Despite setbacks, Lakers continue to dominate conference opponents

It’s a scary thought that the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team has not had more than two losses on its record after winter break in any of the past three seasons, including this one. In 2009-10, it was an opening weekend loss in Elmira. Last season it was a pair of defeats around the end of the first semester to Hobart and Hamilton. This season, just two blemishes, both to fellow national top-10 teams, Utica and Neumann. That can only lead one to believe that this Laker team is destined to reach the same fate of those two previous squads, a trip to the National Championships – this year being held in Lake Placid, N.Y. (as was the case in 2010). As much as the records tell the story, I can’t shake the thought from my mind that this team may not be as dangerous as those before it; but the wins keep piling up, and that’s what really matters in the end. It’s been 13 games since I last gave my thoughts, so cut me a break if I leave something out.

Blanked. As part of the fan base and media that follow Oswego State hockey, we are spoiled; so to say that the winter break portion of the schedule was unsuccessful by any means for the Lakers would be anything but an objective statement; but still it has to be mentioned: the Lakers were shut out on home ice by Neumann in the championship of the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Hockey Classic. The 3-0 blanking on New Year’s Eve marked the first time the Lakers had been shutout since Jan. 18, 2002, a 5-0 home loss to RIT. By the way, there is a reason that the Tigers are now a Division I team.

Falling Behind. I wanted to get all of the negatives out of the way early. Especially lately, the Lakers have made a dangerous habit of falling behind. The past weekend’s conference games in Geneseo and Brockport saw Oswego State’s opponents get the early jump. Geneseo’s Zach Martin scored the only goal of Friday’s first period, while James Cody and Sean Wallace gave Brockport a 2-0 edge for a 2-1 lead at the first intermission on Saturday. In both cases, the Lakers rallied for 4-1 and 6-4 wins, respectively, but getting behind on the road against more dangerous teams could come back to bite them.

A new Carr. Junior defenseman Tim Carr’s brother Chris joined the Lakers this season and has lately been lighting up the scoresheet. The freshman forward netted his first collegiate goal at home against SUNY Cortland on January 20, and finished that weekend with four points (one goal, three assists), earning him SUNYAC Rookie of the week honors. Chris Carr responded with two more assists this past weekend, giving him a four-game point streak as part of a line that has been carrying the load offensively. That line is known as the…

9 to 5. My broadcast partner Zach Koscuik is the one that gets credit for tagging head coach Ed Gosek’s combination of Chris Carr, David Titanic and Chris Brown with the hard working mantra. Since being assembled in the aforementioned game against Cortland, the trio has totaled eight goals and 10 assists in four games. Brown himself has been on a torrid pace, scoring five goals in his last three games, including a hat trick in the win over Brockport on Saturday. Titanic had only one goal prior to the line’s assembly and it came all the way back in the season opener in later October. It will be difficult for Gosek to break them up.

Special teams success. The Lakers’ first goal of the season was shorthanded, coming off the stick of Chris Ayotte in Elmira. That was the only “man down” tally until Oswego State and Utica played a penalty-filled contest on January 14 at the Campus Center Ice Arena. The Lakers and Pioneers combined for 86 penalty minutes and 21 power play chances. Utica was afford 12 opportunities with the man advantage, all of which Oswego State killed off, while adding two shorthanded markers. The Lakers added one more goal in Brockport while on the penalty kill, and have moved up the national charts to achieve the 10th best penalty kill efficiency in Division III hockey. The Lakers have held opponents to only one extra man tally in their last 29 chances, while the power play has totaled at least one goal in each of the past six games. Discipline has been trending in the right direction as well, as the Lakers have not amassed 10 penalty minutes in five of their last six contests (the Utica parade to the box being the exception), after they averaged nearly double that amount in the season’s first dozen games.

Leimbrock Lighting the Lamp. Tyler Leimbrock is second on the team in goals with 10, and that is already a career-high for the junior forward. After playing on the Lakers top line his freshman year and then regressing with only 10 points last season, Leimbrock is finding the back of the net with more consistency in 2011-12. Twice has he netted multiple goals in a game (Dec. 3 at Potsdam and Jan. 14 vs. Utica) and he leads the team with three game-winning goals. He currently enjoys a three-game point streak. (two goals, one assist)

Cook the Bird. At least that’s what it says on this year’s whiteout game T-shirt outside the bookstore, but this season’s Oswego State/Plattsburgh game at the Campus Center Ice Arena is setting up to be one of the biggest in the history of the rivalry. The Lakers currently hold a three-point lead over the Cardinals atop of the SUNYAC, with Plattsburgh owning a game at hand. (meaning they’ve played one less game, which they will make up for this coming weekend) There are three games for Oswego State and four for Plattsburgh before the head-to- head battle on Feb. 17, but if both teams win them all (as expected), the whiteout could be not only a game to decide the No. 1 SUNYAC position, but potentially a top three spot nationally. The most recent USCHO poll has Oswego State and Plattsburgh ranked second and third respectively, trailing only Norwich University. The first matchup between the rivals this season resulted in a 2-2 tie at Stafford Ice Arena in the North Country in early December. The Lakers led twice in the game, only to see Plattsburgh battle back and tie it.

Before that highly anticipated matchup arrives, the Lakers will play their final road game of the regular season at Morrisville on Saturday, Feb. 4. Oswego will be looking to avenge the 3-3 tie that they rallied to force against the last place Mustangs back in November at home. The regular season concludes with a four game home stand featuring three tough conference tests with Fredonia (Feb. 10), Buffalo State (Feb. 11), and of course Plattsburgh (Feb. 17) coming to town. Senior night is scheduled for Feb. 18 against Potsdam. The games will have major implications on SUNYAC playoff seeding, as Oswego State, Plattsburgh, Buffalo State and Fredonia currently hold spots 1-4 respectively. The key for the Lakers as always, is to make sure they remember Plattsburgh isn’t here for three weeks, and to take care of their business until then. But not even then, is their business done.