“White Out” weekend proved to be a shut out weekend for the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team, as the Lakers won a pair of 3-0 games against SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam over the weekend at the Campus Center Ice Arena.
Junior goaltender Andrew Hare recorded his second and third shutouts this season and the Lakers completed the regular season unbeaten in conference play at 14-0-2. Oswego State clinched home ice advantage throughout the SUNYAC playoffs after Friday’s victory against the Cardinals in front of a sold-out crowd frantically waving white towels.
The Oswego State penalty kill unit proved to be the unsung hero in Friday’s win over archrival Plattsburgh, killing off all seven power play opportunities for the Cardinals. Leading 2-0 late in the second period, the Lakers found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-on-3 after junior forward Luke Moodie was called for a double-minor penalty for roughing and junior forward Paul Rodrigues was called for hitting after the whistle.
“That could have been the turning point of the game,” junior forward and assistant captain Jon Whitelaw said. “Once we killed it off they seemed deflated. Had they scored that would have taken the wind out of our sails. Our penalty kill all night long was dynamite.”
Both penalties came at 19:18 of the second period, giving the Cardinals a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes and an additional 5-on-4 power play two minutes later. The Cardinals recorded four shots during the four-minute power play, but couldn’t get the puck past Hare. Plattsburgh recorded just three shots on the goal the rest of the game.
“The turning point of the game was the 5-on-3 at the end of the second period and the beginning of the third,” head coach Ed Gosek said. “As we’ve said many times, you gain momentum from the power play and you can lose momentum for the power play. I thought we clearly as a team gained momentum from the penalty kill.”
Junior defenseman Jesse McConney got the Lakers on the board at 6:06 of the first period with a slap shot off a faceoff in the Lakers’ offensive zone, beating Plattsburgh goaltender Mathieu Cadieux. Just three seconds after an interference penalty by Plattsburgh’s Jake Mooney resulted in 4-on-4 hockey, junior forward Tyler Leimbrock cleanly won the ensuing faceoff and passed to McConney at the point, who recorded his sixth goal of the season.
The Lakers increased their lead to two before the end of the first period, as Whitelaw continued his scoring streak with his 16th goal of the season at 17:21 of the opening period. Whitelaw received a pass from the slot by Moodie to the left faceoff circle, where Whitelaw one-timed a shot past a sprawling Cadieux for a 2-0 lead heading into the first period intermission. Rodrigues received the secondary assist on Whitelaw’s goal.
“There’s no better atmosphere to score a goal,” Whitelaw said. “Regardless of whether we’re playing Plattsburgh or someone else, anytime you score at home with the crowd and the students, there’s no feeling like that.”
After a scoreless second period, junior forward Chris Ayotte gave the Lakers a three-goal lead at 7:05 of the third period, scoring the only power-play goal of the game. At the tail-end of a tripping penalty to Plattsburgh’s Alex Brenton, Ayotte collected a loose puck after junior defenseman Zach Josepher’s shot from the blue line deflected off a Cardinal defender and blasted a shot from just outside the right faceoff circle that slipped just under the crossbar for the goal. Whitelaw received the secondary assist on the play.
The Cardinals were shut out for the third time this season and first by a SUNYAC team. It was the first time the Lakers had shut out the Cardinals since Feb. 13, 1998. The loss sealed the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs.
Hare finished with 27 saves to earn his second shutout of the season. Cadieux finished with 25 saves in a losing effort for the Cardinals.
“[Hare] tracked the puck very well,” Gosek said. “I thought they were a lot of shots that went into his pads through screens and he did a good job controlling rebounds.”
“Words can’t describe it,” Hare said. “That was my first ‘White Out.’ We have a lot of diehard fans out there and I really appreciate everything they did.”
The Lakers are unbeaten in seven straight meetings with Plattsburgh, sporting a 6-0-1 record.
Following an emotional victory over Plattsburgh, the Lakers followed up with another 3-0 victory, this time over Potsdam on Senior Day. Although the game served as a celebration for the five seniors, it was the juniors who stole the show, scoring all three goals. Hare posted his third shutout of the season, stopping all 19 shots for his 18th victory of the season.
After a scoreless first period, Oswego State broke out with two goals in the second period in a 4:20 span. Leimbrock scored the game’s first goal on the power play at 9:03, beating Potsdam goaltender Kevin McFarland on a rebound attempt. Following a holding penalty by Sy Nutkevitch, senior forward and assistant captain Ian Boots had a shot from right in front blocked aside by McFarland, but the rebound came right out to Leimbrock, whose slap shot ended up in the back of the net. Junior forward Chris Muise earned the secondary assist on the play.
Whitelaw extended his point streak to 11 games, scoring his team-leading 17th goal of the season at 13:23 of the second period to give the Lakers a two-goal lead heading into the second period intermission. Whitelaw took possession of the puck at the defensive blue line and skated around a couple Potsdam defenders before ripping a shot from the left faceoff circle past McFarland.
Junior forward Matt Singleton added a shorthanded empty-net goal with 22 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Lakers.
Following the game, the team’s five seniors: forwards Andrew Mather and Boots, defensemen Hank van Boxmeer and Jared Anderson and goaltender Paul Beckwith were honored with a video tribute.
The Lakers will host a semifinal round game on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. at the Campus Center Ice Arena against Fredonia.