Laker Gameday Preview: Jan. 25 at Buffalo State

The Lakers have a chance to climb into third place in the SUNYAC with a season series clinching win over Buffalo State tonight (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).
The Lakers have a chance to climb into third place in the SUNYAC with a season series clinching win at Buffalo State tonight (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).

Oswego State can check avenging its loss to SUNY Fredonia in the season opener off its list of goals for the season. The Lakers defeated the Blue Devils last night at Steele Hall Ice Arena, 5-1.

Focus now turns to the team’s game this evening at Buffalo State Ice Arena where they can move into third place in the SUNYAC  with a win. The Bengals maintained their one point edge over the Lakers in the standings with a 5-2 victory at home over SUNY Cortland last night, but a Laker win tonight would leapfrog the team over its opponent.

Previous matchup: Oswego State 3 Buffalo State 2 (Nov. 2 at the Campus Center Ice Arena): In the first meeting between these teams, the Lakers picked up their first win of the season. It was a back and forth affair with the sides trading goals until freshman Matt Galati delivered the game-winner at 13:36 of the second period from then linemates and fellow freshmen Alex Botten and Kenny Neil. The home squad’s first two goals came from freshmen Dylan Smith (5:19 of the first) and Botten (10:01 of the second on the power play). The Bengals received goals from freshmen Adam Rossi and Taylor Pryce. Freshman Matt Zawadzki made his collegiate debut for Oswego State that night stopping 24 of 26 shots en route to his first win. Senior Kevin Carr started in net for Buffalo State making 50 saves of his own in taking his first loss of the season.

By the numbers: This matchup features two of the top four teams in offense and defense during conference play. The Lakers score four goals per game while giving up just 2.25 in SUNYAC games, both good enough for second-best in the conference. The Bengals score 3.60 goals per game while giving up three when facing conference opponents, both fourth-best in the SUNYAC.

When non-conference numbers come into the picture, the gap expands a bit. Oswego State champions the sixth-best offense in the nation at 4.29 goals per game, while Buffalo State sits in 42nd at 3.05 per game. In terms of team defense, the visitors for tonight’s contest are 11th in the nation giving up 2.06 goals per game as their hosts rank 26th allowing 2.89.

At this point in the season, 43 Division III men’s ice hockey players have reached the 20-point mark. Among them are three Laker freshmen, Matt Galati (22 points), Kenny Neil (21) and Alex Botten (20), and one Bengal junior Dan Turgeon (20). Botten with a goal and Turgeon with two assists both just grabbed their 20th points last night.

Special teams breakdown: The last time these teams faced off, in November, Botten netted his first of a SUNYAC play team-high three power play goals at the beginning of a stretch when Oswego State would struggle to take advantage of being a man up. The Lakers are now tied for the third-best power play unit in the nation converting on 30 percent of their chances.

In that first meeting, the hosts killed off all three of Buffalo State’s power play chances. To date, the Bengals have the 37th-best unit in the country scoring on 18.45 percent of opportunities, but their lack of success is not for lack of chances. Buffalo State ranks second in the nation in power play opportunities with 103, only Lake Forest College in Illinois has had more with 108.

If either of these teams is to capitalize when up a man tonight they will most likely look for their ringers on the power play. The Lakers have Galati, who ranks sixth in the nation with seven man advantage goals. The Bengals will look to Turgeon whose six power play goals is tied for seventh in the nation.

Turning to the penalty kill, Oswego State ranks 20th in the country at 52-for-61 on the season, an 85.2 percent efficiency rate. Buffalo State is 56th in Division III at 76.5 percent, but once again the story lies in the number of power play opportunity chances allowed.

The Bengals have given 115 power play chances this season, the most in the nation. They rank fourth in the nation in penalty minutes per game at 18.53 minutes per game. This number clearly does not work to their advantage versus the Lakers highly effective power play.

On the flip side, Oswego State spends the third-fewest minutes in the penalty box per game at 9.2 minutes.

Goalie matchup: Carr (8-8-3, .920 save percentage, 2.89 goals against average) has started all 19 games of his senior season, so there is no reason not to think he will be in net tonight. The veteran netminder has is 43-43-10 in his career but has never beaten the Lakers. The closest he ever came was on Nov. 16, 2012 when the Bengals carried a 3-3 tie into the third period at the Campus Center Ice Arena before two third period goals for Oswego State grabbed the 5-4 win.

In the Oswego State crease it appeared heading into winter break that Zawadzki (8-1-2, .933, 1.68) had won the starting job for his performances against The College at Brockport, SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Plattsburgh after relieving Gilbert (4-2-0, .906, 2.54) after five goals at SUNY Geneseo. But Gilbert returned after the PathFinder Bank/Oswego Hockey Classic and put in 10 solid periods over break including a shutout.

This could open the door for Laker head coach Ed Gosek to start giving the sophomore more time in net down the stretch.

Player to watch: Oswego State sophomore defenseman Denton King: The Saskatchewan native put in an impressive performance offensively last night at SUNY Fredonia with a goal and an assist, but it will be his play in the defensive zone that is an X-factor tonight. The Lakers are going to need a strong performance in front of whichever goalie is in net tonight and few defensemen in their locker room are as crucial as King. The stay-at-home defensemen always keeps himself in a position to get back when an opponent moves the puck up ice. His ability to block and poke pucks in every area of the ice will be needed tonight if Oswego State wants to grab this victory and third place in the conference.

Prediction: 4-2 Oswego State (the fourth goal will come on an empty net)