By Warren Kozireski —
Division III Geneseo has won the last two SUNYAC titles and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals and semi-finals over the past two seasons led largely by a group of defensemen who transferred in from Division I programs.
After the departure of three of those blueliners, Rochester area products Teddy McCabe (Webster) and Chris Perna (Pittsford) have stepped into regular roles and helped the second ranked nationally Knights try to three-peat as SUNYAC champs with a 3-0-1 start.
McCabe, a senior, has waited for this opportunity. He saw action in only four games as a freshman after arriving from the Cumberland Grads of the CCHL in Ontario, seven as a sophomore and 11 last season as a junior. He earlier played for the Jr. Sabres (2013-14) after winning a Section V high school hockey championship with Webster-Thomas as a junior in 2012-13.
“He’s got a lot of, I guess the word would be stick-with-it-ness,” Geneseo head coach Chris Schultz said. “He could have packed it in two years ago, but he’s smart enough to know that if he’s patient and does put his work in that he’s going to be in a situation like he is now. He understood that the players playing in front of him were a couple of All-Americans, but it’s a testament to his character and his long-term view of the situation.”
The 6’2” 190 lb. McCabe netted his first collegiate goal Feb. 2, 2018 and already had two assists over the first four games this season.
His younger brother, Craig, is a freshman defenseman for the Fredonia Blue Devils this season and picked up his first collegiate point with an assist in his first game against Morrisville. Sister Molly is also a freshman on defense this fall with SUNY Cortland.
“Sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan, but we had some of the best defensemen in the league here over the last couple of years and it almost makes it a little sweeter trying to get my time senior year,” McCabe said.
Perna, sophomore, benefitted last season from an NCAA rule change allowing team to dress an extra player and he played in 27 contests; many as the seventh defenseman. He scored four goals with eight assists as a freshman and already has registered five points in four games this season including three goals with two coming on the power play.
“He really surprised us last year,” Schultz said. “We knew he’d come in and be a good player for us, but we didn’t know he would be able to come in and make as much of an impact as he did. And now…we had to fill two spots on that power play unit that put up a lot of points (last year) and they are doing a bang-up job.”
“Last year I was just lucky to be in the line-up,” Perna said. “Coming in I didn’t expect to play, but luckily the NCAA made a rule that you could dress an extra player so I was fortunate to benefit from that.
“I’m just fortunate to be playing on the power play with (Webster-Schroeder’s Conlan) Keenan and (Andrew) Romo (Romano) and some of the best guys in the country obviously makes it super-easy. Definitely not taking it for granted.
“Last year at my exit meeting Coach Schultz and some of the captains told me I was going to have a bigger role, so I just tried to work out this summer as much as I could and get ready for the year. I think it’s going well so far.”
The 6’0”, 190 lb. right shot played two seasons for the Panthers in Pittsford where he was the team Rookie of the Year before one season of junior hockey each with the Jr. Amerks, Jr. Sabres, CCHL split between Hawkesbury and Cumberland and the Rochester Monarchs.
Both had their sights on playing in Geneseo for quite a while.
“I was fortunate to be able to live at home and play in front of my parents all the time,” Perna said. That’s the main reason I came here; it’s great hockey, it’s close to home and my parents love coming to every game.”
“Unlike a lot of the guys around here, I’m from Rochester so I knew about the success and about the school growing up and I kind of made it a goal,” McCabe said about his decision to play for the Knights. “There were some bumpy roads hockey-wise around 17-18 years old, but I stayed true to myself and found a way to get here.
“You grind it out, take what you can get, keep working hard and eventually it works out.”