The Oswego State men’s ice hockey team opened up the regular season at home last weekend with two wins: a tense 7-4 victory over SUNY Cortland and a 9-0 shutout against Elmira College.
The win Saturday night against Elmira was a great bounce-back for the Lakers, featuring a four-goal game from senior forward Paul Rodrigues and a shutout from senior goaltender Andrew Hare, after a game that was too close against Cortland on Friday.
Head coach Ed Gosek said he was happy with the way his team played on Saturday, especially after a disappointing performance the night before.
“Last night we didn’t have it. We weren’t mentally prepared and we will take blame,” Gosek said. “That’s not to discredit Cortland at all, they played very hard… but the reality is that last night’s performance was unacceptable.”
Friday’s game was not a pretty win, but Saturday’s game was quite the opposite, showcasing the offensive firepower as well as defensive prowess of the Laker team.
“First weekend of back-to-back games our conditioning held up pretty well and I thought we were playing the game the right way,” Gosek said.
While the Lakers closed the weekend with two wins, the second a near-perfect victory, the team was forced to climb the hurdle of a two-goal deficit in Friday night’s game against Cortland.
The first period of the game against Cortland had enough action to feel like an entire game. When Cortland took a 2-0 lead after less than six minutes of play, Gosek pulled starting goaltender Hare and replaced him with senior goalie Dan Jones.
After the change, the Lakers began to gain their composure and senior forwards Luke Moodie and Jon Whitelaw each scored to tie up the match within 10 minutes. Senior defenseman Jesse McConney scored a power play goal late in the frame to bring the Lakers a 3-2 lead after an anxiety-filled period for Laker fans.
In the second period, the Lakers looked much more comfortable and senior defenseman Zach Josepher extended the Laker lead to two. The Red Dragons kept it close, however, adding a goal of their own on the power play. Senior forward Chris Ayotte extended the Oswego State lead to two again when he scored off a pass from junior forward Kyle Badham.
Early in the third, the Red Dragons still had some fight left and scored their fourth goal of the game, capitalizing on mistakes by the Lakers in their defensive zone. However, Cortland could not tie the game as senior defenseman Tim Carr notched the Laker’s sixth goal midway through the third. Senior forward Chris Brown sealed the deal with a shorthanded empty netter in the final minutes.
Saturday’s game against Elmira was a boon for fans who wanted to see some serious offensive production after an unsettling performance by the Lakers on Friday.
The Lakers got started midway through the first and they never really let up after that.
The first goal came in dramatic fashion with senior forward Matt Singleton scoring shorthanded on a breakaway created off a pass from Josepher. Less than two minutes later, Rodrigues added his first of the game and less than a minute after that, senior forward Tyler Leimbrock made it a 3-0 contest.
Less than two minutes later, the Lakers found themselves on the power play and Rodrigues netted his second goal, burying the rebound off a shot from Moodie. Before the period ended, Rodrigues added another goal, completing his hat trick in less than 20 minutes and displaying the offensive power of his line consisting of him, Whitelaw and Moodie.
Going into the second, the Lakers were up 5-0 and added another goal in the period, while also maintaining control. Moodie had the sixth goal; a beautiful shot that beat diving Elmira goaltender, Matt Milne. Another highlight of the period was a diving save made by McConney after Hare misread a play and left the net, which could have been the difference between a shutout for Hare and a 9-1 game.
In the third, Moodie added his second goal of the game, giving the Lakers a 7-0 lead. Leimbrock added the eighth and Rodrigues even added another, for his fourth goal of the game and the Lakers’ ninth.
Hare finished the game with 26 saves and earned the shutout, which had more weight since he was pulled after allowing Cortland the two-goal lead on Friday.
“I just told myself today to just have confidence in myself and the team had confidence in me as well so I just went out there and played my game and things went right for me today,” Hare said. “[The shutout] was definitely something I wanted to do. Last night it was definitely tough to start off the season like that.”
Hare was not the only one who had a great game. The team performed fabulously, with the line of Rodrigues, Moodie and Whitelaw shining the brightest.
“Everything we worked on the past few years kind of just clicked again this year,” Rodrigues said. “It’s just one of those things that the gel is there and it’s always there.”
“As you saw with those three guys, when they’re playing hard and getting involved, they’re a pretty fun group to watch,” Gosek said.
After starting the season off with two wins, the Lakers will go far this season if the performance stays high. Hare said he thinks if performance stays high the Lakers will go far this season.
“It seemed like everyone was going and playing their game and that’s what we need to be successful,” Hare said. “If we can continue to do that game in and game out, no one is going to be able to compete with us and we definitely need that to go farther and win that National Championship we all want.”
The Lakers play on the road this weekend, traveling to Brockport and Geneseo. If the Lakers play the way they did against Elmira this weekend, they should be able to bring home two more victories.
“If we put in that effort every game, we are gonna see results,” Rodrigues said.