The Oswego State men’s ice hockey team held off a late rally in the third period by Utica College to earn a 3-2 victory on Saturday night in a non-conference game at the Campus Center Ice Arena.
The Pioneers netted two goals in the third period to cut the Laker lead to one with just over four minutes to play, but tough defense and strong goaltending in the final minutes preserved the victory for Oswego State. With the victory, the Lakers improve their winning streak to six games.
The Lakers jumped out to the early lead just three minutes into the first period on freshman forward Chris Ayotte’s first collegiate goal. Freshman forward Paul Rodrigues assisted on the play with a cross-crease pass to Ayotte, who put the puck past senior goalie Anthony Luckow.
Junior defenseman Stephen Mallaro pushed the Laker lead to two on a power play goal at 9:22 of the first period. Mallaro took the pass from freshman forward Jon Whitelaw and fired a one-timer from beyond the right faceoff circle that beat Luckow glove side top corner. The power play goal was Mallaro’s third in two nights. The Lakers had a chance to stretch the lead to three before the end of the first period, but freshman forward Luke Moodie was unable to capitalize on a wide open net.
Down two goals early in the game, the physicality of the Utica players led to momentum-killing penalties. The Pioneers were called for the first four penalties of the game, but managed to kill off three of the Lakers’ power plays. Utica had its best opportunity to score when it had a two-man advantage for 1:55, but couldn’t get the puck past senior goalie Kyle Gunn-Taylor.
"Utica is a big, strong team that finishes their checks, but I don’t think we were trying to get back at them as much as it was our players making poor judgments on some of their hits," head coach Ed Gosek said. "I think we deserved the penalties and we have to be more disciplined."
The second period featured even-strength hockey for only 10 minutes, as both teams combined for eight penalties, totaling 33 minutes. For the game, both teams combined for 22 penalties for a total of 63 minutes. Twenty-one of the 33 penalty minutes in the second period were a result of a scuffle that took place near the end of the second period. With just 47 seconds remaining in the period, a hit behind the net caused the cage to fall onto Gunn-Taylor, resulting in pushing and shoving between both teams. When the referees separated the teams from one another, the Lakers found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 advantage. Utica forward Jeff Pappalardi was assessed a two-minute face-masking penalty and forward Evan Chlanda was assessed a two-minute roughing penalty and a 10-minute player misconduct penalty. Laker defenseman Taylor Farris was assessed a five-minute face-masking major and defenseman Kevin Huinink was assessed a two-minute face-masking minor. Senior defenseman and captain Tyler Lyon had already been serving a two-minute interference penalty prior to the fight, leaving the Lakers two men down.
"Five-on-five, I thought we were very good," Gosek said. "The first two periods up until the final minute where we got a little undisciplined, we played well. The crowd or maybe the home ice may have influenced that last minute [of the second period] and then in the third period we were constantly killing off penalties and let them get some momentum."
"It’s a mixture of the atmosphere, when you have a crowd like [Oswego State’s] everybody wants to make plays and make things happen so the players are giving a little something extra," junior forward Justin Fox said. "Sometimes a little extra might cost you. We got a little unlucky with some of the calls but we rebounded and killed them off."
The momentum the Lakers had generated from an earlier goal by Fox that pushed Oswego State’s lead to three had evaporated from the fight. Utica failed to score on their second 5-on-3 advantage of the night, but finally broke through on a goal by Chlanda off a rebound from junior forward Sean Timkey. The Pioneers cut the Laker lead to one six minutes later on the power play with a goal by sophomore forward Brian Gibbons with just over four minutes to play in regulation.
"The third was pretty bad," Mallaro said. "We got a couple penalties at the end of the second period, some unnecessary penalties, some undisciplined penalties, but we battled through it."
The Laker defense clamped down on the Pioneer offense, denying them an opportunity for the equalizing goal. Gunn-Taylor made a key save in the final seconds to bring his save total to 21 for the game. With the win, Gunn-Taylor remains undefeated as the team’s starting goaltender.
Despite the numerous penalties taken by the Lakers, the defense was up for the challenge, allowing only 21 shots and killing off six of the seven Utica power plays. The Lakers penalty killing unit has gone 40-for-45 this season for a success rate of .889. This season, the Lakers defense is allowing only 1.88 goals per game.
"Tonight we got away with [taking penalties], but you can’t rely on your penalty kill unit that many opportunities to bail you out," Gosek said. "You have to have a better effort."