The No. 10 ranked Oswego State men’s ice hockey team (13-4-2, 6-3-1) had a strong performance in the first period to get ahead of SUNY Cortland (4-13-3, 3-7-2) by three, but that would not be enough.
After the Red Dragons were able to cut the lead to one, the Lakers needed a late goal by sophomore Holy Cross transfer Brandon Adams to take the game, 4-2.
Oswego State head coach Ed Gosek made sure his team understood in practice during the week that this time of year brings out the best in every team.
“It’s like we’ve been telling our guys all along: this time of year, every team competes because they don’t want their season to end or, if their season is in a position where their season’s ended, they’re trying to show their coaches they can help their team the following year,” Gosek said. “So, everybody this time of year is bringing their A game.”
SUNY Cortland jumped right out on the rush off the opening faceoff, forcing Laker sophomore starting goalie Justin Gilbert to make a difficult save to start the game. The Ottawa native was up to the task.
“That wasn’t something I was expecting, but I was fortunate to kind of just get the toe on it and hold it there,” Gilbert said.
“It worked out. I think that could’ve changed the momentum of the game for sure. So, fortunately I made the save and things worked out from then on.”
It took the hosts most of the opening period to break through, but once they did, multiple scores came as the Lakers put the puck past SUNY Cortland’s starting goalie senior Lyle Rocker three times in the final 4:38 of the first period.
Freshman Chris Waterstreet struck first, stuffing home a rebound at the right pipe off a shot initially taken by Adams at the 15:22 mark.
In the last 35 seconds, Oswego State scored twice more, first at 19:25 when freshman Shawn Hulshof sent a cross ice pass through a Red Dragon’s legs to fellow freshman Kenny Neil who buried his 10th goal of the year. Freshman Manny Gialedakis earned the secondary assist on the play.
Then, with just over six seconds remaining, junior assistant captain Nick Rivait beat Rocker from the point off the feed from junior Vermont transfer Mike Montagna.
Rocker’s struggles led his head coach Tom Cranfield to pull the senior goalie for fellow senior net-minder Mark Balkwill.
After 28 minutes of impressive play by Gilbert, the visitors finally saw the fruit of their physical style show up on the scoreboard.
At 8:12 of the second, sophomore Michael Mascaro put away the period’s only goal, beating Gilbert top shelf over the net-minder’s left shoulder. The goal was assisted by sophomores Brant Sherwood and Kyle Herring.
The game would go scoreless for the next 27:48, crossing over into the third, before SUNY Cortland scored its second unanswered goal to cut the the Lakers’ lead down to one.
Senior Mike Henrici beat Gilbert on a breakaway at the 16:00 mark of the third off a lead pass by Sherwood, who, with his second assist of the night, finished with a team-high two points. Henrici’s goal was only one of two shots to beat the sophomore goalie as he finished the night with 28 saves.
Gosek said the Red Dragons did well by taking advantage of the chances they got around the Oswego State net.
“They were opportunistic,” Gosek said. “Even their second goal, a lot of things happened, it bounces the right way and we don’t have awareness. So from that standpoint, I give them credit. They played hard the entire game.”
SUNY Cortland’s physical play kept the game close and made things difficult for Gilbert, but the sophomore felt comfortable in net through the evening.
“They’re a meat-and-potatoes type of team. Before the game, I read on the board that they like to shoot from everywhere, especially from the point,” Gilbert said.
“The main thing I was focusing on was tracking the puck, especially through screens. I felt like I did a pretty good job. Some nights it’s like finding a needle in a hay stack and tonight it was like a beach ball for me.”
With a chance to tie looking less bleak, the opportunity became more promising when Laker sophomore transfer from Sacred Heart Morgan Bonner took a two-minute penalty for hitting from behind.
The first goal on a power play came off the stick of a player on the shorthanded team at 18:25 of the third.
Adams picked up a loose puck around the defensive zone blue line, carried it to just below the left circle and slid the puck past Balkwill to bring the game to its final scoreline.
Adams and his linemate Bonner bring a connection to the ice, which supersedes their similar journey to Oswego State as transfers from Division I programs after freshmen year. Adams recognizes the rhythm he and Bonner are in, especially on the penalty kill.
“We’re pretty similar players, just meat-and-potato, stop and start line, trying to create havoc, especially on the penalty kill,” Adams said.
“We’re trying to prevent them from getting any shots and holding on to the puck for too long. I think he and I compliment each other pretty well.”
The two teams combined to go 0-for-9 on the power play. Oswego State went 0-for-4 when on the man advantage while SUNY Cortland went 0-for-5.
With the win, the Lakers created some separation between themselves and the Red Dragons, who at the beginning of the night were just three points behind the Lakers for fourth place.
However, SUNY Fredonia (6-9-4, 4-4-3) picked up a 5-2 victory at home against Morrisville State (5-13-2, 2-9-1) to stay two points out of the top four.
Since Buffalo State (9-8-3, 6-3-2) had the night off, Oswego State’s victory moved them back a point out of third after its loss to the Bengals two weeks ago pushed the Lakers three points behind.
Oswego State is back in action this weekend with a two-game series at Morrisville State on Friday and Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. for both contests.