By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team hasn’t played in three weeks.
Coach Bob Emery said it shows.
But he knows the other teams at this weekend’s Cardinal Classic will be in the same boat.
“We look a little sluggish. Guys can work out all they want, but if they’re not skating, it’s not the same,” Emery said. “But every team in the tournament is going to be at the same level.”
No. 8 Plattsburgh hosts Wesleyan tonight in the annual tournament at Stafford Ice Arena. The first game will feature No. 11 Amherst and Elmira. Today’s winners will play Saturday night, following the consolation game.
Wesleyan (4-3-1) last played Dec. 6 with a 3-1 win over Wentworth. Wesleyan, which is also the Cardinals, plays in the NESCAC. The team has averaged 4.0 goals per game, and leading scorer Nick Craven is averaging one goal per game, which is tied for second in Division III. The senior forward has eight goals and four assists and is closely followed by junior Keith Buehler, who sports a 3-8-11 scoring line.
“I know Wesleyan plays everybody tough,” Emery said. “Any team that plays us obviously is going to come in here with the attitude of everything to gain, nothing to lose. We have to equal their hard work and emotion.”
The coach added that he expects his team to be rusty in the first period but hopes it can “work the kinks out” as the game goes on.
Plattsburgh was hit by the injury bug at the end of the first semester, and Emery said defenseman Anthony Calabrese, who had a concussion, has not been cleared yet. Fellow blueliner Brandon Beadow is also still out. Preston Kaye, who returned for the final game before the break, is now back to 100 percent.
Emery said there haven’t been any roster changes between semesters.
Through 11 games, sophomore Mark Constantine (five goals, six assists) and freshman Luke Baleshta (four goals, seven assists) lead Plattsburgh in scoring, and a handful of players are tied at seven points. Goaltender Mathieu Cadieux boasts a 4-3-1 record with a 1.49 GAA and a .945 save percentage.
Plattsburgh (7-3-1) closed the first part of the season with a 1-0 home loss to Norwich on Dec. 7 and is looking for a strong start to the second semester.
“We have three losses at this time of the year. Some people might not think that’s a lot, but if you look at each year, the NCAA picture, over five losses is detrimental,” Emery said. “But we have to take one game at a time. Wesleyan will be a tough opponent, and we have to be ready to play.”
As the first semester ended, Emery said the team needed more players willing to play gritty hockey.
“We as a coaching staff have to demand it. Guys have to play physical and do the little things — block shots, finish hits,” he said. “So we have to demand it, no matter who they are.”
Amherst (5-3-1) ended the first semester with five straight road games. The Lord Jeffs went 1-3 during that span before closing with a big win over Middlebury. Elmira (5-6) wrapped up the first half by splitting a home-and-home with Fredonia.
Plattsburgh won last year’s Cardinal Classic, beating Castleton in the championship game.
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firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow from home Staff writer Courtney Lewis will be tweeting from this weekend's Cardinal Classic. Follow her at @sportscourt.