The No. 3 seed Oswego State women’s hockey team was upset in the first round of the ECAC West playoffs by No. 6 seed Neumann University in a heart-breaking 3-0 loss at the Campus Center Ice Arena Saturday.
The Knights ousted the Lakers from the playoffs for the second time in three years. Even though Oswego State outshot Neumann, the Lakers simply ran into an unstoppable goalie in Knights senior Shannon Donnelly, and were unable to put any points on the board.
The Lakers came out on the ice and opened the game with a lot of energy. Oswego State head coach Diane Dillon decided to scratch junior captain’s Olivia Boersen and Jocelyn St. Clair from the first line, instead going with juniors Megan Hagg and Chelsea Hunt in their place.
“The lines get jumbled throughout the game,” Dillon said. “I wanted to put together a line with more speed because Neumann’s defense is really slow. By putting Hagg, (junior Melissa) Seamont and (junior Emma) Smetaniuk together, we were really looking to generate some speed.”
The Lakers dominated early, rattling off shot after shot, justifying Dillon’s decision. Donnelly turned the game around for the Knights, however, with some great glove saves.
The period was in Oswego State’s favor until junior forward Mady Paul was whistled for interference with 10:30 remaining in the period.
The Knights took advantage of the power play opportunity and scored quickly. Freshman defenseman Keira St-Laruent gave Neumann a 1-0 lead after receiving a pass from teammate junior Edie Brenning, who was fighting for the puck along the boards. St-Laurent one-timed the shot from the slot and pushed it past Smith for the goal.
The goal was St-Laurent’s second of her career, and her first of the postseason. Brenning recorded her eleventh assist of the season, while senior Olivia Pryzbylkowski was also credited with an assist, her second of the season.
After falling behind, the Lakers continued to attack the net and apply pressure offensively, but were unable to put the puck past Donnelly. Boersen and Paul set up the offense by getting the puck to Seamont, the team’s leading point scorer. Seamont fired off seven shots on goal in the first period, but could not score.
The Lakers came out quickly in the second period, as Boersen fired a shot on goal just a few seconds into the action. She fired the puck right at Donnelly, who continued her impressive outing with another save.
While the Lakers picked up the pace, Neumann seemed content to keep their lead at one and went into protection mode. Any chance the Lakers got, the Knights would manage to clear the puck, although the Knights were whistled for icing heavily.
After three consecutive icing calls, Neumann head coach Casey Handrahan called a timeout to settle things down. After the timeout, the Knights picked up the pace, but were unable to score. Things began to get chippy with Paul and Boersen shoving some Neumann players after the whistle.
The Lakers continued their physicality, but it nearly cost them a goal. Boersen was called for body checking after dealing out a vicious hit on the boards. Boersen ripped into Brenning, who stayed down on the ice for a minute after play was stopped. After she got up, play resumed and Neumann was called for back-to-back penalties, giving the Lakers a 5-3 advantage.
Neumann sophomore Lyndsey Spatola was called for the first penalty when she held onto Smetaniuk to prevent a shot on the breakaway. Oswego State began a traditional power play in the Neumann zone.
Just a minute later the Lakers gained a 5-3 advantage when Neumann freshman Danica Delry was called for a tripping penalty. Oswego State had the 5-3 advantage for the final 28 seconds of the second period, and despite pulling Smith for a few seconds at the end of the period, was unable to convert.
The Lakers opened the first 31 seconds of the third period with the 5-3 advantage, but did not capitalize. When Neumann returned a skater to the ice, the Lakers promptly lost their power play advantage when Hagg was called for hooking.
“Taking a penalty on a 5-3 is unacceptable,” Dillon said. “It was also one of our upperclassmen, so it was just unacceptable.”
The Lakers fought hard in the opening half of the period, but Neumann soon found the back of the net again. After Jessica Langdon received a pass from Shanelle Doucette, she fired a shot on goal. Smith made a pad save, but the rebound bounced right to Brenning. She corralled the rebound and pushed the puck past Smith, giving Neumann a 2-0 lead.
The Knights stayed aggressive and added another insurance goal with just under six minutes to play. Sophomore Amanda Simpson fed the puck to freshman Megan Russelo, who fired a shot right into Smith’s glove. The puck bounced right off Smith’s glove and trickled into the net, giving Neumann a 3-0 lead.
Dillon called a timeout after the goal and decided to pull Smith in favor of freshman Tori Trovato. While Trovato did not allow a goal, the Lakers were unable to put together a comeback and fell in the opening round of the playoffs for the
second time in three years.
Despite the loss, Dillon only had good things to say about her team.
“I’m proud of them,” Dillon said. “We finished third in the league and with more conference wins than we’ve ever had. These kids are warriors and I have never, ever questioned their hearts.”
Dillon believes that the team will improve next year with the help of a large recruiting class. She believes the added depth will help keep her team healthy and competitive throughout the duration of the season.
“We’ll have a full bench and a full locker room,” Dillon said. “There will be a lot more competition on the team.”
Dillon also hopes to shore up the team’s offensive game in an effort to bring it up to par with their strong defense and goaltending. Dillon challenged her eight junior skaters to step up next season as seniors.
“They all have to step up,” Dillon said. “It all comes down to the seniors and we’ll have a lot of them.”
Oswego State finished third in their conference, a program best.