Destination: Minneapolis

For the second time in as many years, the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team is headed back to the Frozen Four after defeating Bowdoin College, 7-5, on Saturday night in the NCAA Quarterfinal at the Campus Center Ice Arena.

After losing two of their top scorers from last season (Neil Musselwhite and Eric Selleck), the Lakers received contributions from a plethora of players to help the team reach its fifth Frozen Four in program history.

The Lakers will travel over 1,000 miles to Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn., where they will take on Adrian College. The Bulldogs defeated Elmira College, 5-3, in their respective NCAA Quarterfinal Round game to advance to their first ever Frozen Four in just their fourth year as a program. Adrian has a shorter route to Minneapolis, having to travel more than 600 miles from Michigan.

The last time the Lakers and Bulldogs met was on Jan. 8, 2010, a 5-2 Oswego State win at the Campus Center Ice Arena. Musselwhite netted a hat trick and added an assist for a four-point game, as the Lakers scored two empty-net goals in the final minute to secure the victory.

Adrian’s loss to the Lakers was just one of 11 losses the hockey program has suffered since becoming a Division III team in 2007. Under head coach Ron Fogarty, the Bulldogs are 101-11-2 overall and have won both the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association (MCHA) regular season title and postseason title each year. Adrian has appeared in the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.

Both teams can put the puck in the back of the net. The Bulldogs’ 5.04 goals per game is the highest among Division III teams, while the Lakers average 4.22 goals per game, seventh most in Division III. Adrian has two players ranked in the top 10 in scoring and three players ranked in the top 25. Senior forward Shawn Skelly leads the Bulldogs offensive attack with 45 points on 20 goals and 25 assists in 27 games this season. Skelly’s 45 points ranks him tied for fifth amongst Division III individual scoring. One point behind Skelly is teammate Eric Miller, who has compiled 44 points on 18 goals and 26 assists in 26 games played. Miller’s 44 points is eighth amongst Division III scorers. The Lakers have just one player ranked in the top 15 in scoring: junior forward Ian Boots. Boots leads the Lakers with 39 points on 14 goals and 25 assists in 27 games. Boots’ 39 points is 12th most in Division III.

"They are a very dangerous team," Gosek said. "They have a lot of guys that can finish. Of all of the teams we have played, I would say they have some of the purest goal scorers that we’ve played. That presents problems in that we have to limit our mistakes in our own end. We can’t give them time to make plays or else we’re going to be in trouble."

Statistically, the special team advantage goes to the Bulldogs, as they currently have the top-ranked penalty-killing unit and the fourth-best power play. Adrian is the sixth-most penalized team, averaging 22.61 penalty minutes per game, but successfully kills off a nationally-best 89.3 percent of penalties. The Lakers’ power play unit ranks 11th, while their penalty killing unit ranks 12th.

Oswego State junior goaltender Paul Beckwith will play an important role in determining whether Oswego State advances to the championship game. Beckwith ranks third in goals against average at 1.93 goals allowed per game.

A common critique of the Bulldogs deals with the conference they play in and their strength of schedule. Since joining the MCHA four years ago, the Bulldogs have compiled a conference record of 77-2-1, a .969 percent winning percentage. The Bulldogs’ strength of schedule during the regular season was .538. The only common opponents the Bulldogs and Lakers faced this season were Buffalo State and Elmira. Adrian went 2-0-0 vs. common opponents and Oswego State went 4-0-0 against the same two teams.

"They’ve played enough good teams this year where they’ve proven that they are a solid team," Gosek said. "As we learned last year, in 2007 and in 2003, the last three final fours we’ve made it to, any of the four teams can win it all. If you get strong goaltending, you take advantage of the opportunities that are there, play the right game on the right day, any one of the four teams can win it all."

Experience could be the difference in the matchup between two of the top five teams in the country. Adrian‘s roster consists of 17 seniors, none of which have played in an NCAA National Semifinal Game. The Lakers have seven seniors on their roster, a roster that features 24 players with Frozen Four experience. Only three freshmen (David Titanic, Corey Domenico and Kyle Badham) and two transfers (Ian Boots and Dan Bremner) do not have Frozen Four experience.

Last season, the Lakers’ title hopes came to an end at the expense of St. Norbert in the NCAA Semifinal. If the Lakers were to defeat Adrian on Friday afternoon, there is a chance that Oswego State could meet the Green Knights for the NCAA National Championship on Saturday. Whether it’s St. Norbert or Norwich, Gosek would just like to have the opportunity to compete in the championship game.

"Personally, I’d be happy just to be there," Gosek said. "I don’t care who it’s against. They both present different problems. We’re fairly familiar with both teams, although we haven’t played Norwich in awhile. I think our guys would say they would like to play St. Norbert just because they played them last year and would like to prove that they are a better team then what we showed last year. Our guys have been around long enough and know how difficult it is to make it to the final four that we respect all of the other three teams."

Oswego State junior goaltender Paul Beckwith will play an important role in determining whether Oswego State advances to the championship game. Beckwith ranks third in goals against average at 1.93 goals allowed per game.

A common critique of the Bulldogs deals with the conference they play in and their strength of schedule. Since joining the MCHA four years ago, the Bulldogs have compiled a conference record of 77-2-1, a .969 percent winning percentage. The Bulldogs’ strength of schedule during the regular season was .538. The only common opponents the Bulldogs and Lakers faced this season were Buffalo State and Elmira. Adrian went 2-0-0 vs. common opponents and Oswego State went 4-0-0 against the same two teams.

"They’ve played enough good teams this year where they’ve proven that they are a solid team," Gosek said. "As we learned last year, in 2007 and in 2003, the last three final fours we’ve made it to, any of the four teams can win it all. If you get strong goaltending, you take advantage of the opportunities that are there, play the right game on the right day, any one of the four teams can win it all."

Experience could be the difference in the matchup between two of the top five teams in the country. Adrian‘s roster consists of 17 seniors, none of which have played in an NCAA National Semifinal Game. The Lakers have seven seniors on their roster, a roster that features 24 players with Frozen Four experience. Only three freshmen (David Titanic, Corey Domenico and Kyle Badham) and two transfers (Ian Boots and Dan Bremner) do not have Frozen Four experience.

Last season, the Lakers’ title hopes came to an end at the expense of St. Norbert in the NCAA Semifinal. If the Lakers were to defeat Adrian on Friday afternoon, there is a chance that Oswego State could meet the Green Knights for the NCAA National Championship on Saturday. Whether it’s St. Norbert or Norwich, Gosek would just like to have the opportunity to compete in the championship game.

"Personally, I’d be happy just to be there," Gosek said. "I don’t care who it’s against. They both present different problems. We’re fairly familiar with both teams, although we haven’t played Norwich in awhile. I think our guys would say they would like to play St. Norbert just because they played them last year and would like to prove that they are a better team then what we showed last year. Our guys have been around long enough and know how difficult it is to make it to the final four that we respect all of the other three teams."