Lakers take 1 of 2 to start season

Senior captain David Titanic controls the puck along the boards during Friday’s game against Fredonia. The Lakers lost 3-2 in overtime to start their season.  (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)
Senior captain David Titanic controls the puck along the boards during Friday’s game against Fredonia. The Lakers lost 3-2 in overtime to start their season. (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)

The Oswego State men’s ice hockey team split its opening weekend of the season to SUNY Fredonia and Buffalo State.

The Lakers fell on Friday night in overtime against the Blue Devils, 3-2, but rebounded on Saturday with a 3-2 win against the Bengals.

Lakers head coach Ed Gosek said he felt his team, especially the younger players, responded well Saturday after the tough loss, and sees it as a good sign going forward.

“We were hard on them [Saturday],” Gosek said. “[Friday] night, not taking anything away from Fredonia, but we beat ourselves.”

In the opening period, both teams started getting physical.

The opening faceoff took a good 10 seconds and Gosek recognized the physical play quickly, putting five of his biggest skaters on the ice for the game’s second shift.

In the first five minutes, bodies were hitting the boards as both teams tried to beat up on each other. It was only appropriate that the game’s first score come in a physical, messy manner.

At 5:19 in the period, it was the Lakers’ biggest line getting things started. Freshman Shawn Hulshof (6’2”) sent a slap shot from atop the left circle on net and into traffic. Freshman Chris Waterstreet (6’4”) sent the puck to freshman Dylan Smith (6’1”) for the finish, giving Oswego State a 1-0 lead.

It took Buffalo State three minutes and seven seconds to respond with a goal of its own.

Just 26 seconds after freshman goalie Matt Zawadzki wowed the crowd with an incredible sequence in which he made a diving save, Bengals freshman Adam Rossi poked home a rebound past the Lakers’ net-minder to tie the game at one.

The play started at the top of the right circle with a shot by senior Jason Cleaver, who received the primary assist. The secondary assist was awarded to freshman Jake Rosen.

The second period, much like Friday night, was when play started to pick up offensively. The three goals in the period were scored in a 3 minute and 35 second span during the heart of the frame, from the 10:01 to 13:36 marks in the period.

Gosek recognized the importance of that sequence and felt his team played with resilience.

“There are certain points in a game where you feel momentum shift one way or another,” Gosek said. “That’s when you have to be at your best and you have to be focused.”

Oswego State got the scoring started on the power play, as freshman Alex Botten notched his first collegiate goal, giving his team a 2-1 lead, assisted by fellow freshmen Stephen Johnson and Kenny Neil.

The play was made possible by a characteristic that was absent from the hosts’ play Friday night: patience.

Johnson had the chance to take a shot, but cycled back to the top of the right faceoff circle where he found Botten. Botten took the puck in the high slot and sent a bullet past Buffalo State senior goalie Kevin Carr.

Botten’s shot was just one of three to get past the veteran goalie, who finished the game with 50 saves.

Less than three minutes later the Bengals had a response to tie the game back up at two, as freshman Taylor Pryce took advantage of a bad defensive zone turnover by Oswego State’s Brian Hennessey.

Buffalo State swarmed the zone when Hennessey’s turnover found Pryce at the point. Pryce brought the puck down the slot without being picked up by Oswego State and beat Zawadzki glove side to erase Buffalo State’s deficit.

The goal was Pryce’s second collegiate point after picking up an assist Friday night in Cortland.

The goal by Pryce silenced the Campus Center crowd that had come to life following Botten’s goal.

But Botten and his comrades on the second line would bring back the energy and seal the game less than a minute later.

This time, Botten joined Neil in setting the table for teammate Matt Galati, who took advantage and beat Carr five-hole for the eventual game winner.

Galati’s goal was the second for the Oswego State second line, a line which totaled five points, foreshadowing potential for much more success in the coming games.

“We’ve been practicing well for the past six weeks,” Botten said. “Our lines been gelling. Our lines doing really well right now and we’re building chemistry and hopefully we can keep generating the same offense we did tonight.”

The final period of play did not contain any goal-scoring, but Oswego State still looked impressive, as the team dictated play for the better part of the 20-minute frame, outshooting the Bengals, 26-1.

Buffalo State, led by senior captain Mike Zannella, came out in the period energized and looking to get an equalizer.

