Laker Gameday Preview: Feb. 14 v. SUNY Geneseo

Junior transfer Mike Montagna scored a goal and added two assists in the Lakers' 7-4 loss at SUNY Geneseo on Nov. 22. The forward is second on the team in points with 25 and is a player to watch during round two tonight at the Campus Center Ice Arena (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).
Junior transfer Mike Montagna scored a goal and added two assists in the Lakers’ 7-4 loss at SUNY Geneseo on Nov. 22. The forward is second on the team in points with 25 and is a player to watch during round two tonight at the Campus Center Ice Arena (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).

Some of the students that attend the SUNY Geneseo home contest against Oswego State each year enjoy chanting “safety school,” to the Lakers because of the belief that the Rochester-area school is the class of the SUNY system. However, this weekend, the Knights are traveling to the Campus Center Ice Arena and, after their 7-4 win over Oswego State on Nov. 22, this school will be far from safe for them.

Since their meeting in late November, both of these teams have rattled off their fair share of wins, while also losing a few games each were expected to win.

The Lakers went on a 10-game unbeaten streak after their loss to the Knights before losing two of three games to end January versus Elmira (3-2 on Jan. 18) and Buffalo State (4-0 on Jan. 25, even though both defeats came on the road, the losses came against teams Oswego State had taken down at the Campus Center early in the season.

The Knights have not had a streak like the Lakers; however, they still hold a 10-2 record in the SUNYAC that puts them currently in second place. Yet, even with this success, three losses in 10 games in 2014 have shown some of their owns signs of vulnerability.

On Jan. 11, they laid an egg in a four-goal defeat at Elmira College and then, upon their return home to Wilson Ice Arena on Jan. 25, had a three-game winning streak snapped by a Nazareth College team which is currently second-to-last in the ECAC West, 4-1. The last of the three losses came on Feb. 1, once again at home.

After knocking off the top team in the conference, SUNY Plattsburgh, the previous night, SUNY Geneseo was upset by the second-worst team in the SUNYAC, SUNY Potsdam, 5-2.

Each of these teams has earned some solid victories since last tasting defeat and now just three points separates them in the race for second place with only four games left to play.

It is true that every game matters at this time of year, but tonight these two teams will take the Campus Center ice with a little extra fire as a bye into a home SUNYAC semifinal comes into view.

Previous matchup: SUNY Geneseo 7  Oswego State 4: This high scoring affair did not break open until late in the second. Oswego State grabbed the early lead off the stick of freshman Chris Waterstreet who picked up his first collegiate goal off a Mike Montagna assist. From there, SUNY Geneseo equalized and took its first lead of the game off Connor Anthoine and Matt Solomon goals in the first 2:08 of the second. Sophomore Brandon Adams brought the score back even 47 seconds after Solomon’s go-ahead score, and then 29 seconds later Jonathan Sucese gave the Knights the lead right back.

It was just under 13 minutes before another goal was scored and it was A.J. Sgaraglio at 16:20 of the second, followed Justin Scharfe finishing the eventual game-winner with 43 seconds left in the middle period, which ended Laker sophomore goalie Justin Gilbert’s night as head coach Ed Gosek turned to freshman Matt Zawadzki for the third.

Andrew Barton, another Oswego State freshman, grabbed his first collegiate goal on the power play at 3:57 of the third to close the gap back to two goals, but, less than two minutes later, it was Justin Scharfe again for the Knights expanding the margin to three.

Just around the midpoint of the period, Montagna cut the lead to two goals one last time. Then, with just under two minutes left to play, Gosek pulled his goalie for the extra attacker, leading to Zachary Vit’s empty netter at 18:23 to finish off the scoring.

By the numbers: Tonight’s matchup pits two of the top scoring teams in Division III against each other, as well as the top two in the SUNYAC. Oswego State comes in fourth in the nation and second in the conference at 4.33 goals per game and 4.17 per game respectively. SUNY Geneseo arrives in Oswego tied with Wisconsin Eau-Claire for ninth in the nation at 3.86 goals per game. When it comes to SUNYAC play, the Knights are atop the conference in goals scored at 4.33 per game.

