Despite trailing by three goals early in the first period, the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team scored eight of the final ten goals to defeat SUNYMorrisville, 8-5, Saturday night at the Campus Center Ice Arena in the SUNYAC semi-finals.
The Lakers (24-2-0 overall, 15-1-0 SUNYAC) received a hat trick from freshman forward Tyler Leimbrock and sophomore goalie Paul Beckwith came off the bench to record 16 saves, as Oswego State punched its ticket to the SUNYAC title game against archrival SUNYPlattsburgh.
The Mustangs (9-17-0 overall, 5-11-0 SUNYAC) carried over the momentum they established after an emotional overtime victory against SUNYFredonia in the SUNYAC quarterfinals and stunned the Lakers early. Mustang’s freshman forward Chris Cerbino scored the game’s first goal 7:50 into the first period with a wrist shot over starting goalie Kyle Gunn-Taylor’s stick side shoulder. Cerbino’s goal was the result of a defensive turnover by freshmen forward Jon Whitelaw.
Less than two minutes later, Morrisville built its lead to three with goals from sophomore forward Geoff Matzel and a power-play goal from freshman defenseman G.I. Main. Main’s power-play goal appeared to be a simple wrist shot from just inside the blue line that found its way over Gunn-Taylor’s glove and into the back of the net. The Lakers’ largest deficit of the season left the crowd of 2,282 in stunned silence.
"We have to play better," head coach Ed Gosek said. "We don’t have to just work harder, we have to execute. [Morrisville] was aggressive, forced turnovers, finished their checks and they did a nice job."
Trailing by three, Gunn-Taylor was pulled for Beckwith with 10:17 remaining in the first period. Prior to Saturday’s game, Beckwith last appeared in net for the Lakers on Friday, Feb. 5 against SUNYCortland following Gunn-Taylor’s ejection late in the third period. Gunn-Taylor finished Saturday’s game with only two saves on five shots. Beckwith played the remaining 49:43 and recorded 16 saves for his eighth win in net this season.
"It’s no fault of [Gunn-Taylor’s]," Leimbrock said. "We just kind of collapsed at the beginning. We might have taken Morrisville a little soft, but we didn’t panic."
"When coach called me in he told me to just play my game and just try to keep the team in the game," Beckwith said. "[Morrisville’s] a hard-working team. They work harder than any team we’ve played this season. They go for every puck, they dive for every puck. They’re an excellent team and well-coached and just work hard."
The Lakers responded to the goalie change with two goals prior to the end of the first period. Leimbrock knocked home a rebound on senior forward and assistant captain Brad Dormiedy’s shot from in front of the net, and senior forward and assistant captain Neil Musselwhite scored on a cross-crease pass from Dormiedy.
"Thank God they were on their game," Gosek said of Musselwhite and Leimbrock. "The other lines were trying but there wasn’t much there.
Leimbrock scored his second and third goals of the game in the second period, earning him his first hat trick of his collegiate career. Leimbrock’s third goal tied the game at four with just 1:08 remaining in the second period.
"It’s a good feeling," Leimbrock said. "I just found my spots and tonight it was a little easier for me to find my spots out there on the ice."
Oswego State took their first lead of the game 27 seconds into the third period on Musselwhite’s sixth shorthanded goal of the season.
Musselwhite outskated two Mustang defenders through their defensive zone and elevated the puck over senior goalie Caylin Relkoff’s stick side. Relkoff did his best to try and keep the high-octane Laker offense in check, recording 32 saves on 39 shots faced. However, Relkoff’s mishandling of the puck near his net led to the game-winning goal by Whitelaw at 8:27 of the third period to give the Lakers a two goal lead.
"Stay the course, as we have been saying all year," Gosek said. "Stick with what it is that we do. Wear them down over the long haul and I think that’s what you saw in the third period."
The Lakers power play struggled throughout the game, as they were not able to capitalize on their first seven chances despite firing 16 shots on goal. The Mustangs came into the game killing off 77.6 percent of their opponents’ power plays, ranking fifth in the SUNYAC. On the Lakers eighth and final power play opportunity of the night, sophomore forward and SUNYAC Player of the Year Eric Selleck found the back of the net with a shot that deflected off the back of Relkoff’s pads and over the goal line.
With the victory, the Lakers will host the SUNYAC title game against the Plattsburgh Cardinals on Saturday, March 6 at the Campus Center Ice Arena. The Cardinals defeated SUNYBrockport, 5-2, at the Ronald B. Stafford Arena in Plattsburgh on Saturday night to clinch a spot in the title game. The Lakers swept the season series from the Cardinals this season, winning 5-2 at Plattsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 7, and 3-2 at Oswego State on Saturday, Jan. 30. This will be the 19th consecutive season that the Cardinals make an appearance in the SUNYAC title game. The Lakers are hoping to capture their first SUNYAC title since 2003, while the Cardinals are looking to repeat as SUNYAC champions for the third consecutive year. The Cardinals have captured the last two SUNYAC titles at the expense of the Lakers, but both games were held in Plattsburgh. In their respective programs, the Lakers have won seven SUNYAC titles, while the Cardinals have won 19.