Lakers clinch second-ever playoff berth with sweep

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The Oswego State women’s ice hockey team defeated Buffalo State in both of its games over the weekend, with scores of 3-1 and 3-0, respectively.

By beating the Bengals, Oswego State earned four points towards its conference standing in the ECAC West and also clinched a spot in the playoffs. The weekend was a very busy one for the Lakers who played their annual Pink the Rink game on Friday and held their Senior Day on Saturday.

Oswego State goalie Emi Williams saved 19 of 20 shots. The Bengal’s goalie Alyssa Koniar also played an impressive game, stopping 40 of the 43 shots she was faced.

Friday’s game had a different feeling than most hockey games. The reason was because the Lakers were donned in pink jerseys. The jerseys were part of the team’s effort to raise awareness for breast cancer. The Lakers auctioned off a pink jersey for the cause, which ended up selling for $225. The game was also a way to raise funds for the More than a Game Foundation and Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse. The Lakers looked at this as another motivation to succeed.

"Everybody’s been affected by breast cancer," Sbrocchi said. I know somebody, we all know somebody. We are just playing for another purpose and that gives us more motivation."

Saturday’s game also had another story to follow. It was Senior Day which meant five of the Lakers were playing in their last conference home game. The seniors, Willams, forwards Emily Grippin and Sarah Hannon and defensemen Brenna Weber and defender Megan Big Snake all started in the game on Saturday.

This game was a much tighter one than Friday’s, which the final score might not necessarily suggest. In the first period Buffalo State played much stronger than they did on Friday and the teams went back and forth. The second period continued this way until Oswego State took two penalties at 11:16 and gave the Bengals a 5-on-3 power play. The advantage did not last long, after Buffalo State was called for slashing about a minute into its power play. It was at the end of its two penalties when the Lakers were able to capitalize. Hannon and Collins were the players who came onto the ice when the penalties expired. Hannon found the puck at center ice and went in on Koniar on a breakaway. Koniar made the save on Hannon’s shot but Collins was right behind her to tap in the rebound.

"I got so close to her and I was just hoping that Kelly was behind me," Hannon said. "I threw it at her and when I turned around it was in the net. I know I can always count on Kelly Collins to be there behind me."

In the final minutes Buffalo State pulled Koniar once again in an attempt to get on the scoreboard, but Oswego State freshman forward Carly Henderson scored the second empty net and third goal of the game.

By winning the game Oswego State clinched a playoff spot, got Williams her third shutout of the season and won on Senior Day. The outcome was just what the seniors were hoping for out of their final home game, but the feelings were still mixed.

"This has been the fastest season," Williams said. "It’s like it just started yesterday and now it’s ending. It was bittersweet. I got a shutout which was nice, but it went by too fast."

Following the game there was an on-ice ceremony and then a reception for the seniors. The families of the players came out onto the ice and a short speech was given for each girl. The ceremony honored each senior as a player but the waterworks really began at the reception.

"We are taking bets on who is going to cry first," Williams said after the game on Friday. "I got my money on Big Snake."

"I came here all by myself and I’m leaving with 24 best friends," Big Snake said. "And I’m gonna know these girls for the rest of my life. Being on this hockey team has made me realize who I really am, and I know that sounds corny but it really has."

This senior class is only the second group to be graduating from the women’s hockey program. With this being the second year the team has made the playoffs, the impact these seniors have made on the program really shows.

"Our class came in with 11 girls and there are five of us left," Hannon said. "We wanted to show that we have what it takes to make it to the end and we wanted to be there for our underclassmen so that they can pave the way for the next few years"

Despite all the pomp and circumstance that took place this weekend, the Lakers season is not over yet. Although they have clinched a spot in the playoffs, their position in the standings will decide if their playoff game is home or away. Next weekend, the Lakers will face off against Rochester Institute of Technology, who is currently the top-ranked team in the nation.

"The RIT weekend is going to be tough," Big Snake said. "We definitely have a few things to work on but with senior weekend out of the way we are going be focused and ready to go."

One of the goals Oswego State made for themselves at the beginning of the season was to beat one of the top three ranked teams. This series will be their chance to do that. It is also an opportunity for them to improve their spot in the standings, therefore increasing their chances of success in the playoffs.

"We are at the point where we are trying to separate ourselves from the lower half of the division," Dillon said. "RIT is the top team in the nation right now, so it’s going to be a fight and we know that, but we will be ready. When the puck drops we will be ready to go."