Three thousand screaming fans waving towels and dressed in white inside a sold-out Campus Center Ice Arena on a Saturday night can mean only one thing: the Oswego State Lakers are going head-to-head with the archrival Plattsburgh Cardinals.
For the past 34 years, the Lakers and Cardinals have met on the same ice 101 times. Plattsburgh owns a 65-31-5 advantage against Oswego State.
Following a 10-game winless streak against the Cardinals, the Lakers finally broke through with a 5-2 win last year. The Oswego State victory was its first over the Cardinals since 2006. Sophomore forward Jon Whitelaw scored twice and senior forward and assistant captain Chris Laganiere registered the game-winning goal and two assists.
The Lakers earned their first victory over the Cardinals in the Campus Center Ice Arena, 3-2, on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010. Whitelaw scored the game-winning goal in the second period and senior forward Justin Fox added a goal and an assist on Whitelaw’s goal. Plattsburgh goalie Ryan Williams made 12 saves and didn’t allow a goal in 34:07 of relief.
Oswego State completed the season sweep of the Cardinals with a 6-3 victory in the SUNYAC Championship on Saturday, March 6. The Lakers received goals from six different players, including sophomore defenseman Taylor Farris’ first collegiate goal. Senior defenseman and captain Kevin Huinink scored a goal and was named SUNYAC Tournament MVP. Plattsburgh’s Eric Satim scored a goal and recorded two assists while Dylan Clarke added a goal.
"In that game, you can’t have a bad shift or it will cost you," Gosek said. "There’s times where we’ve played well, but that one bad mistake, that one glaring mistake, they take advantage of it. Or they make the glaring mistake and we take advantage of it."
Last year’s games featured 23 freshmen and this year’s game will feature just 10. Even with added experience in both teams’ rosters, the mistakes made in last year’s games will still happen.
"The emotion and the hype of the rivalry are good for the first five or six minutes and then reality kicks in," Gosek said. "Usually there are more mistakes made in the first five minutes of that game then in the entire length of a regular game."
"They all have the experience of playing in three games last year," assistant coach Mark Digby said. "The first couple of times you have more energy going into it so hopefully we can keep that youthful excitement and enthusiasm and keep our focus."
Digby, a former player for SUNY Brockport, has recent experience playing against Plattsburgh and knows the talent on its roster.
"They’re very fast, skilled and very well coached," Digby said.
The two teams met for the first time in 1975, when George Crowe was coaching the Lakers and John Corker was coaching the Cardinals. Since that matchup, the Lakers have had four new head coaches and the Cardinals have had five.
One coach in particular, Herb Hammond, has coached at both schools. Hammond coached the Lakers for 12 seasons, compiling a 176-122-5 record, before taking the head coaching position at Plattsburgh. Despite only coaching the Cardinals for two seasons, the mere fact that he took the coaching position intensified the rivalry. Even with the recent parity among SUNYAC teams, the rivalry is still as strong as it’s ever been.
"They’ve got good coaches," head coach Ed Gosek said. "They’ve got good players. A true rivalry exists even if they were 0-20 or we were 0-20. The rivalry exists because of the history of it."
Over the last 11 years, the Lakers and Cardinals have met six times in the SUNYAC Championship, a game in which the winner is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Division III Ice Hockey Tournament. The Cardinals have won a total of 19 SUNYAC titles compared to the Lakers’ eight. Plattsburgh has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 16 times, reached the Frozen Four 12 times and won two national championships (1992, 2001). Oswego State has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 11 times, reached the Frozen Four four times and won one national championship in 2007.
"There’s mutual respect even though they don’t have any love for us and we don’t have any love for them, so to speak," Gosek said. "That’s what makes a great rivalry."
In the 1986-87 season, the Cardinals and Lakers faced each other six different times. The two teams battled in their traditional two regular season games, but also met in Plattsburgh’s annual tournament, the Cardinal Classic, as well as in the ECAC finals, SUNYAC Championship and the National Championship, which was held in Plattsburgh.
The Cardinals came out victorious in all six meetings, but the NCAA Committee on Infractions vacated their participation in the NCAA Tournament, stripping the school of its first NCAA Division III National Championship.
For the first time in three years, the annual "Whiteout" game comes early for Oswego State fans. The past two years, the "Whiteout" game has been held in late January with the game in Plattsburgh occurring in early November.
Key players on the Plattsburgh roster include Satim, Clarke and Kyle Kudroch. Satim finished second on the team in scoring last year with 27 points on 11 goals and 16 assists. Clarke led the team in scoring with 30 points on 12 goals and a team-leading 18 assists.
Kudroch led all sophomores in scoring, tallying 22 points on 14 goals and eight assists.
On the Oswego State side, key players include Fox, Laganiere and Whitelaw. Fox scored goals in two of the three meetings against Plattsburgh last season and finished the year with 47 points. Laganiere finished third on the team in scoring last year with 46 points on 16 goals and 30 assists. Whitelaw, last season’s SUNYAC Rookie of the Year, led freshmen in scoring with 38 points on 12 goals and 26 assists.
As two of the better teams in Division III, recruitment battles are a common occurence. Very rarely are Plattsburgh and Oswego State not attempting to corrall the same prospects. In its history, Oswego State has had seven first-team All-Americans and 12 second-team All-Americans. Plattsburgh as had 14 first-team All-Americans and 16 second-team All-Americans.
The Lakers currently sit atop the SUNYAC standings with SUNY Geneseo at 2-0-0, while Plattsburgh is a game back at 1-1-0. Oswego State can distance itself from its archrival with an early-season win over the Cardinals. If the Cardinals win, then the two teams will find themselves deadlocked in the competitive SUNYAC.