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SUNY Potsdam hockey keeps playoff hopes alive with stunning comeback

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POTSDAM - Down but never out, the SUNY Potsdam men’s hockey team continued to find a way to pick up much needed points in their fight for a late playoff push on Friday night with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over SUNY Morrisville at Maxcy Ice Arena.

It certainly did not come easy, but the Bears have begun to show a penchant for scoring late tide-turning goals in dramatic fashion.

Just a week after fighting back to tie Buffalo State 1-1 and six days removed from rallying back with two late goals to earn a 4-4 tie with SUNY Fredonia, Potsdam pulled out more flair in the closing minutes.

At 6:44 into the second period, the Bears (8-12-2 overall, 3-8-2 SUNYAC) dug themselves into a 3-0 deficit and were still trying to solve Mustangs’ senior goaltender Christopher Azzano.

Then, sophomore forward Jake Rivera (Pacific Palisades, Calif.) broke through for his second goal of the season on a breakaway that was fed from Zach Blake (Campbellford, Ontario) and Ryan Miller (Didsbury, Alberta ) with 7:27 left.

The heroes grew in numbers from there for the Bears in a three-goal third period.

First, it was Brad Campagna (Monroe, N.Y.) who maneuvered his way down the near side and scored from just inside the circle at 3:08.

Then, it was Trevor Cope (Swartz Creek, Mich.) who knotted the score at three off a rebound in front of the net flung by captain Mike Arnold (Didsbury, Alberta).

With time winding down and a potential overtime period looming for a third consecutive game, Vinny Caliguiri (Shoreham, N.Y.) ensured that the extra period would not be necessary as the freshman forward pounced on a rebound shot from Arnold and scored the winner with 2:53 remaining.

“It was gut-wrenching for everybody,” said fifth-year Potsdam coach Chris Bernard. “It’s a devastating situation for them. They played very well and then had it swept away. And, for us, it was gut wrenching to see our season slipping away and then to find a way to get back.”

The Mustangs (5-16-2 overall, 2-12-1 SUNYAC) took a three-goal advantage after it rung up goals by Zach Baker, John Doyle and Darren Young.

“Credit them,” coach Bernard said. “They played hard from the start. We didn’t execute our game plan very well. And, I think that was a little bit us and a little bit was what they were doing against us. Eventually, as the game wore on, we were found a way to execute our game plan a lot better.”

After Morrisville held a 13-12 shots on goal advantage in the second period, the energy shifted back to Potsdam’s side as the Bears were able to hold a 10-6 shots on goal advantage in the last stanza.

“I think it’s a concentration and focus of getting pucks and bodies to the net,” coach Bernard said. “When that happens, you just generate so many opportunities and it becomes harder to play defense. When it hits off that goalie and everybody has to react to it. In that chaos, it creates a high volume of opportunities for us. When you get a puck on the net and you get a loose puck rebound, that can build some of your confidence. This game is all about momentum and that was demonstrated in a game like tonight.”

Potsdam finished with a 33-24 shots on goal edge. Bears sophomore goaltender Jon Hall (Dexter, N.Y.) made 21 saves to improve to 2-3-2 on the season. However, Hall has come on strong in recent games going 2-0-2 in his last four. All of which contributed to six critical conference points.

“I’m just really proud of the heart that our kids showed,” said coach Bernard. “They had us on the mat. There are no two ways about it. But, we were able to keep our shoulders from being pinned. It showed a lot of guts and character.”

The two teams wrap up their weekend series this evening at 7 p.m. at the Maxcy Hall Arena.

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