It may have just been an exhibition game, but the Oswego State coaching staff has to be proud of their freshman class as the rookies led the Lakers to a 7-3 victory over Royal Military College on Friday at the Campus Center Ice Arena.
Five different freshmen scored for the Lakers in their first action at the Division III level in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,000 fans.
After a sloppy opening five minutes, the Lakers got on the board when senior forward and assistant captain Brad Dormiedy beat Paladin goalie Andrew Flemming stick side top corner. The goal was reminiscent of last year’s Lakers team, as senior forward and assistant captain Neil Musselwhite charged the net and centered the puck to Dormiedy, who put the puck into the back of the net for the early lead.
The freshman class would steal the spotlight away from the upperclassmen, scoring five of the Lakers’ final six goals. Forwards Chris Ayotte, Matt Singleton, Luke Moodie, Jon Whitelaw and Tyler Leimbrock all tallied goals for the Lakers. Singleton, Moodie, Whitelaw and Leimbrock each had an assist in addition to their goals, giving them each an impressive two-point debut.
"I thought that the most important part was that they competed hard," Gosek said. "I didn’t see any of them shy away. Sometimes it’s easy to be intimidated; it’s their first college game, a big crowd and the [high] expectations here at Oswego State. I thought they handled that part well."
The Lakers took advantage of the numerous mistakes made by Royal Military College. Oswego State registered three power play goals on just five attempts and scored on a turnover when a Paladin defender lost his balance and lost control of the puck in the defensive zone.
It was a long night for the Paladins’ goalie, Andrew Flemming, who faced a total of 32 shots and allowed seven goals. He managed 25 saves, but had a dismal third period, allowing four goals on 11 shots. The Lakers outshot Royal Military in each period and controlled the tempo throughout most of the game.
Despite allowing seven goals, Flemming remained in the game until the final buzzer. At the other end of the ice, three different goalies were featured throughout the game. Gosek admitted prior to the game that he saw the exhibition as more of an evaluation of his players than anything else. Lost in the focus of the incoming freshmen were the questions regarding the goaltending position. The Lakers have three goalies on their roster; each played for one period and allowed one goal. Sophomore Paul Beckwith started the game in net and faced the toughest test. Beckwith ended the night with seven saves and allowed one power play goal that went off the skate of Paladin defenseman Robert Graydon.
Senior Kyle Gunn-Taylor took over in the second period, allowing a four-on-four goal by forward Landon Lavictoire and making a total of four saves. Freshman Daniel Jones finished the game and replicated Gunn-Taylor’s performance with four saves and one goal allowed.
"It appeared that Beckwith had to make the most difficult saves, but I thought all of them did okay," Gosek said. "It’s the first time for [Gunn-Taylor] and the first time for [Daniel] Jones to be in and they were aggressive; maybe a little too aggressive. We were pleased with all three goalies and we’ll go through a week of practice and then make decisions for next Friday."
The team still has areas that need improvement, which should be expected with 14 new players and the team’s first game in seven months. The defense needs the most work; most notably the penalty-killing unit. Two of Royal Military’s three goals came either on the power play or in four-on-four situations. Offensive production does not seem to be an issue this season, as the Lakers left goals out on the ice with missed one-timers, which could have led to eight, nine or 10 goals. The growing pains that go along with having so many new players was most evident during the second period, when the Paladins outplayed the Lakers.
"I thought we played well in the first period; the second period we came out a little softer,"
Musselwhite said. "Our objective was to come out and kind of hit hard in the first period and I think we got kind of complacent after that and stood still a little bit. We regrouped after the second period and did what we did in the first period."
If the exhibition proved anything, it was that the freshman class is ready to compete at the Division III level.
"They came out and played well," Musselwhite said. "There’s going to be a lot of adjustments still. We’ll have a big test next week against Elmira."
The Lakers open the regular season at home on Friday, Oct. 23 against Elmira College before hitting the road for six consecutive road games.