Lakers still No. 1 despite recent streak of hardships

It’s officially the "home stretch" for the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team, as they complete its regular season with two final home games this weekend against SUNY Brockport and SUNY Geneseo. The Lakers will likely host two SUNYAC playoff games as well as a possible NCAA quarterfinal matchup. So, although we are reaching the end of the season, there is still plenty of Laker hockey to come. Here are my thoughts and observations from the past two weeks.

Comeback Kids. All looked lost at Alumni Arena back on Friday, Feb. 4, as the Lakers trailed the Cortland Red Dragons, 3-1, with four minutes left in regulation. Unable to solve Cortland net-minder Brittan Kuhlman for most of the night, Oswego State stormed back to tie the game when sophomore Luke Moodie and senior Dan Bremner scored 55 seconds apart. Sophomore Paul Rodrigues came up with another heroic overtime winning goal at the 4:06 mark of the extra period to finish a rousing comeback. Rodrigues also scored the OT winner in Fredonia on Jan. 22.

All good things must come to an end. Despite their ability to rally the week before in Cortland, the Lakers put themselves in too deep a hole to climb out of, falling at home to Morrisville State on Feb. 12, by a 5-2 score. The Lakers looked off their game all night, and fell behind 2-0 early in the game. Despite flashbacks to last season’s SUNYAC semifinal win against the same Mustangs team, in which Oswego State erased a 3-0 deficit to win 8-5, a comeback was not in the cards on this night. The loss was the first conference defeat for the Lakers since Feb. 20, 2009, at Geneseo. It was also the first conference loss at the Campus Center Ice Arena since Feb. 21, 2008, against SUNY Potsdam.

Shorthanded when shorthanded. As predictable as it was that the Lakers were going to suffer a bit on the penalty kill upon losing Neil Musselwhite and Brad Dormiedy, the shorthanded goal numbers are down. Musselwhite himself tallied six of the seven "shorties" last season, while this season’s team has registered only two all year. In recent games as well, the Lakers have had trouble when down a man, giving up seven power-play goals in their last five games.

Misconduct misfortune. With the addition of Dan Bremner to the team, among other things, Oswego State’s physical play has been elevated in 2010-11. As a result, the Lakers have been charged with seven game misconduct penalties. With the NCAA cracking down on shots to the head and other violent hits, Oswego State has suffered the consequences for its physical nature.

Seven splendid Seniors. Saturday night at the Campus Center Ice Arena will be Senior Night for the Lakers. Always an emotional night, the Lakers will say goodbye to seven men this season: defenseman captain Kevin Huinink, defenseman Stephen Mallaro and forwards Chris Laganiere, Justin Fox, Dan Bremner, Joe Hall and Owen Kelly. Laganiere is just five points shy of 100 for his collegiate career, while Huinink and Hall still seek that elusive first goal of the season. Although the careers of Fox and Bremner at Oswego State have been brief, the two of them, along with the five other departing players will leave behind a legacy – one that is not yet completely written, but should go down as one of the greatest Laker hockey teams in school history.

Despite that loss to Morrisville, Oswego State still secured 14 of 20 possible first place votes in the most recent USCHO Poll. This weekend’s games will help determine whether or not the Lakers will head into the postseason with that No. 1 ranking, a feat that they failed to accomplish last season.