The Lakers advanced to the SUNYAC Championship game with a home victory over the Buffalo State Bengals on Saturday in a 5-2 win that featured both strong goaltending and offense.
Impressive performances by senior forward Chris Muise, who scored two goals and senior goaltender Andrew Hare, who registered 33 saves, were key to the victory.
Both teams came out strong at the start of the opening period challenging each other offensively. A string of penalties coming less than halfway through the period was the first test of the game for Oswego State.
Play became 4-on-4 at the 11:51 mark after the Lakers were called for crosschecking and the Bengals for goalie interference. Another penalty by Oswego State put the home team down a man.
The Lakers were able to kill off their first penalty, but during the following 4-on-4 play, Buffalo State netted the first goal of the game.
Senior defenseman Tim Carr attempted to clear the puck from the zone when a Bengal player intercepted it. The ensuing pass led to a shot by Buffalo State’s Mike Zannella, which found its way to the back of the net a little over 10 minutes into the period.
Now up 1-0 on the Lakers, Buffalo State started getting more offensive opportunities. Hare kept it a one goal game with seven minutes left in the period when he made an incredible diving save, even stacking his pads to stop the puck.
“The first 10 minutes they, I want to say, dominated us,” Muise said. “They kind of caught us off-guard. Once we settled down a little bit, I think we weathered their storm.”
The game shifted when the Bengals took a penalty at 14:27 and the Lakers tied up the game on the resulting power play. Senior forward Luke Moodie took a pass from behind the net from linemate senior Paul Rodrigues and flipped the puck past Bengal goalie Kevin Carr. Senior forward Jon Whitelaw also received an assist on the goal, which was a classic play by the senior linemates.
Only a minute later, Oswego State grabbed the lead when a pretty drop-pass by senior forward Matt Singleton gave junior forward David Titanic a clean shot that beat Carr over the shoulder.
The first period was an impressive one for both goaltenders, who each registered 13 saves.
The second period was a strong one for Oswego State. Hare continued stellar play between the pipes, stopping both a two-on-one chance and a breakaway attempt by the Bengals.
The Lakers also registered two more goals, both by Muise, who played a fantastic period offensively.
Muise’s first goal was an unassisted beauty. The senior forward deked back and forth in front of Carr before slipping the puck past him glove-side.
Buffalo State almost scored again midway through the second and even though the shot beat Hare, the goal was called off because of a goalie interference on the Bengals.
On the resulting power play, the Lakers went up 4-1 on Muise’s second goal. Muise took a wide-angle shot that made it to the net through traffic in front. Senior defenseman Jesse McConney and senior forward Chris Brown had assists on the goal.
Early in the third, Buffalo State closed the Laker lead to two goals when Todd Graham beat Hare with a low wrist shot.
Despite this early setback in the period, Hare continued to play an incredible game, stopping everything else that was thrown at him.
Penalties set the Bengals back in the period, which limited their opportunities to get the game within a goal.
With 1:26 left, Buffalo State pulled Carr in an effort to score two goals in less than two mintues. Unfortunately for them, it was the Lakers that scored, with Titanic adding the empty-netter for his second goal of the game and bringing the final score to 5-2.
“I thought tonight was a big step in the right direction, over last Saturday night, of not coming apart when things didn’t go well,” head coach Ed Gosek said.
The Lakers were able to bounce back after the Bengals opened up scoring and came back with goals of their own. Muise was the obvious offensive star for the Lakers this game, scoring both of the goals in the second period to give the Lakers a commanding lead.
Hare, as well as Buffalo State goalie Carr, both played strong in net. Hare finished the game with 33 saves and Carr registered 36.
With the win, the Lakers move on to the SUNYAC finals and will face off against archrival SUNY Plattsburgh on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Campus Center Ice Arena.
In their two meetings during the regular season, Plattsburgh won both games: 2-1 during Whiteout Weekend and 4-3 in the most recent match-up in Plattsburgh on Feb. 16.
“In the games we lost against them we let emotion take over,” Muise said. “We can’t let that happen. There’s going to be 3,000-plus in the crowd and we’re going to have to just stay focused and be ready for what they’re going to bring.”
Gosek also said that keeping emotion in check will be important for the Lakers against Plattsburgh.
“The reality is we don’t need to play with the emotion, we need to play with the passion,” Gosek said. “It’s going to be one of those games. So we have to have the ability to channel our focus each and every shift.”
With 14 seniors on the team, this is the last chance for those Lakers to take home another SUNYAC title.
“We are a veteran team but we need to use our experiences and learn from it,” Gosek said. “That will be a big key to our success if we have it next Saturday night.”