The Bengals had their first chance in the opening 30 seconds, but the defensive pairing of Mac Scott and Bobby Gertsakis did a good job of shoeing away a loose puck in front of Zawadzki.

Zawadzki was a late addition to the starting lineup as he made his Oswego State debut, earning the win while saving 24 shots.

The freshman felt comfortable in between the pipes and confident with six defensemen playing in front of him.

“I felt great. They were blocking shots in front of me, we were talking together and working together,” Zawadzki said. “We’re all developing that chemistry together, having trust in each other, and that’s where we’re moving forward. Tonight was a demonstration that we’re working better together and we’re moving forward to keep building off that.”

Following that first opportunity, sophomore defenseman Sean Hrivnak was called for cross-checking just 41 seconds into the period. The Lakers took their first shot of the period off the ensuing faceoff and would not look back from there.

The first game of the 2013-2014 season ended in a fashion unfamiliar to the Campus Center crowd: a 3-2 loss at the hands of Fredonia in overtime.

Gosek felt his team had its chances to put the game away early but let the visitors hang around. The missed chances were a crucial factor in the loss, but Gosek thought his team played well overall.

“The guys worked hard, they made some nice plays, we had some breakdowns defensively, but for the most part I thought our compete level was good,” Gosek said.

The Blue Devils finished the contest with 27.9 seconds to go in the overtime period when freshman forward Hunter Long snuck a shot inside the right post. Senior forward Matt Owczarczak, who took the puck out of traffic behind the net, assisted the winner.

The goal was an example of the Lakers’ on-and-off struggle during the evening to communicate and fill their spaces in front of sophomore goalie Justin Gilbert.

Even with the game ending the way it did, Gilbert still felt the communication by Oswego State’s defensive block was solid overall.

“We definitely emphasized before the game a lot of communication and I think that definitely paid off when we were relaying the puck to each other in our own end,” Gilbert said.

Fredonia sent the game into an extra period on the stick of sophomore Chad Bennett who poked in a rebound off a Ryan Wilkinson shot with 30 seconds left on a power play early in the final frame.

Bennett’s goal was the only one of its kind all night between the teams, who went a combined 1-for-8 on the man advantage.

After a scoreless first 20 minutes of play, the team squads combined for three goals in the second period.

Oswego State took the first lead of the game at 4:36 in the second period. Gertsakis fed the puck up to freshman Shawn Hulshof who beat Fredonia’s freshman goaltender Christopher Eiserman from point-blank range, from the left faceoff circle.

It would not be long before the Blue Devils responded with a goal of their own at 7:15 in the period.

Lakers senior Kyle Badham lost a puck in front of the Fredonia net, which was picked up by Owczarczak.

The senior started a three-on-one opportunity by finding Long who put the puck on sophomore defensemen Mitch Kaufmann’s stick. Kaufmann took a shot from the high slot, which beat Gilbert over his left shoulder.

After an extended time of solid play, Oswego State retook the lead on the back of some late period heroics by transfer sophomore Brandon Adams.

With under a minute left in the second, junior Peter Rodrigues sent a puck into the Lakers’ offensive zone for his linemate Adams. The newcomer from Holy Cross took the puck to the left pipe and, upon Eiserman biting, wrapped to the far side, sending the saucer into an open net.

The Illinois native had seven shots in the game, which he said is just his style, and felt good about the play of his line as a whole.

“I really like to try to shoot the puck as much as possible,” Adams said. “As far as the goal goes, all credit to my linemate. He made a really nice play to get me that puck and I was lucky enough that the goalie bit and left the net for me to put it in. I thought my line in general played really well.”

Adams’ goal was just one of two shots to go in for the hosts this evening. The Fredonia freshman net minder saved the other 38 shots sent his way.

Gosek sees great things from his squad this season, but understands there is a starting point, which cannot be focused on for too long.

“It was the first game of the year with a young team,” Gosek said. “Obviously expectations are high and they should be high. But, the reality is we’re going to have games like this. We have to learn from them, get better and not dwell on it.”

The Lakers (1-1) will continue conference play when they travel to their SUNYAC rival, SUNY Cortland (1-1), Saturday night in their lone game of the weekend.

Oswego State will return home to host Elmira College on Saturday, Nov. 16.