After just about four weeks off, the Campus Center Ice Arena will reopen its doors this afternoon for the first day of the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Hockey Classic.
This year’s field includes two nationally ranked teams from New York that each reached the Frozen Four last season: No. 9 Utica College and No. 13 Oswego State. Accompanying these two will be a pair of out of state squads, one from Massachusetts (the Curry College Colonels) and a team making the trip all the way from Wisconsin (the University of Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils).
Here’s the breakdown of each game on day one:
#9 Utica Pioneers (8-2-1, 5-1-1) v. Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils (3-7-0, 1-1-0):
This is the first meeting between these two programs and each is arriving in Oswego off of very impressive wins in the early days of December. The Blue Devils picked up their first conference win back on Dec. 7 at No. 3 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in one of the biggest upsets of the fall semester, 3-2. Freshman goaltender Corey Koop (3-7, 2.89 GAA, .920 save percentage) was the winner between the pipes stopping 59 of Stevens Point’s 61 shots. The victory will give the newcomer and the other 12 freshmen on Stout’s squad some much needed confidence heading into this afternoon’s match up with No. 9 Utica College.
The Pioneers last took the ice at home on Dec. 14 versus the United States 18 and under team and used a strong second period, in which they scored three times, to come out on top, 4-1. The win against a team with 19 Division I prospects, and Utica’s overall solid start, can be attributed to the leadership of their upperclassmen.
Where the Blue Devils have 13 freshmen, the Pioneers have 13 seniors and a total of 20 returners from last season’s team, which reached the National Semifinals in Lake Placid. Of those 20, six of them lead the team in scoring through their first 11 games. Senior Adam Graff leads the team with 12 points (six goals and six assists).
The puck drops at 4 p.m.
#13 Oswego State Lakers (5-2-1, 4-2-1) v. Curry Colonels (2-5-1, 1-4-0):
As this weekend’s hosts, Oswego State will be looking to protect home ice, and as the defending champions there are added expectations. The Lakers defeated Lawrence University 7-2 in the championship last season. The Lakers are taking the ice for the first time since tying their archrivals, the No. 1 SUNY Plattsburgh Cardinals, in the annual White Out game at Oswego’s Campus Center Ice Arena, 3-3.
The result against the Cardinals may be just what Oswego State needed to validate themselves as a NCAA tournament bid contender, even with 24 new players, 19 of them freshmen. The Lakers returned nine players from last season’s national runner up team, but played with only seven of them through the fall semester as juniors Chris Carr and Eli Kim-Swallow were sidelined with injuries. It is believed both will be healthy this weekend, returning the team to full strength.
The Colonels have struggled the most out of the four teams in competition for this year’s Classic, coming in with one of the worst scoring attacks statistically in Division III (1.62 goals per game). In fact, the only category they are in the top 20 in is penalty minutes per game, 15th in the country at 17.5 minutes per game. The offense has started to pick up in the last four games scoring eight goals, as opposed to just five in the previous four. However, Curry has still been shutout twice in its previous five games. An inability to score could sink the Colonels this evening against the Lakers, who are seventh in the country in scoring at 4.25 goals per game.
The puck drops at 7 p.m.
Play will continue tomorrow with two more games, again at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The winners of today’s contests will face off in one game, while the losers play in the other. As the hosts, Oswego State will play in the late game tomorrow as well, regardless of this evening’s result. Curry is locked in to play at 4 p.m.