.”
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