Slow starts have had a negative outcome this season on the Fredonia State men's hockey team.
The Blue Devils have scored the first goal in only one game - resulting in a 6-4 SUNYAC home win over Potsdam - and are 1-5-1 in games when their opponents have scored first.
"Getting that first goal is huge," head coach Jeff Meredith said before practice Thursday afternoon. "We have battled from behind for what seems like the whole semester. We have to change that because it's harder to win always battling from behind. If we can get a couple more goals and nothing else changes, then everything changes."
Fredonia State heads into a weekend of conference home games - Friday vs. Brockport, Saturday vs. Geneseo - in sixth place in the SUNYAC with a 2-2-1 record.
The Blue Devils have kept themselves in SUNYAC games by winning the third period-plus - 9-5 in goals and 78-52 in shots-on-goal. The totals include an overtime win on opening night over then-ranked Oswego.
Meredith calls Friday's game vs. Brockport "the single biggest game of the season to date."
"This is a crucial game for us to win," he said, "in order to keep up in the SUNYAC standings and playoff race." The Blue Devils currently hold the final playoff spot with 5 points, Oswego (6 points) is directly ahead, Morrisville (3 points) directly behind the Blue Devils, while Brockport (2 points) trails all three.
All four trail Geneseo (10 points), ranked No. 14 this week in the USCHO.com poll. The Blue Knights, in second place, trail only Plattsburgh (13 points). The Cardinals, 6-0-1 in the conference and 8-0-1 overall, are ranked No. 1 in the national polls.
Despite losing twice last weekend, Meredith found several positives in the two games in Michigan - at No. 3 Adrian last Saturday, and in Ann Arbor last Sunday against the U.S. Hockey's Under-18 National team. Fredonia State's shortcoming was missing at three 2-on-1 scoring chances at Adrian, including one rush which resulted in a shot off the post while the game was still scoreless.
"I feel we are doing some good things," he said, "(Yet) I think the No. 1 thing for us right now is to be consistent with the game we are playing, meaning that we have to play that way for the full 60 minutes and not deviate from it for shifts or minutes at a time."