Laker Weekend Preview: Feb. 7 and 8 at Morrisville State

The Lakers are heading down the stretch in SUNYAC play and every game counts. Oswego State will look to senior captain David Titanic to lead them to two wins this weekend in Morrisville (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).
The Lakers are heading down the stretch in SUNYAC play and every game counts. Oswego State will look to senior captain David Titanic to lead them to two wins this weekend in Morrisville (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).

No. 10 Oswego State (13-4-2, 6-3-1) will look to build upon its 4-2 spring semester opening victory last Saturday night at the Campus Center Ice Arena versus SUNY Cortland.

After a tough week of practice, the Lakers were able to hold off a tough, physical Red Dragons squad that is vying to stay in the SUNYAC playoff picture heading into the final month of the regular season.

Now, the team’s focus turns to a journey to the heart of New York State and a two-game series with Morrisville State in the inaugural year of this new traveling format for the traveling partnerless Mustangs. In past years, the hosts for this weekend’s matchups would play one-game weekends at home and on the road versus each SUNYAC  team over the course of the regular season, due to their status as the odd man out in the nine team conference.

Morrisville State (5-13-2, 2-9-1) has struggled to pick up wins this season making them appear to be an easy walkover, but the squad who has picked up a couple impressive wins at home versus Buffalo State (5-3 on Nov. 9) and at Utica College (3-2 on Nov. 29) is still a threat to the Lakers. As Oswego State head coach Ed Gosek said last weekend, this time of year every team is bringing its A game.

By the numbers: The Mustangs have picked up their scoring since the calendar turned to 2014 averaging 3.44 goals per game, but still rank second to last in scoring during conference play at 2.83 per game, only ahead of SUNY Potsdam (2.20). The Lakers have seen their in-conference offensive production tip down slightly since SUNYAC play re-started at the end of January, most significantly after being shut out at Buffalo State on Jan. 25. However, Oswego State still ranks in the top four in the conference at 3.60 goals per game.

Nationally, the Lakers sit in the top 10 in the country, in terms of scoring, posting a 4.05 goals per game mark, good enough for sixth across Division III. On the other side of the ice, the Mustangs average 3.25 goals per game in all competitions, which is tied for 24th in Division III with Johnson and Wales as well as Salve Regina.

Turning focus to play in the defensive zone, the visitors for this weekend’s series champion one of the best units in both the nation and the conference while the hosts struggle mightily.

Oswego State is 12th in the country for scoring defense, allowing 2.16 goals per game in all competitions, and second in the SUNYAC, allowing 2.40 goals in conference games, only behind Plattsburgh State’s 1.83 goals against average versus conference opponents.

Morrisville State is second worst in the country and worst in the conference when it comes to goals against average, giving up 5.00 and 4.95 goals per game respectively.

The Mustangs will rely on freshman John Doyle, who is tied for 13th in the country with 13 goals, and sophomore Marc-Antoine Chaput, who is tied for 16th in nation with 16 assists, to break through the stout Laker defense and take some of the pressure off the squad’s defense.

Oswego State will look to take advantage of the statistically weak Morrisville State defensive unit behind a strong offense, led by freshmen Matt Galati, tied for the national lead in goals with 16, Alex Botten, tied for 26th in the nation with 15 assists, and Kenny Neil, who leads the team in points with 23 total points (10 goals and 13 assists).

Special teams breakdown: Turning focus to the power plays and penalty kills of these teams, the statistical gap is both vast and narrow.

These two sides have power plays among the top five nationally with Morrisville State ranking second at 28.83 percent efficiency and Oswego State sitting in fifth at 27.59 percent. Although, flip to strictly SUNYAC numbers and these power play units begin to fall back into the pack. The Mustangs are sixth in the SUNYAC at 22.1 percent, while Oswego State is eighth at 17.8, scoring just eight man advantage goals in 10 conference games.

When looking at each team’s ability to kill of penalties, like the difference in scoring defense numbers, the Lakers far outrank the Mustangs.

Oswego State has killed off 84.3 percent of its penalties overall, tied with Marian University for 25th nationally, and Morrisville State at 67.3 percent killed off is only better than Northland College in all of Division III.

In SUNYAC play, the Lakers move up to second in the conference killing off 84.6 percent and Morrisville falls to last in the rankings at 62.5 percent. A large factor in the Mustangs struggles is the substantial amount of penalty minutes they accrue, averaging the eighth-most per game nationally (17.80 per game) and the most in the SUNYAC (22.7).

The hosts will look to Doyle when trying to take advantage of their power play chances throughout the weekend as the freshman is currently tied for tenth in the nation with six goals when his team has the extra skater.

The visitors have several potent scorers when on the man advantage that are rookies, as well. Freshmen Matt Galati (tied for sixth nationally with seven power play goals) and Alex Botten (tied for seventh in the SUNYAC with a team-high three power play goals in conference play) each are constant threats in the first power play unit to put the puck in the back of the net.

Besides being skilled penalty killers, senior captain David Titanic (two shorthanded goals) and sophomore transfer Brandon Adams (one shorthanded goal) have also shown an ability to score when down a skater, adding an extra wrinkle to the team’s scoring.

Goalie matchup: Senior Christopher Azzano (3-9-1, 5.19 goals against average, .859 save percentage) has carried the larger portion of the load in the crease for Morrisville State thus far during the 2013-2014 season. In 14 starts, the Oshawa, Ontario native has struggled to get his bearings going 1-3 since SUNYAC play has resumed in the new year. Sophomore Jakob Rasmussen has picked up six starts during his second season and, while his save percentage (.876) and goals against average (3.95) are less than stellar, his record has been quite solid at 2-3-1.

For Oswego State, the story throughout the season continues to be the sharing of the net between freshman Matt Zawadzki (8-2-2, 1.93, .924) and sophomore Justin Gilbert (5-2-0, 2.35, .911). When Gilbert went down in the beginning December, it was Zawadzki who stepped up and ran from White Out into the restart of SUNYAC play with a solid set of games, but since the rookie struggled versus Buffalo State on Jan. 25 Gilbert has continued to show promise building upon his solid starts over the winter break with an impressive start last Saturday versus SUNY Cortland.

Player to watch: Oswego State freshman forward Matt Galati: The freshman has had a very impressive first season offensively for head coach Ed Gosek. He is one of the go-to scorers in every situation when he is on the ice, ranking in the top 10 nationally in goals and power play goals. With his team facing a Morrisville State squad that struggles to keep its opponents from scoring, the Toronto native should have a very impressive game, especially with the Mustangs tendency to give opponents a number of extra skater opportunities. Look for Galati to thrive on a power play unit filled with scoring threats, causing the hosts to struggle to keep track of all of them, including his fellow wing freshman Shawn Hulshof whom has an equally efficient slap shot from anywhere in the offensive zone.

Prediction: 5-1 Oswego State