Well, the weekend the Oswego State campus has circled on its calendar each hockey season has arrived. Welcome hockey fans to White Out Weekend.
Tonight, the festivities begin with the Lakers (3-2, 4-2) taking on the SUNY Potsdam Bears (0-5, 2-6) at 7 p.m. at the Campus Center Ice Arena. The team had an extended break from live action due to the Thanksgiving holiday, so the last time it took the ice was in a 4-0 shutout at the College of Brockport Golden Eagles.
That victory came just a night after Oswego State suffered its second loss of the season at the SUNY Geneseo Knights. The defeat kept the Lakers winless in Friday night contests, a trend they will look to buck this evening.
The Bears arrive on the shores of Lake Ontario after capturing their first two victories of the 2013-2014 season on Nov. 22 and 23 at home versus the SUNY Canton Kangaroos, 5-3 and 6-1 respectively. However, they are still in search of a SUNYAC victory.
The Bears are last in the SUNYAC on the power play and in scoring offense and in the bottom third of the conference when it comes to the penalty kill and scoring defense. The only category they lead the SUNYAC in is penalty minutes, not something to necessarily be proud of.
Even in their victories, the squad struggled on special teams. They did hold the Kangaroos two for nine (78 percent killed) on the man advantage, but they were three of 10 (30 percent converted) on the power play themselves. These numbers, while better than their season averages, will need to be continue tonight for them to be successful.
SUNY Potsdam also outscored its season average of two goals per game when scoring 11 on SUNY Canton’s goalie Louie Puig in the two-game series. This production will need t0 continue if they are to contend with Oswego State, who average four scores a game, tied for eighth in the nation.
It appears senior forward Mike Arnold may be the answer for the Bears. The Didsbury, Alberta native has scored four goals in the team’s last three games. The visitors will look to the four skilled distributors behind Arnold to put the puck on his stick. Sophomore forwards Billy Pascalli and Todd Thomas, senior forward Adam Place and junior defenseman Eric Ware each have tallied four or more assists this season.
For the home squad, consistency will be the key. They have shown spurts of the offensive prowess that has become synonymous with head coach Ed Gosek’s teams; however, that prowess has not been a night in and night out occurrence thus far.
The team defense has been sound for the most part besides of laying an egg at SUNY Geneseo a few weeks ago, allowing under two goals per game otherwise. The Lakers have two capable goalies ready to go on any given night the likes of sophomore Justin Gilbert and freshman Matt Zawadzki, so the question turns to offensive efficiency.
Oswego State has outshot five of six opponents and are, on average, holding a 12 shot edge in the category. The catch on such an impressive statistic is the reality that the Lakers only score on four of 39 shots per game. On top of that, they are second-worst in the SUNYAC and 43rd in the nation on the power play. They have converted only five of 29 opportunities.
Such numbers point to the sign of an inexperienced team and, even though there 19 freshmen and five transfers, there are seven healthy returners who must step up in the offensive zone to help this team hit its stride. It is definitely time for a period of consistency as the first half of conference play comes to its end.