Difficult path to championship awaits

Jon Whitelaw and the Lakers

The road to the Frozen Four in Lake Placid has officially begun with the unveiling of the 2011-12 Oswego State men’s ice hockey schedule.

The schedule features 25 games, 17 against teams with winning records during the 2010-11 season and six against teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament after the season. The annual "Whiteout" game comes late for the student body, with Oswego State hosting SUNY Plattsburgh on Friday, Feb. 18.

The Lakers are scheduled to play nine non-conference games, as well as 16 conference games against the other eight SUNYAC teams. Oswego State is scheduled to play five games at the Campus Center Ice Arena during the fall semester before wrapping up its regular season with four consecutive home games in the spring semester. There are five non-conference games scheduled at home during winter break, including the annual Pathfinder Bank Hockey Classic.

Oswego State drops the puck on its season on Friday, Oct. 21, when it faces Elmira. The Lakers open their home schedule the following night against the same Soaring Eagles team. Last season, the Lakers swept the home-and-home series from Elmira for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

The Lakers begin conference play the following week when they travel to SUNY Cortland to play the Red Dragons on Friday, Oct. 28. Oswego State needed two late third period goals and overtime to defeat the Red Dragons last season at Alumni Arena. A non-conference game against Utica College follows the next night.

SUNYAC play commences at the Campus Center Ice Arena with games against SUNY Geneseo on Friday, Nov. 4, and SUNY Brockport on Saturday, Nov. 5. The Lakers host Morrisville State the following weekend on Saturday, Nov. 12, before heading on the road to close out the first half of the conference schedule. The Mustangs were one of just four teams to defeat the Lakers at the Campus Center Ice Arena in 2010-11, and the only conference team to beat the Lakers on their home ice during the regular season.

The Lakers head east to take on SUNY Fredonia Friday, Nov. 18, and Buffalo State Saturday, Nov. 19. Following a weekend break for Thanksgiving, the Lakers travel north to face archrival Plattsburgh Friday, Dec. 2. Plattsburgh has not beaten Oswego State since March 7, 2009. Oswego State closes out the first half of its conference schedule at SUNY Potsdam on Saturday, Dec. 3.

Oswego State returns home the following Saturday against Hobart College for its first of five straight non-conference games at the Campus Center Ice Arena. The Statesmen handed the Lakers their first loss of the season last year, defeating them 5-2 at the Geneva Recreation Center.

"Hobart’s always tough," Lakers coach Ed Gosek said. "They certainly play us hard. We look forward to the challenge there."

After a few weeks off for winter break, the Lakers return to the Campus Center Ice Arena for the annual Pathfinder Bank Hockey Classic starting Friday, Dec. 30. This year’s invitees to Oswego State’s tournament are Connecticut College, Hamline College and Neumann College. Both Hamline and Neumann appeared in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Lakers will play Connecticut College at 7 p.m., while Hamline and Neumann will play at 4 p.m. The two winners and losers will play one another Saturday, Dec. 31.

The Lakers kick off the new year Friday, Jan. 13, with a non-conference game against Curry College before taking on Utica Saturday, Jan. 14. Oswego State has not lost to Utica since Jan. 23, 2007. The Lakers complete their six-game homestand Friday, Jan. 20, against Cortland to begin the second half of SUNYAC play. Oswego State hits the road the following night to play its final non-conference game of the season against Hamilton College, a game Gosek may not be looking forward to.

"It’s following a league game, and it’s a tough place to play," Gosek said. "There’s not a lot of excitement at the rink. We’ll have our work cut out as coaches to get the guys motivated."

Geneseo, Brockport and Morrisville provide tough road challenges for the Lakers the following two weeks. The Ice Knights finished 9-4-1 at the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena last season. The game against the Mustangs on Saturday, Feb. 4, closes out the road portion of Oswego State’s schedule.

The Lakers play their first home game in front of the student body Friday, Feb. 10, against Fredonia in the first of a four-game homestand to close out the regular season. The Blue Devils stunned the Lakers with a 2-1 overtime victory in the SUNYAC Semifinals at the Campus Center Ice Arena in March. Oswego State hosts Buffalo State the following night.

The Lakers close out the season with "Whiteout Weekend." Plattsburgh comes to the Campus Center Ice Arena Friday, Feb. 18, in the annual "Whiteout" game. Oswego State celebrates Senior Night Saturday, Feb. 19, against Potsdam to close out the regular season.

"It’s not an easy schedule," Gosek said. "Elmira twice, Utica twice, Hobart, the tournament’s tough, Curry. It’s a good schedule."

SUNYAC playoffs get under way the following Wednesday, leading to the SUNYAC Final on Saturday, March 3. The NCAA play-in games will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The remaining four teams will meet in Lake Placid on Friday, March 16, in the NCAA Frozen Four. The hockey season concludes on Saturday, March 17, with the NCAA Championship.