A lot has happened since the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team and Morrisville State College played to a 3-3 tie back on Nov. 12 at the Campus Center Ice Arena. The Lakers are 11-1-1 overall and 6-0-1 in conference play since the tie to the Mustangs and are three points ahead of SUNY Plattsburgh for the SUNYAC lead. The Mustangs have gone in the complete opposite direction, as they have accumulated a 2-12-0 overall record and a 1-5-0 record in conference play since tying the Lakers. The Mustangs had a nine-game losing streak that stretched from Nov. 27 to Jan. 14. At 2-9-1 in conference play, Morrisville sits in last place in SUNYAC with five points.
The overall and conference record isn’t even the worst part of this season for the Mustangs, as the men’s ice hockey program was hit with a major NCAA violation on Jan. 18 for improper aid to student-athletes. Morrisville’s International Incentive Grants and Canadian Student Initiative Grants is used to help increase international enrollment to the school, but 29 percent of the grant money was being used toward student athletes in 2009-10. That number increased to 37 percent in 2010-11 even though student-athletes make up only 13 percent of the student body. The NCAA therefore considered the grants to be de facto scholarship grants and hit the university with two years of probation and a postseason ban for this season.
The Mustangs won their first game after the NCAA ruling, a 5-3 victory at SUNY Potsdam, but have lost three straight including a 12-3 thrashing at the hands of Buffalo State last Saturday. The Bengals jumped out to a 9-0 lead 5:29 into the second period before the Mustangs got on the board for the first time. The score, however, was not the biggest development in the game, as a slew of fights and penalties broke out over the course of the final 30 minutes. The Mustangs committed 23 penalties for a total of 114 penalty minutes and had six players receive 10-minute misconduct penalties. Two of those players received game misconducts and one received a game disqualification for fighting. It is unknown who will be eligible for the next game against SUNY Cortland before hosting Oswego State.
Discipline issues have plagued Morrisville all season long, as it leads the league in penalty minutes with 26.45 minutes per game. The Mustangs have accumulated 194 penalties so far this season. Wisconsin-Stevens Points is second with 179 penalties. Morrisville committed 10 penalties for 20 penalty minutes when they played the Lakers. Oswego State committed nine penalties for 26 penalty minutes. Both teams had one power-play goal.
Oswego State is not used to playing from behind, as they have trailed only four times after the first and second periods. The Lakers trailed after both in their first game against the Mustangs, falling behind 2-0 after the first and 3-1 after the second. Morrisville’s Todd Hosmer and and Patrick Stillar each had a goal and an assist and the Mustangs had a 3-0 lead 2:29 into the second period. Oswego State junior defenseman Jesse McConney cut the deficit to two with 16 seconds remaining in the second period before junior forward Chris Brown scored on the power play at 2:13 of the third period and junior forward Chris Muise tied the game at 10:05. Morrisville’s Colin Breen made 51 saves to salvage a tie against the Lakers.
The Mustangs have played just six games at the Iceplex this season, but they haven’t found much success there this season, going 1-5-0 in front of the home fans. Morrisville has led after the second period just three times and have trailed after two periods on 15 occasions. The Mustangs have not won this season when trailing after the first period and are 1-14-0 when trailing after two. They have struggled when falling behind, as they are 1-8-1 when their opponent scores first. Oswego State is 9-0-2 when scoring first.
Morrisville has struggled on both offense and defense, as neither ranks in the top 40 in Division III. The Mustangs are surrendering 5.05 goals per game this season while only scoring 2.75 goals per game. The Mustangs have given up double-digit goals twice this season and have been held to one or fewer goals five times.
A bright spot for the Mustangs is their power play, as it’s the only aspect of the team that is ranked in the top 40 in Division III. Morrisville’s power play ranks 29th at an effective rate of 19.57 percent. The penalty kill, however, is efficient 75.7 percent of the time.
Hosmer leads the team in scoring with 22 points on a team-leading 13 goals and nine assists. Hosmer also leads the team in power-play goals (5), penalties (22) and penalty minutes (71). Curtis Renaud and Stillar are second on the team in scoring with 13 points. Stillar has played in just 12 games this season.
Breen, who started the last game against the Lakers, has struggled trying to fill the shoes of Caylin Relkoff but has the best stats of the three goalies on the roster. Breen has two of the three wins and sports a 4.78 goals against average and a .886 save percentage.
The Lakers’ struggles with the Mustangs have come at the Campus Center Ice Arena. The Iceplex have proven to be kinder to the Lakers than the Mustangs in the series, as Oswego State has not lost a road game against Morrisville. Despite playing against a last-place Mustang team, the Lakers will not be overlooking Morrisville and hopes to enact some revenge for the early-season tie. It’s the only game of the weekend for Oswego State.
The Lakers offense has been difficult to stop and average 4.40 goals per game, sixth-best in Division III. The defense has also been tough to crack, allowing just 1.95 goals per game, fifth-best in Division III. Oswego State has not lost yet this calender year and come into the game with a six-game winning streak.
An interesting note to this game would be that the last time the Lakers played a road game against a team that had been sanctioned by the NCAA they lost. Geneseo defeated the Lakers, 3-1, on Senior Night to hand Oswego State its only conference loss of the season. Now, this Morrisville team does not have the talent that the Ice Knights had in 2009-10, but it is always difficult to match the intensity of a team that is playing for pride.
The Lakers and Mustangs meet on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Iceplex in Morrisville, N.Y. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on 88.9 FM WNYO or followed on Live Stats on the Morrisville athletics page.