The Oswego State men’s ice hockey team is headed back to the NCAA Frozen Four for the third consecutive year after defeating Elmira College, 5-0, on Saturday night at the Campus Center Ice Arena in the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Stagnant for the first 40 minutes of the contest, the Lakers broke out for four goals in the third period to win its third game this season against the Soaring Eagles. Junior goaltender Andrew Hare shined in his first NCAA Division III playoff game, recording 23 saves to help the Lakers earn a trip back to Lake Placid, N.Y.
Senior forward and assistant captain Ian Boots broke a scoreless tie at 11:31 of the first period and gave the Lakers the lead after jamming the puck past Elmira goaltender Darren McDonald in front of the net. Boots almost caught McDonald out of position a few moments earlier when his wrap-around attempt got wedged in between McDonald’s right leg pad and the post. Boots continued to whack at the puck before he was able to jar the puck free and past the goal line. It appeared as though one of the referees blew his whistle from behind the play before the referee behind the net signaled that the line had crossed the goal line. The four officials had a brief meeting before upholding the goal call.
Unlike in the previous meeting between the two teams at the Campus Center Ice Arena, the Soaring Eagles came out in the first period with a great deal of effort. Elmira outshot the Lakers, 10-7, in the opening 20 minutes of play and had a number of quality shots at junior goaltender Andrew Hare. Although played on Oswego State’s home ice, Elmira brought plenty of fans to give the arena a hint of gold and purple.
The Lakers left plenty of opportunities to widen their lead on the ice during the second period. However, shots went just wide of McDonald and the entire team’s timing was off on passes. Oswego State had a number of chances to break out onto an odd-man rush, but passes would either hit the back of the intended target’s skate or be just out of the reach of an outstretched stick. Oswego State had its first power play opportunity of the game late in the second period, but was unable to generate any offense.
Oswego State found its offense early in the third period with two goals in the first seven minutes of the frame. Junior forward Matt Singleton gave the Lakers a little breathing room after capitalizing on an open path to the net. An Elmira defender serving as the last line of defense lost his footing in the slot, allowing Singleton ample amount of space in front of the net. Singleton made one deke before wristing a shot just under the crossbar for the goal at 3:03 of the third period.
The Lakers struck again while shorthanded, as Boots capitalized on a breakaway attempt at 6:19 of the third period. Despite a man down after senior defenseman and assistant captain Jared Anderson was whistled for boarding, senior forward and team captain Andrew Mather led Boots on the breakaway and Boots took advantage to give the Lakers a three-goal lead.
The Lakers sealed their third straight trip to Lake Placid with two more goals in a span of 2:02. Junior defenseman Zack Josepher blasted a shot from the point past McDonald while on a 4-on-3 power play. It was the only power-play goal for either team in the game. Junior forward and assistant captain Jon Whitelaw and junior forward Luke Moodie were credited with the assists at 11:53.
Junior forward Chris Ayotte capped off the offensive third period outburst, receiving a pass in front from Singleton and beating McDonald glove side for the team’s fifth goal of the game.
McDonald finished with 17 saves on 22 shots faced in a losing effort for the Soaring Eagles.
Oswego State played in Lake Placid in 2010, dropping its NCAA Semifinal game against St. Norbert. The Lakers have not reached the National Championship game since winning it in 2007.
The Lakers will face second-ranked Amherst College, who defeated SUNY Plattsburgh on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. The Lord Jeffs have won 12 straight games and 15 of their last 16. Oswego State and Amherst have met just once in program history with Amherst winning the only matchup.