PLATTSBURGH — A highly-successful and colorful 30-year career as head coach of the Plattsburgh State men's hockey team ended following the 2018-19 season when Bob Emery announced his retirement from the college.
New head coach Steve Moffat, however, is hardly a stranger to Cardinal Hockey and the community in general.
Moffat has been involved in the program for 20 years, four as a two-time All-American forward as a player and 16 while serving two stints as assistant coach.
“Standards have already been set here,” Moffat said. “We want to continue to try and reach our goals — win every game, win the (State University of New York Athletic Conference) SUNYAC championship and beyond.
“Absolutely, I know the ins and outs of the university. I've worked with the admissions office, and I stand by education and getting student/athletes who are good people. We want to find ways to attract student/athletes.”
The Cardinals play a difficult schedule to open the season, including contests against Geneseo and Oswego on back-to-back weekends. Geneseo and Oswego are ranked 1-2 in the SUNYAC preseason poll.
Plattsburgh State opens its regular season tonight at 7 p.m. at Stafford Ice Arena against The College at Brockport as part of ALS Awareness/Alumni Weekend. Geneseo comes to town on Saturday night.
“The schedule isn't doing us any favors,” Moffat said. “But there are no easy games in the conference. The parity in Division III hockey is incredible. We have to take it day by day and just worry about Plattsburgh State hockey.”
While the Plattsburgh State coaching staff has a familiar look to it other than the addition of assistant coach Reid Lesswing, the 2019-20 player roster is anything but familiar.
Only 15 players return from last year, and 14 newcomers have been added to a team that finished with a 13-12-2 overall record, including a 10-5-1 mark in conference play.
Sophomore defenseman Matt Araujo (3-12-15) is the leading scorer back, while Rich McCartney is the leading goal scorer returning with seven.
The Cardinals scored 70 goals as a team a year ago, and skaters who accounted for 35 of those have departed.
“This will be one of the youngest teams we've ever had,” Moffat said. “We've had this many freshmen coming in before, but not as many who will be put in key roles right away.
“I think last year was the least goals we've scored in a season. It's getting tougher and tougher to score goals because of the defenses being played now. We will need to manufacture goals and improve on the power play.”
Certainly a key performer returning is junior goaltender Jimmy Poreda, who was brilliant last year with a 1.88 goals-against-average.
“Goaltending success is critical,” Moffat said. “We need to keep the puck out of our net, and we have three goaltenders who do a good job challenging one another.”
The newcomers, who include a couple of local freshman forwards in Bloomingdale's Christian Thomas and Plattsburgh's Andrew Bechard, will need to step in and help immediately if the Cardinals are to be successful.
A good sign came in Plattsburgh State's two exhibition games prior to the regular season where newcomers accounted for nine of the 11 goals scored in wins over St. Michael's College (5-3) and Skidmore College (6-4).
“We will be as good as the freshmen take us,” Moffat said. “They are going to play a ton, special teams included. We will still rely on our senior leadership and play as a group.
“The freshmen played pretty well in our exhibition games, but we need to play disciplined hockey and cut down on our penalties.”