Tough loss not all bad for Lakers

The young Oswego State Lakers team will look to bounce back following a tough loss at Buffalo State (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)
The young Oswego State Lakers team will look to bounce back following a tough loss at Buffalo State (David Armelino | The Oswegonian)

Despite a recent 4-0 loss to conference opponent Buffalo State, there may be a silver lining for the Oswego State men’s hockey team.

In the days leading up to the season, many questioned how much success this group would enjoy with so many new pieces on the roster. With a group of returning skaters missing a big-time scorer or a battle-tested netminder, it was thought this team would have to endure some challenging stretches.

Up until this past Saturday night’s loss, that was not the case.

Oswego State’s opening night loss to SUNY Fredonia at the Campus Center Ice Arena on Nov. 1 was a one- goal overtime loss. Games that go into overtime, in many cases, can come down to which team has momentum, and less about actual talent. If not that, the loss could be chalked up to opening night jitters for a young team.

The jitters seemed to disappear as the team rattled off three wins. After finishing the opening weekend with a 3-2 win over Buffalo State, the Lakers held on for a 4-1 victory at SUNY Cortland in a game that saw the Red Dragons take two game misconduct penalties. The streak’s final victory was a seven goal performance at home against Elmira.

Next came the second hiccup of the season, which could have been predicted. On Nov. 22, Oswego State traveled to SUNY Geneseo to face a nationally ranked Knights team (No. 15 at the time).

The game got away from the visitors late in the second period, as SUNY Geneseo used two goals in the last four minutes to expand its lead, 5-2. While Oswego State gave up seven goals and had to pull its starting goalie that night, the production on offense was still there because the team scored four goals of its own. Losing a high-scoring affair on the road versus a ranked opponent was not something for the Lakers to dwell on.

From that point, the young team started to hit its stride. The next night, freshman Matt Zawadzki recorded his first career shutout at The College at Brockport in a 4-0 decision and the Lakers were off.

Oswego State continued its strong play the following weekend, which was White Out Weekend. The Lakers notched a 7-1 win over SUNY Potsdam and a more impressive 3-3 stalemate with SUNYAC rival and then-No. 1 ranked SUNY Plattsburgh. The Lakers scored first and did not trail in the contest until freshman Kyle Hall delivered the visitors’ third goal at 5:18 of the third period. Zawadzki made 35 saves in the game and Oswego State had proven they could hang with the big boys.

The Lakers returned to action in January and won seven of eight non-conference games, including two wins over the nationally ranked Utica Pioneers. The first victory came in a shootout in the PathFinder Bank/Oswego Hockey Classic Championship and the second was a 5-3 road victory in Utica.

On Jan. 18, Oswego State headed to Elmira for its two-game showdown with the Soaring Eagles. At the time, the squad was enjoying a 10-game hiatus from the feelings of defeat and was back in the top 10 nationally for the first time since Nov. 18. 

The hosts took a 3-0 lead heading into the third period. In the final 20 minutes, Gilbert locked down the Lakers’ crease and the offense produced two goals, nearly pulling off the comeback. Although the streak was over, the defeat was just another where the team came close but fell just short.

The 5-1 triumph at SUNY Fredonia this past Friday was a sweet one after the tough defeat early on the season, yet the more meaningful game was played the following night in Buffalo.

Bengals’ senior starting goalie Kevin Carr has been named to either the SUNYAC first or second team his first three seasons. The one thing he did not have on his résumé was a victory, or even a tie, against Oswego State, something the Buffalo State program did not have as a whole until this past Saturday. In Carr’s last home start against Oswego State, he locked down the net and saved all 33 shots he faced in the 4-0 win.

For a roster as young as Oswego State’s, games like this can serve as a reality check. The loss to Buffalo State can be just a bump in the road for a talented Laker team with a bright future and may even prove to be beneficial down the road.

This is a skilled and capable Oswego State team, but it is still a team for the most part still adjusting to the Division III game. The team can only learn from a loss like this and the Lakers will look to finish the 2013-14 season strong.