By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — In Mathieu Cadieux’s mind, tonight’s game with Cortland is the only one on the schedule this weekend.
Plattsburgh State always preaches one game at a time, and after getting tripped up by the Red Dragons before facing rival Oswego earlier this season, the Cardinals are vowing not to look past them.
“Personally, I think we just have to pretend that we only have one game this weekend,” said Cadieux, a junior goaltender. “We have to go out (tonight), we have to make sure we put it all out there. We have to make sure we win that game.”
No. 9 Plattsburgh hosts Cortland tonight and Oswego Saturday to close out the SUNY Athletic Conference men’s hockey season. The Cardinals (16-6-1, 11-2-1 SUNYAC) need one point to clinch second place, which comes with a first-round bye in the SUNYAC Tournament and home ice in the semifinals. To take first place, they would need first-place Oswego, which plays Potsdam today, to drop three points this weekend.
Cortland (7-13-3, 3-9-2) is second-to-last in the SUNYAC standings and has won just one conference game in the second semester.
But the Red Dragons took a point from the Cardinals on Nov. 30, when Michael Lysyj’s third-period goal made it a 3-3 tie.
“Cortland, that’s a blemish on our schedule — we tied them down there,” Emery said. “I was looking at their special teams; they’re pretty good. And they play real physical. They take a lot of penalties.
“So we have to play disciplined hockey and try to take advantage of their penalties.”
The Red Dragons average 18.4 penalty minutes per game. The Cardinals are dead last in Division III with an average of 8.1 per contest.
Oswego (20-3, 13-1) has only been beaten by two teams this season — Plattsburgh (2-1 on Dec. 1) and Utica twice. The second-ranked Lakers boast a lot of firepower; their 4.83 goals-per-game average is tied for second in the country. Paul Rodrigues (14-23-37) ranks fourth nationally with 1.61 points per game, and Luke Moodie (16-19-35) is also in the top 10. Six other players have at least 20 points.
“Team defense is important every game, but when you’re playing an offensive team like them, then, yeah, you have to make sure that you’re doing the job in the defensive zone — you’re blocking a lot of shots and you’re getting pucks out,” Cadieux said.
And while they fill up opponents’ nets, the Lakers, led by goaltender Andrew Hare, are also strong defensively, allowing just 1.78 goals per game.
Plattsburgh is led offensively by Jared Docking with 26 points and Luke Baleshta with 23. They’re tied for the team lead in assists (16). Kevin Emmerling has a team-high 11 goals and is third with 20 points.
Cadieux has started all but three games this season, and he sports a 1.72 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
Email Courtney Lewis: clewis@pressrepublican