By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — There’s an adage in sports that says it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season, but Plattsburgh State coach Bob Emery isn’t buying into that.
“Well no, because if you go back a couple games ago, they beat us five in a row, and then we beat them before that five in a row,” Emery said. “So that’s not true when it comes to Plattsburgh-Oswego. Both teams have proved that wrong.”
The Cardinals will try to disprove the conventional wisdom again tonight when they visit No. 1 seed Oswego for the SUNY Athletic Conference men’s hockey championship game. The winner receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament, which starts Wednesday.
Plattsburgh beat Oswego 2-1 at the Campus Center Dec. 1 and then won 4-3 two weeks ago at Stafford Ice Arena.
The second-seeded Cardinals (19-6-1) expect the Lakers to have a chip on their shoulder after having been beaten by their archrival twice this season.
“But we’ve just gotta come out and match the intensity, even set the tempo off the start,” Plattsburgh sophomore Alex Brenton said. “We’re going to come out fired up.”
Oswego (22-4) reached the title game by skating past Buffalo State 5-2 in last week’s semifinals. The Lakers have won 13 of their 15 games in the second semester.
SUNYAC Player of the Year Paul Rodrigues leads the team with 42 points, and his 1.62 points-per-game average ranks second in Division III. Luke Moodie has a team-best 20 goals and is second with 39 points.
“I just think we’ve gotta be disciplined all over the ice,” Emery said. “They’re a real good offensive team. They’re the most opportunistic team probably in college hockey. They have a lot of guys who can score points, so we gotta play good defense.”
Although Plattsburgh has already shown it can beat Oswego, Emery thinks the Lakers are the favorite in this matchup.
“I think the pressure’s on them,” he said. “They’re at home. They were picked to win the league. They were, I think, preseason No. 1 or 2 in the country. We have 11 freshmen.
“I think if we can go in there and if we can upset them, that’s what we’re trying to do because they’re the team to beat.”
But the Lakers may have one less thing to worry about. Emery said he thinks Oswego will get an at-large NCAA bid if it needs it, while the Cardinals believe they have to win today to continue their season.
This postseason showdown is a familiar one. The Cardinals and Lakers will be meeting in the championship game for the fifth time in the last six years. Plattsburgh won last year in Oswego and also beat the Lakers in 2008 and 2009.
The Cardinals’ five seniors will be playing their third title game against Oswego.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s a great rivalry,” senior Paul Puglisi said. “I feel like it’s always a tough game playing them; they’re a really great team, especially offensively. So every chance we get to play them, we know it’s going to be a tough game. But I always look forward to it.”
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