The Oswego State women’s ice hockey team has just passed the midpoint of the 2013-2014 campaign, which has been one of the best seasons in program history. The Lakers are currently holding third place in the ultra-competitive ECAC West conference.
Coming into the season with a larger and deeper roster than the year prior, Oswego State is currently 12-6-1 and has played well within the conference, posting a 6-3-1 record in ECAC West play.
Head coach Diane Dillon, who has led the women’s hockey program since its inception almost eight years ago, says she is not surprised by the success the team is having now.
“We’ve been building for this,” Dillon said. “Last year, we had an off year because we had lost so many players.”
Dillon mentioned the veteran presence of the team’s nine seniors as a big reason for its success this season.
“This year, this senior class is really starting to come through. They’re really starting to work and the payoff is there. That leadership is there. We’ve had as strong a leadership and goaltender combination as we have now.”
Senior and team captain Olivia Boersen is leading the team in scoring with six goals and six assists. Senior Melissa Seamont, last season’s top scorer, is currently second on the team in scoring with five goals and four assists.
Assistant captain Jocelyn St. Clair has helped lead the Lakers’ defense into becoming one of the better units in the conference. The Lakers have surrendered 27 goals the entire season and only 15 in conference play (seven of them, coming against third-ranked Elmira).
Strong defense has been crucial to the Lakers’ success, especially considering Coach Dillon’s three-goalie system. Each of the three goaltenders on the roster for the Lakers have logged over 300 minutes so far.
Senior Catherine Cote, who missed almost all of last season with a shoulder injury, leads the Laker goaltenders in minutes played, saves and wins.
Sophomore Tori Trovato leads the team in save percentage, posting a .953 through five games. Junior Bridget Smith, who posted a 10-8-1 record last year with a 2.00 Goals Against Average, is again leading the team in that category with a 0.98 mark thus far. Smith is 4-0-1 on the season.
Dillon said, she knew they would be an open competition for playing time between the three goaltenders coming into the season.
“They each bring something different,” Dillon said. “Cote’s a very strong goaltender, lot of fight in that kid. Bridget, who took over the net last year, is a big, strong goaltender. She covers up a lot of net. She thinks the game. And Tori [Trovato] is an outstanding athlete. So, with all three of them, and all of them wanting the net, we know it was going to be a definite battle.”
Before the season, the Lakers brought in eight first year players. The freshmen class have accounted for 22 goals and 45 points this season, which is roughly half of the Lakers’ total offensive production.
“They’ve come up big for us,” senior and assistant captain Mady Paul said.
Dillon says she is not at all surprised by her freshman class’ production.
“We brought in some explosive players in terms of shots,” Dillon said. “We tried to add some offensive muscle up front, like [Bridget Hamlin] has added. Kendall Appelbaum has added some strength. She can play forward or D. We’ve used her at the point so far. It relieves some of the pressure on the upperclassmen who feel they have to carry everything on their shoulders.”
The Lakers started the season by hosting the Oswego State Classic. It was the first time the program had the opportunity to host a tournament to open the season. The Lakers played host to New England College and Castleton State. Oswego State won those games by scores of 5-0 and 3-2, respectively.
The win against Castleton State came on an overtime goal by senior forward Megan Hagg.
“It set the tone for the rest of the season,” Boersen said.
Dillon believed those wins gave her team an early boost of confidence.
“Anytime you can start off with a couple W’s it gives your team confidence in the way we’re approaching the game and that they believe in the game plan,” Dillon explained. “I think it started us off on a good foot.”
Since then the Lakers have played well at home, going 8-2 at the Campus Center Ice Arena. So far, the Lakers have outscored their opponents 34 to 14 when playing in front of the home crowd.
“We need to win games at home,” Dillon said. “If you look at the men’s team, other teams don’t like coming in here. It’s not a nice place for them. We’re starting to make it like that for us.”
After getting off to a 6-1-1 start in conference, the Lakers hosted two games against the defending national champions, Elmira. The Lakers were shut out by the Soaring Eagles twice last year and hadn’t scored a goal against them since the 2011-2012 season.
Things did not go much better for them this time around, as Oswego State dropped both games. In the first game, a couple of lucky goals early for Elmira proved to be too much for the Lakers. The next day, with the Lakers on the brink of defeat, senior defender Leslie Jarvis slapped a shot pass Elmira goaltender Lisa Marshall to tie the game with exactly one minute left on the clock.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, a Brooke Wilgosh power play goal with just 1:07 remaining in overtime gave Elmira the series sweep.
The Lakers are entering one of the toughest parts of their schedule. They are set to face Cortland on the road, as well as a home-and-home against Utica in the coming weeks.
The Lakers will end the season with a series at home against the No. 1 ranked and defending conference champions, SUNY Plattsburgh.
Going into this tough second half, Dillon and the Lakers have their minds set on one goal.
“We want to make the playoffs. We want a home playoff game. That’s what we’re focusing on,” Dillon said.
The Lakers will be back in action this weekend for a two-game set on the road in Cortland.