When I first heard that the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team had 14 new players joining the team for the 2009-10 season, my first thought was that this season was going to be a rebuilding year. Two weeks and three games in, and the Lakers are averaging five goals a game, and giving up an average of less than three. The season officially got under way with a 7-2 victory over Elmira College on Friday night at the Campus Center Arena. Despite a 2-1 loss the following night in the second end of the home and home to the Soaring Eagles, the Lakers have impressed me both offensively and defensively. Here are some thoughts from the press box from my point of view as the home radio play-by-play broadcaster for Oswego State.
Offense. The youngsters are clicking. Freshman forward Paul Rodrigues is tied for the team lead in goals, as he tallied goals in both games over the weekend. His linemates, John Whitelaw (one goal, two assists) and Luke Moodie (one goal, one assist), also first year players here at Oswego State shined in the exhibition against Royal Military College. Junior transfer forward Justin Fox put up four points and was awarded the first star Friday night. Freshman Tyler Leimbrock also netted a goal in each of the first two home games.
Let’s not be so quick to forget the veterans on this team, who are also producing. Junior Chris Laganiere scored twice against Elmira on Friday, and could have easily had four or five in the game, as he missed several scoring chances early in the game. Senior assistant captains Brad Dormeidy and Neil Musselwhite have also been racking up the points in the games against Royal Military and Elmira.
Goaltending. Sophomore Paul Beckwith has been outstanding, getting the start in both regular season games thus far and surrendering only two goals in each game. Senior Kyle Gunn-Taylor and freshman Dan Jones also got a period of play against Royal Military and looked very sharp, giving up only a goal each.
The third period. Despite a disappointing third period in Elmira, the Lakers scored a combined nine third-period goals in the previous two home games. I don’t know whether this is something that head coach Ed Gosek is preaching in the locker room, but the Lakers have been successful putting games away after entering the third period with a lead, and have been putting them away with authority.
Giving it right back. The Lakers did lose a game this weekend, so it can’t be all roses. Oswego State has run into somewhat of a disturbing trend of giving up goals right after scoring one of their own. In the exhibition opener against Royal Military, after Whitelaw scored to put the Lakers up 5-2 at the 5:02 mark of the third period, Royal Military’s Mitchell Smith put one in just 1:05 later. Similarly, after Laganiere’s second goal last Friday, top goal scorer Rusty Masters of Elmira scored just 17 seconds after. This trend finally bit the Lakers in the road game Saturday, when they gave up the game-winning tally to Kevin Willer just 18 seconds after Rodrigues’s tying goal in the second period.
Road warriors. Finally, looking ahead on the schedule, the Lakers have five more road contests before returning home on Saturday, Nov. 14 against Utica. The upcoming games at Buffalo State, SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Cortland will really test the stamina of this Lakers team. Will it wear them down, or will they use the early rigorous schedule to bond together and gear up for the stretch run? The next five games could be the most important ones Oswego State plays all season.
Overall, this version of the Oswego State Lakers has impressed me. The only blemish, the 2-1 loss in Elmira, was to be expected – it’s difficult in any sport at any level to sweep a home and home. I think we are going to witness a special season in 2009-10, and even if we don’t, there can only be good things to come in the years ahead.