For the past three seasons, the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team has opened its season with a home-and-home against Elmira College, and for the past two seasons, the Lakers have swept said series.
The second-ranked Lakers (2-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 SUNYAC) opened the regular season at sixth-ranked Elmira on Friday, defeating the Soaring Eagles 7-3 at the Murray Athletic Center behind the strong play of the second and fourth lines. The following night, Oswego State overwhelmed a fatigued Elmira team, 6-2, in front of a sold-out Campus Center Ice Arena.
The Soaring Eagles (0-2-0 overall, 0-0-0 ECAC West) jumped on the Lakers early on Friday, scoring twice in the first 5:46 of the opening period. Elmira’s Jesper Strale scored 20 seconds into the first period before Wes Consorti tallied another goal for the Soaring Eagles roughly five minutes later.
“Last night I was very impressed with (Elmira) in the first 15 minutes of the first period,” head coach Ed Gosek said. “They couldn’t do anything wrong and we couldn’t do anything right.”
Oswego State junior forward Chris Ayotte scored the Lakers’ first goal of the season halfway through the first period while on a penalty kill to cut the deficit to one. The goal was Ayotte’s first since his freshman season. Junior forward Chris Brown was awarded the assist on the goal.
Due to an undisclosed injury suffered to senior goaltender Paul Beckwith during the first period, junior goaltender Andrew Hare took over the reins in net for the Lakers. Beckwith finished the game with 13 saves on 15 shots faced in his 20 minutes of work. Hare played admirably in relief, recording 21 saves on 22 shots faced in 40 minutes of work.
“When the bell rings and it’s your turn, you have to be ready to answer,” Gosek said. “Last night he did and I thought he played very solid, very steadied in the net and I’m happy for him.”
The Lakers broke the game open in the second period with three unanswered goals. Junior forwards Luke Moodie, Jon Whitelaw and Tyler Leimbrock each tallied goals during the frame to give Oswego State a 4-2 lead heading into the third period. Leimbrock’s goal was scored on a power play and proved to be the game-winning goal for the Lakers.
Elmira’s Kevin Willer brought the Soaring Eagles within a goal on the power play, but three unanswered goals by the Lakers in the final five minutes of the third period sealed the victory. Junior defenseman Zack Josepher, playing in his first game with the Lakers after transferring from Division I Michigan State University, and sophomore forwards Kyle Badham and David Titanic each tallied goals for Oswego State during the third period.
Saturday’s matchup between the two teams was polar opposite of Friday’s contest, as the Lakers wasted no time taking the early lead. Junior forward Jesse McConney, who entered the game with zero collegiate goals, scored his first of two on the night during a 5-on-3 advantage. Following a tripping penalty by Dylan Herold and a roughing penalty by Rick Acorn 40 seconds apart from one another, McConney received a pass from Whitelaw in the slot and wristed a shot over the glove of Elmira goaltender Darren McDonald.
“He’s paid his dues and he’s worked hard,” Gosek said of McConney. “He’s always had an offensive touch. Right now he’s off to a good start and hopefully he can keep it going.”
Leimbrock tallied his second goal in two games at 16:20 of the first period to give the Lakers a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission. The scoring play was set up by senior defenseman Hank Van Boxmeer, who had his shot from the slot blocked aside by McDonald. Leimbrock corralled the loose puck in front of the net and wristed a shot over McDonald’s glove for the two-goal lead.
McConney would score another power-play goal 50 seconds into the second period on a slap shot from the blue line that found its way through traffic and past McDonald for the goal. Three minutes later, senior forward and assistant captain Ian Boots scored his first goal of the season.
“It felt good,” McConney said. “It’s kind of surreal, but it was a good experience and good feeling.”
Boots’ goal resulted in a timeout by the Soaring Eagles, who used that time to replace McDonald with backup goalie Ryan deMelo. McDonald, who recorded 28 saves on Friday night, finished Saturday’s game with 14 saves, taking the loss in both.
Moodie scored the team’s fifth goal of the game on a nice deke move going from left to right in front of the net that resulted in a backhanded wrist shot that beat deMelo on the near-side post.
“(Elmira) didn’t have the same jump that they had Friday night,” Gosek said. “Getting off to a good start in the first period just helped take the momentum they may have had away.”
Elmira broke through for its first goal of the game with a power-play goal at 14:42 of the second period. Acorn received a centering pass from Darcy Vaillancourt from behind the net and beat Hare on the right side.
Junior forward Tim Carr scored Oswego State’s sixth goal of the game at 9:56 of the third period before Elmira struck with its second power-play goal of the game with just 4:48 remaining in the game.
“It was a tough game Friday night so it was nice to see us respond early and be consistent,” McConney said. “The penalty kill stepped up again and that was probably the main reason why we won.”
Hare finished the game with 30 saves to earn his second win of the season. Hare had just one victory in net last season.
Saturday’s game featured 20 penalties totaling 40 minutes, as the SUNYAC began using the four-man officiating crew, replacing the three-man officiating crew used last season. Oswego State finished 2-for-8 with the man advantage, while Elmira went 2-for-10.
“I was pleased overall,” Gosek said. “Second game, first weekend, to have the energy we did, I was pleased with the effort and the intensity.”
The Lakers open conference play on Friday, Oct. 28, when they travel to play SUNY Cortland at Alumni Arena.