Oswego State gears up to travel

Senior forward Paul Rodrigues battles for the puck during the Lakers’ 4-0 victory over SUNY Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC Championship game on Saturday. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)
Senior forward Paul Rodrigues battles for the puck during the Lakers’ 4-0 victory over SUNY Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC Championship game on Saturday. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)

Hours after removing the monkey from its backs against rival SUNY Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC championship game, the Oswego State men’s hockey team and its loyal fans learned where their journey toward a national championship was fated to begin.

Most found the location, however, to be a bit further away than they imagined.

Oswego State will travel 490 miles to Adrian, Mich. to play Adrian College in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. The team left for Adrian on Thursday morning and will stay for two nights in order to conduct a practice on Friday, Oswego Sports Information Director Adele Burk said.

Both teams won their respective conferences to earn an automatic bid to the tournament. Adrian was ranked among other

western teams by the West Region committee, while Oswego State, an eastern team, was ranked by the East Region committee. The higher the committee ranks a team within their region, the more favorable its seeding in the final bracket.

Amongs many Oswego State fans, the most popular scenario was Oswego State earning a first-round bye and hosting a quarterfinal game, presumably in place of Adrian. There was a scenario where both teams hosted a playoff game, in which Oswego State would have hosted a first-round or “play-in” game, while Adrian would have remained the host of a quarterfinal game.

The NCAA does not release its official rankings and it remains unclear what exactly placed Adrian ahead of Oswego State in the minds of the committees. The United States College Hockey Organization (USCHO) conducts a well-respected poll that is updated regularly during the Division III men’s hockey season. In the latest poll, Oswego State is ranked No. 3, while Adrian is ranked No. 6.

Many Oswego State fans are frustrated about the tournament selection because of the team’s performance in the impressive 4-0 victory against Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC championship game.

“I got disappointed,” Oswego State Campus Center Ice Arena employee Javier Torres said. “We won the (conference) championship here, so we should have earned the right to host the first round here. (The Lakers) played so well on Saturday, so everyone thought they were going to play here.”

“I would have liked to watch them play,” freshman club hockey player Allyson Smith said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

Torres also added a sentiment that he shares with many other Oswego State fans.

“And where (Oswego State is) playing only has 500 seats. We have over 3000 seats full of crazy, hockey fans,” Torres said.

Senior Chris Horvatits, the play-by-play announcer for WTOP-10’s coverage of the Oswego State men’s hockey team, was initially surprised by the NCAA’s selection, but said the more he thought about it, the more it made sense.

“Adrian must have been higher in the West than Oswego was in the East,” Horvatits said. “Oswego having the best winning percentage in the East is only part of the process. The Utica losses were big, and you also have to include the Plattsburgh losses in the discussion. Oswego was 3-4 against ranked teams and their overall strength of schedule was not very good.”

According to a recent article at D3hockey.com, Adrian and Oswego State compare favorably with one another, except in the wins against ranked opponents category. Adrian was 8-1-0 against ranked opponents.

Horvatits says that it is a “whacky” process to pick an 11-team tournament such as the NCAA does, but that he did not believe there were any surprises this year, even Adrian getting to host a quarterfinal game over Oswego.

“I don’t think you’ll find anybody who thinks Adrian is the second-best team in the West,” Horvatits said. “But the committee was going to put them ahead of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the West Region after Wisconsin lost in their conference championship game to St. Norbert.”

WNYO will be covering the game from Adrian on Saturday. The Oswego State radio station’s play-by-play announcer senior Michael Keeley is excited to follow the team on one more adventure.

“Following the team is something I take pride in,” Keeley said. “I have been going on these road trips every year. We followed the team to Minnesota two years ago. This trip to Adrian is doable, and we are hoping to follow the team into next week.”

WTOP-10 will not be able to cover the game, as the Adrian athletic department is concerned that they would not have room for another broadcast team. Horvatits says he still plans on reporting on the team as long as the season carries on.

The winner of Oswego State and Adrian advances to the semi-final round, deemed appropriately the “Frozen Four,” which will take place in Lake Placid. Oswego State boasts a senior class of 14 players who have played in the Frozen Four in each of the last three seasons. Oswego State won the national championship in 2007.