The Oswego State men’s ice hockey team (2-1) returns to its home ice this evening for non-conference action against Elmira College of the ECAC West.
The game is the first of two in a home and home series the two teams play annually. The Lakers have won the last eight straight dating back to the 2009-2010 season, including an NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals victory in 2012.
Oswego State took down SUNY Cortland last Saturday night by a score of 4-1 in a scrappy game, as the Red Dragons collected more than 50 penalty minutes.
But now, the focus turns to the Soaring Eagles (2-3) who come into the Campus Center Ice Arena off a loss at the hands of the College at Brockport, 5-2, last night.
Oswego State, currently ranked No. 10 in the nation, is Elmira’s third matchup with a ranked opponent of the season. The Golden Eagles defeated No. 14 Neumann University in their season opener and was defeated by No. 5 Utica College last weekend.
Junior Josh Burnell and sophomore Jarryd ten Vaanholt have six points apiece to lead an Elmira offensive attack that averages three goals per game. However, the Soaring Eagles’ rely on their power play unit, which is 9 for 28 (32.14 percent) in the nation, is third best in the nation.
Special teams will be a major factor tonight, as the Lakers penalty kill has allowed one goal on 13 power plays thus far.
However, there are still several questions within the Oswego State camp.
First, per usual, who will be in net for the Lakers tonight?
Last weekend, sophomore Justin Gilbert got his second start of the season and was very impressive, stopping 21 of 22 shots.
The Lakers lone returner at the position was the starter in the season opener against Fredonia State as well, but was a game time scratch against Buffalo State the following night in favor of freshman Matt Zawadzki. Zawadzki stopped 22 shots in the 3-2 victory.
Next, when will the Lakers start to see production from their returning players?
Oswego State has tallied 25 points this season and only four have come from players who donned the green and gold last year. Senior captain David Titanic, juniors Bobby Gertsakis and Peter Rodrigues, and sophomore Denton King each have one point, all coming on assists.
The returning nine need to start producing sooner rather than later with tougher games on the horizon. Otherwise, head coach Ed Gosek’s squad will be testing how long its new recruits can carry them in a formidable SUNYAC and Division III as a whole.
A question within those returners is the health of two junior forwards, Chris Carr and Eli Kim-Swallow.
Carr gave it a go in the opener against Fredonia, but by the overtime period he was visibly struggling. Carr is still returning from a six month rehabilitation stint after hip surgery and his coach has not put him back in the lineup since the Nov. 1 contest.
Kim-Swallow, on the other hand, has not dressed for a game this season. However, he is coming along with his recovery, but it appears a nagging groin injury may keep him from suiting up for a while longer.
The table is set for tonight’s game. The Lakers and Soaring Eagles will meet on the Campus Center ice with the puck drop set for 7 p.m.