Women’s hockey looks to bright future

The Oswego State women’s hockey team had the best season in program history and finished third in its conference which included a playoff berth. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)
The Oswego State women’s hockey team had the best season in program history and finished third in its conference which included a playoff berth. (Nick Graziano | The Oswegonian)

After the best season in program history, the Oswego State women’s hockey team finished third in the ECAC West standings despite a lack of depth and senior leadership.

The Lakers carried just 17 players on their roster, only one of which (Breanne Reith) was a senior, and managed to clinch a playoff game on their own ice. But the road taken to the playoffs was not easy, as Oswego State endured an up-and-down season.

The Lakers were wildly inconsistent throughout the season, but expectations never simmered. The team had very high expectations despite its thin roster.

“We knew coming into the season we were lacking a lot of girls, so we knew we weren’t going to be able to do everything that we wanted to do,” junior forward Mady Paul said. “But we still have the core of our team here that we needed to keep playing well moving forward.”

According to Paul, the league picked Oswego State to finish seventh overall in the conference at the beginning of the season. That served as motivation for the Lakers as the season began.

Oswego State had a rough beginning to its season. The Lakers dropped their first three straight games. All three games were played on the road, two of them being

non-conference matchups. They lost against Castleton State and tied against New England College. The Lakers also lost to conference foe Utica College. Oswego State managed to score only two goals during its losing streak. Once the Lakers returned to Oswego for their home opener, they began to turn things around.

The Lakers exploded for five goals and defeated Utica in their home opener. They went on to win five of their next eight games before heading home for a short winter break. The Lakers recorded wins against SUNY Potsdam, Neumann University, and Chatham University en route to a 6-5-1 mid-season record.

Several Lakers saw their weekend sweep against Neumann as the turning point of their season. The Lakers won the first game of a two-game series, 4-2, before a thrilling victory the following night. Oswego State won 2-1 in overtime with just seven seconds remaining when junior Leslie Jarvis scored her first collegiate goal.

“There were seven seconds left in the game, so none of us thought that we were going to win,” Paul said. “We thought we were going out with a tie. That win was huge for us.”

“That was awesome,” junior Megan Hagg said. “Getting those two wins under our belts was huge for us. We needed that confidence boost to push us through our rough stretch earlier in the season.”

After a month-long hiatus, the Lakers returned to action in early January and once again got off to a slow start. They split a two-game set at home with St. Norbert College before traveling to SUNY Plattsburgh for a weekend series against their rivals.

The Cardinals eliminated Oswego State in the second round of the playoffs last season and the Lakers were looking for revenge. The Lakers could not retaliate, as they dropped both games. Plattsburgh came out strong in the first game and blew out Oswego State, 8-0. The following day, the Lakers lost a tight game, 2-0. Oswego State remained confident despite the two losses.

“We played a lot better than the scoreboard said we did,” sophomore goalie Bridget Smith said. “We knew that we were better than that.”

The Lakers were out to prove that they were still a team to be reckoned with and rattled off three straight victories. They won two games at home against Buffalo State, putting the Lakers in prime position for a top playoff spot.

“I think the Buffalo State weekend was huge for us,” Hagg said. “That gave us the confidence we needed after Plattsburgh and helped pushed us through (to the playoffs).”

After sweeping Buffalo State, the Lakers hosted Stevenson University and split a weekend series. After dominating the first game, Oswego State lost the following day and fell into a losing streak.

The Lakers lost three games in a row: one against Stevenson and two against the No. 2 seed Elmira. The losses put Oswego State below .500 for the first time since mid January.

Oswego State traveled to Cortland to finish out the season and won two huge games to clinch the No. 3 seed in its conference.

The team began preparing to face the No. 6 seed, Neumann, in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. The Knights defeated the Lakers two years ago, while Oswego State ousted them last season.

The Lakers played well, but failed to put the puck in the back of the net in a 3-0 loss. It was a tough loss for the Lakers, who had thought they were ready to take the next step and advance to the second round.

“The playoff game was tough,” Paul said. “We swept Neumann in the regular season. They’ve always played us tough. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we didn’t expect it to go the way it went. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”

Despite the loss, the Lakers have higher expectations going into next year. With a large recruiting class, and a strong core of seniors, Oswego State has a lot of potential and is looking to move up in the standings.

“We want to be top 3,” Paul said. “We really want to take over Elmira next year, for sure. We want to make it through the playoffs and hopefully make a run for the championship.”

“We’re going to win,” Hagg said. “We have really high expectations. People are already training in the weight room right now. We’re not going to let this opportunity slip away, but nothing is guaranteed in hockey. We’re going to work hard and see where that takes us.”

Lost in the disappointing end to the Lakers’ season is the performance of standout players junior Melissa Seamont and sophomore Bridget Smith.

Seamont ended the season with 24 points, which tied a program record. She recorded nine goals to go along with 15 assists. The 15 assists marked the highest single-season total in program history.

Smith had a phenomenal year in goal. She posted a 10-8-1 record, allowing an average of only two goals per game. She saved 92 percent of her shots and posted three shutouts.

Seamont and Smith are in position to help lead the Lakers to their fourth consecutive playoff berth.

The Lakers will have nine seniors leading their team next season and should have a nice balance of youth and experience moving forward. Oswego State head coach Dillon believes that with an improved offense and more depth, the Lakers will be able to take the next step forward. She also challenged her juniors to step up next season, the last of their collegiate careers.

“They all have to step up,” Dillon said. “It all comes down to the seniors and we’ll have a lot of them.”