For the third consecutive season, the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team will play a home-and-home series with Elmira College to open the regular season. Unlike the previous two seasons, the Lakers will play their season opener on the road instead of in the friendly confines of the Campus Center Ice Arena.
Last season the Lakers swept the season series against Elmira, winning 4-1 at home before taking the second game on the road, 4-2, to begin the season 2-0-0. The Lakers have won the last three match ups against the Soaring Eagles, dating back to the 2009-10 season.
Both teams enter the opening series ranked in the top 15 in the preseason USCHO.com Men’s Ice Hockey Poll. Oswego State sits at No. 2, receiving three-first place votes, while Elmira comes in at No. 6. Last season, Oswego State reached the NCAA National Semifinal, falling to Adrian College, 5-3. Elmira also had its season end at the hands of the Bulldogs, losing 5-3 in the NCAA National Quarterfinal.
Elmira returns the majority of its roster, losing only four of its players from a year ago. The Soaring Eagles took their biggest hit on the defensive end, losing Karl Linden, who led the defense in scoring with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists). Senior Martin Lee finished second among defensemen on the team with 17 points (three goals, 14 assists).
Oswego State lost seven seniors from a year ago, but returns the majority of its offense. Leading scorer Ian Boots returns for his senior season after putting up huge numbers after transferring from Division I Ohio State University. Boots finished with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) and earned All SUNYAC First-Team and Division III All-America East Second Team. Boots serves as one of three assistant captains on the team this season.
Juniors Jon Whitelaw and Luke Moodie are expected to fill the void left by Justin Fox, who compiled 32 points on 10 goals and 22 assists last season. Fox was also a primary face off man on the first line. Chris Laganiere, who served on the same line as Fox most of the season, is also no longer with the team.
The goalie situation for both teams remain unchanged from a year ago. Oswego State senior goalie Paul Beckwith will start the season in net when the two teams meet in Elmira on Friday night. Last season, Beckwith finished with 52 saves, allowing three goals in two meetings with the Soaring Eagles last season. For Elmira, junior Darren McDonald will begin the season as the starter after playing in 26 games last season. McDonald played the opening game of the series last season, recording 24 saves on 28 shots faced. McDonald finished second in Division III last season in save percentage at .930.
Elmira has a trio of senior forwards in Kevin Willer, Darcy Vaillancourt and Brendan Sanders, who finished first, second and third on the team in scoring, respectively. Willer had the greatest influence on special teams, recording six power-play goals and two shorthanded goals. Elmira’s penalty killing unit will be a focal point against the Lakers. Elmira finished with an 82.6 percent penalty kill. The Lakers power play was seventh best in Division III at 25.83 percent.
Oswego State’s offense and defense was among the top 10 in both categories a season ago. The Laker offense finished seventh at 4.18 goals per game, while the defense finished second at 2.07 goals allowed per game. The Lakers lost assistant captain and defenseman Stephen Mallaro to graduation and look to senior defenseman and assistant captain Jared Anderson to lead the defense this season.
The Lakers have not lost a season opener since the 2008-09 season when it dropped a 3-2 contest at Elmira. Oswego State finished that season 18-8-1 and did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
The Lakers and Soaring Eagles will drop the puck on their respective seasons on Friday, Oct. 21, at the Murray Athletic Center in Elmira, N.Y.