It took 11 games spanning three years, but the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team defeated top-ranked SUNY Plattsburgh, 5-2, Saturday night at the Ronald B. Stafford Arena to take sole possession of the SUNYAC lead.
Junior forward Chris Laganiere’s goal with less than a second left in the second period proved to be the game-winner, as the Lakers defeated the Cardinals for the first time since Feb. 3, 2006, and the first time in Plattsburgh since Nov. 11, 2005. Prior to the game, Oswego State had been 0-9-1 in their previous 10 meetings with the Cardinals.
Filling in for sophomore goalie Paul Beckwith, who didn’t make the weekend road trip due to the flu, senior goalie Kyle Gunn-Taylor got his second consecutive start in goal and shut down the high-scoring Plattsburgh offense. Gunn-Taylor registered 32 saves on 34 shots, including 16 saves in the second period.
"It starts with goaltending; that’s the storyline," head coach Ed Gosek said. "[Gunn-Taylor] played well on Friday and played very well Saturday night and we get four points in the north country swing, which is very difficult to do."
Gunn-Taylor joined the team during the second half of last season, but never received any playing time prior to last Friday’s game at SUNY Potsdam. According to Gosek, Gunn-Taylor never complained about playing time and has always been a team player. Gunn-Taylor impressed in both games against Potsdam and Plattsburgh, recording 56 saves and allowing only three goals on 59 shots.
Both teams struggled to create an offensive identity for the first 15 minutes of the game, but sophomore forward Eric Selleck broke the scoreless tie 15:39 into the first period with a power play goal. The Lakers struck again just a minute later when freshman forward Jon Whitelaw beat freshman goalie Josh Leis, scoring the team’s second power play goal of the period.
The second period belonged to the Cardinals, as they outshot the Lakers 18-3. Two quick penalties by Whitelaw and junior forward Owen Kelly led to a 5-on-3 Plattsburgh advantage for 1:07. The Cardinals capitalized on the advantage with a power play goal 4:44 into the period by sophomore forward Kyle Kudroch to cut the Laker lead in half. The Lakers struggled all period and found themselves on the defensive, trying desperately to preserve the lead. Plattsburgh would not be denied, tying the game on sophomore forward Vick Schlueter’s goal with 3:48 remaining in the period.
"It wasn’t so much [Plattsburgh’s play] as it was us throwing the puck away and not sticking to our system," Gosek said. "I would say a little bit had to do with inexperience and the inability to make the right play."
With less than four minutes remaining in the period, the Lakers registered their first shot of the period. Oswego State would manage only two more shots in the period, but Laganiere’s shot with 0.2 seconds on the clock found the back of the net, minimizing the damage done by the Cardinals.
The second line of Laganiere, Selleck and junior forward Justin Fox had yet another impressive night on the ice, tallying three goals and four assists. Selleck would add his second goal of the game and team-leading sixth goal of the season on an empty net with 2:08 remaining in the game to give the Lakers a 5-2 lead. Whitelaw tallied his second goal of the game a minute earlier to stretch the lead to two.
"It’s a combination of the three complementing each other and communicating well," Gosek said of his second line. "It’s not just by accident; they talk out there and take what the defense gives them."
Plattsburgh’s intensity amassed in the final minute of the game, despite the game being well in-hand for the Lakers. Freshman forward Paul Rodrigues had to be assisted off the ice by medical staff after a vicious check by Schlueter into the boards in the Lakers’ defensive zone. According to Gosek, Rodrigues is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and will have to be cleared by the medical staff before returning to the ice. This season, Rodrigues has accumulated six points on three goals and three assists. Schlueter was assessed a five-minute hitting from behind major and was disqualified for the remainder of the game.
With the win, the Lakers (5-1-0 overall, 4-0-0 SUNYAC) propel themselves from eighth to second in the latest USCHO.com Division III men’s ice hockey poll; Plattsburgh (3-1-0 overall, 3-1-0 SUNYAC) falls from first place to third with the loss, moving St. Norbert College (Wis.) into first place. The loss snapped Plattsburgh’s 19-game SUNYAC winning streak, dating back to Feb. 23, 2008.
Despite the victory, Gosek believes that his team will not be over confident.
"They clearly understood that we won the game, but it wasn’t as if we dominated," Gosek said. "One way of keeping them grounded is to show them what we looked like in the second period and other periods [throughout the season] where we didn’t play well. We have a lot of work to do. We could certainly play better than we did, but we still came out with the win."
The Lakers conclude their six-game road trip when they travel to SUNY Cortland on Friday, Nov. 13, before returning home on Saturday, Nov. 14, for a non-conference game against Utica College.