Defensively, these two squads are both in the top half of the SUNYAC rankings, but add in non-conference play and Oswego State finds a bit of separation.

The Lakers are ranked second in the conference, only behind SUNY Plattsburgh, allowing 2.42 goals per game in conference games. The hosts for tonight’s contest are tied with Gustavus Adolphus for 12th in the nation in team defense at 2.19 goals per game.

The Knights are fourth in the SUNYAC giving up 2.58 goals per game against SUNYAC opponents, but that number turns to 2.67 when considering all games played, which is 26th-best in Division III.

Now looking at the individuals who make these teams go, two of the scorers for the Knights from Nov. 22 find themselves among the best in the nation for points and goals. Scharfe is tied for 35th in points with 24 and Vit is tied for 11th in goals with 15.

Oswego State has bit more representation in these offensive categories. Freshmen Kenny Neil (26/tied for 23rd) and Matt Galati (24/tied for 35th) join Montagna (25/tied for 30th) in the top 50 in the nation for points scored.

Galati and Montagna each find their names among the best in the nation at least one more time at this point in the season, as well. Galati is both tied for the national lead in goals (17) and tied for sixth in power play goals (7), while Montagna is tied for 18th in the nation for assists with 18. Also on that list is freshman Alex Botten who is tied for 19th with 17 assists.

Special teams breakdown: Since the end of the fall semester, the Oswego State power play has skyrocketed to the top of the national rankings. Once a middle of the road team, the Lakers now champion the third-best extra attacker unit in the country, converting on 28.85 percent of opportunities. However, that number looks a little different when one focuses on strictly SUNYAC competition as Oswego State sits fourth in the conference on the power play, scoring 14 of 62 power plays in conference play (22.6 percent).

On the opposite bench, SUNY Geneseo has the second-best power play in conference play at 23 percent of chances converted, only behind SUNY Cortland at 25.8 percent. The numbers are a tad less impressive overall for the Knights’ power play, which is tied with Castleton for 48th in the country, scoring on 16.67 percent of chances.

Neither team is lockdown when killing off penalties, then again, both teams are in the bottom half of the nation in terms of penalty minutes, so power plays against them are few are between.

The Lakers are third in the conference on the penalty kill, only allowing eight power play goals out of 47 opportunities allowed, and 29th in the nation at 83.3 percent killed.

SUNY Geneseo is right behind its opponents for the evening on the penalty kill in SUNYAC play, its unit is 81.4 percent efficient versus conference opponents. Nationally, the Knights rank 53rd killing off 78.9 percent of their penalties.

Goalie matchup: The last time these two teams faced off in Geneseo, the Lakers started Gilbert (7-2-0, .914 save percentage, 2.17 goals against average) before he was relieved by Zawadzki (8-2-2, .916, 2.09) in the third period. From that point, Zawadzki took over a bulk of the starts in net because of impressive play and his counterpart’s finger injury in the early December which sidelined him for a month. However, in recent games, it has been Gilbert patrolling the crease due to his solid play in the wake of Zawadzki’s struggles at Buffalo State.

As for the Knights, junior Bryan Haude (9-4-0, .899, 2.99) has more of the starts thus far, but sophomore Nick Horrigan (7-1-0, .924, 1.99) has taken his fair share of time in net as well. Horrigan took the ice in the first meeting on Nov. 22 and was impressive during last weekend’s home and home versus traveling partner the College at Brockport, but he has pretty evenly shared the net with Haude since the turn of the calendar. The decision really does lay in head coach Chris Schultz’s hands tonight with the two seed still very much up for grabs. It will come down to the impressive numbers of Horrigan versus the extra year of experience of Haude.

Player to watch: Oswego State forward Mike Montagna: Besides scoring three points in the first meeting, Montagna is arguably one of the top two playmakers on this year’s Laker squad. His ability to both score and set up goals will be crucial to Oswego State’s success tonight as the hosts look to keep pace with a very capable scoring attack of SUNY Geneseo. Along with Neil, the junior transfer from University of Vermont will be called upon tonight to fuel the Lakers to victory.

Prediction: 5-3 Oswego State (the fifth goal will come on an empty net)