Buffalo State got a goal from Nick Melligan 10 seconds into the Bengals' (4-5-1, 2-4-1) SUNYAC men's hockey matchup against arch rival Fredonia State (4-6-0, 3-5-0) Friday night at the Steele Hall Ice Arena and never looked back, as they dropped the Blue Devils, 7-3.
"We're struggling right now to put our game together," Fredonia State head coach Jeff Meredith said. "And when you're struggling, you don't have a lot of confidence. And when you give up (a goal) 10 seconds in, it's like you got hit right on the button and your knees are wobbled. We're just going to have to keep working ourselves through all of that."
The Blue Devils' confidence was shaken again 8:25 later as Melligan netted his second goal, this one on the power-play, with the assist going to Trevor McKinney. Then, with 9:51 left in the opening period, Mike Zanella scored the Bengals' second power-play goal in less than two minutes on assists from Anthony Orange and McKinney, building a 3-0 lead.
OBSERVER?Photo by Justin Goetz
Fredonia State’s Will?McLaughlin (9) brings the puck up the ice while being defended by Buffalo?State’s Clayton?Lewis (2) during Friday’s SUNYAC men’s hockey game at Steele Hall. Buffalo?State won, 7-3.
"We can't give freebies like the one 10 seconds in," Meredith said. "We can't be in the box like we were, so now we've got to play people to a 2-1 or 3-2 game and right now, for the most part, we're probably not capable of doing that consistently."
Things went from bad to worse for the Blue Devils and backup goalie Jeff Holloway, who was in for an injured Mark Friesen. With 8:31 left, Zanella picked up his second goal in less than 90 seconds on assists from Melligan and Ben Kramer, helping Buffalo State build a commanding 4-0 lead, and ending Holloway's night.
"It was problems before (the puck) got to Jeff (Holloway)," Meredith said of the disappointing start. "And again, when you're at that stage, it's the littlest thing that can knock you off the wire."
The Blue Devils picked up the pace in the second period, dominating play early, but fell behind 5-0 after Zach Hale beat Friesen, who took over for Holloway. The goal, which came with 10:55 left in the second period, was assisted by Drew Klin and Mac Balson.
"The frustrating thing for me is, I think we have enough here to be successful," Meredith said. "I don't think we're going to trade goals up and down the ice with Oswego, but I think we have enough things here (to compete). The best team that's beating us is us."
Fredonia State finally broke through with 9:12 left, getting a power-play goal from Brett Mueller after a scramble for a loose puck in front of the Bengals' net. Matt Owczarczak and Mat Hehr picked up the assists.
"To be honest, we've struggled to score power-play goals, so there's a positive," Meredith said.
With 2:10 left, Fredonia State went on the power-play after Klin took a tripping call, but despite a few good chances, were unable to put the puck in the back of the net.
"We talked between the first and second (periods) and said that the answers weren't anywhere other than right here in (the locker room)," Meredith said. "And I thought we played a very good second period. We hit a crossbar, we had goal-mouth scrambles and I mean (the puck) was right there and all we've got to do is tap it and it goes in. I think when things aren't going your way, those things happen."
The third period looked more like the first as the Blue Devils spent most of the first 10 minutes on the penalty kill after taking seven penalties in the first 10 minutes, allowing a goal with 10:46 left, giving Buffalo State a 6-2 lead.
The Blue Devils cut the Bengals' lead to 5-2 with their second power-play goal, this one coming with 17:39 left. Chad Bennett was credited with the goal with the assists going to Stephen Castriota and John DeFeo.
"I think they are frustrated," Meredith added of his players. "If you go through and look at the depth chart, of the top 12 forwards, nine of them had one goal or less going into (Friday). So if we're not going to score many, we're going to have to find a way to be really good at the other end."
The Blue Devils scored their third power-play goal with 5:26 left, as DeFeo earned his second point of the night. Assists went to Doust and Castriota.
The Bengals put the final touches on their win as Matt Bessing scored another Buffalo State power-play goal with :59.7 left in regulation, marking the fifth time the Blue Devils have given up five or more goals in a game this season, and the fourth time they've given up seven or more.
"When you combine it with the fact you're not scoring, it's possible that you know that game is over early into that game," Meredith said. "It went to 4-0 so fast, 10 minutes into the game. And let's be honest, it's pretty easy to play when it's 4-0, because you've got nothing to lose. There's no pressure."
The Blue Devils are off until next weekend when they play a home-and-home series with Elmira. The first game will be at the Steele Hall Ice Arena, on Friday, at 7 p.m. The second game will be in Elmira on Saturday, also at 7.