Laker Gameday Preview: Feb. 21 at SUNY Potsdam

No. 12 Oswego State fell to both No. 11 SUNY Geneseo and The College at Brockport at the Campus Center Ice Arena last weekend in the team’s first winless weekend in five years.

This weekend, the Lakers journey to North Country for their final two regular season games, starting tonight in Potsdam, as they look to bounce back and seal the three seed for the SUNYAC tournament.

Last weekend, Buffalo State, currently in fourth, tied at SUNY Fredonia in its lone game of the weekend to close the gap between itself and Oswego State to one point. The Bengals open up a two-game weekend series in the Rochester area tonight against No. 11 SUNY Geneseo Knights, currently atop the SUNYAC, and finish tomorrow evening at The College at Brockport.

With a win tonight and Buffalo State loss, Oswego State can clinch the three seed; otherwise, it will all come down to tomorrow night.

Previous matchup: These two teams last met on opening night of White Out Weekend in Oswego. The Lakers jumped out to a 3-0 lead at the end of the opening and never looked back, grabbing the win 7-1.

Oswego State started the scoring in the first three minutes of play when freshman Matt Galati put home a pass from fellow freshman Dylan Smith. The secondary assist went to junior assistant captain Bobby Gertsakis.

From there, freshman Shawn Hulshof took over the goal scoring for the period, scoring the last two, each on the power play, at 5:52 and 13:20 of the frame. Gertsakis earned his second assist of the period on the first one, while junior Vermont transfer Mike Montagna contributed to both of Hulshof’s goals.

The Bears scored their lone goal of the game to open the second period at 7:12 off the stick of senior captain Mike Arnold who was assisted by sophomore Todd Thomas and freshman Tommy Telesca.

The Lakers responded with two more tallies of their own at the 10:50 and 19:23 marks respectively. Freshman Kenny Neil found fellow freshman Stephen Johnson for the first goal and Smith put home the second on the power play, unassisted.

Freshman Alex Botten started off the scoring for the final 20 minutes at the 6:30 mark of a pass from Montagna, who was originally given the puck by Gertsakis.

Senior captain David Titanic capped off the scoring at 9:12 with Oswego State’s fifth special teams goal of the night, this one coming short handed off a pass from sophomore Holy Cross transfer Brandon Adams.

Freshman Matt Zawadzki started in net for the Lakers making 26 saves, while the two SUNY Potsdam goalies shared the net. Sophomore Austin Keiser played into the third period, making 35 saves on 41 shots, before senior Shane Talarico stepped in for the final 13:30. Talarico stopped 13 of 14 shots faced.

By the numbers: Oswego State touts the sixth-best scoring offense (4.13 goals per game) in the nation and the second-best (3.86) in the conference, tied for the spot with No. 4 SUNY Plattsburgh.

SUNY Potsdam comes into the evening’s contest ranked 45th in the nation (2.87) for scoring offense and ranked last (2.71) in SUNYAC play.

The struggling offense of the hosts will look to its goal scorer in the previous matchup for a spark. Arnold is currently tied for 22nd in Division III for goals scored, netting 14 on the season.

Turning to the defensive aspect of tonight’s contest, the Lakers are 14th in the nation (in terms of scoring defense), giving up 2.26 goals per game, and tied for second in the SUNYAC with Buffalo State and SUNY Geneseo, allowing 2.50 per game.

The Bears are tied with Hamilton College for 55th in the national rankings for scoring defense, giving up 3.57 per game, and tied with SUNY Cortland for sixth in SUNYAC play, allowing 3.79 per game.

Special teams breakdown: On the power play this season, Oswego State currently sits in fourth nationally converting 27.93 percent of opportunities. Due to a slow start on the man advantage last semester, the Lakers are sixth in the SUNYAC for power play efficiency in conference games, scoring on 21.70 percent of chances.

The Oswego State power play is led by freshman Matt Galati whose eight goals while on the man advantage are tied for fifth among Division III players.

SUNY Potsdam finds itself in the bottom half of Division III with a 17.80 percent conversion rate, good enough for 42nd nationally. In the SUNYAC, its efficiency rises to 18.70 percent; however, that number is still only eighth-best as just SUNY Fredonia at 16.40 percent is worse.

The Bears have truly bright spot among their power play units by the name of Billy Pascalli. The sophomore is tied for 15th in Division III with six goals on the power play.

When it comes to penalty killing, Oswego State is tied with Colby College for 28th, not allowing in a power play goal on 83.10 percent of opportunities. Flip to the SUNYAC and the visitors for tonight’s contest are killing off 82.7 percent of penalties, good enough for third in the conference.

SUNY Potsdam is tied with Castleton College for the 57th-best penalty kill in the nation with a 78.50 percent efficiency rate. In the conference, the Bears are second-to-last, killing off 74.70 percent of penalties, just ahead of Morrisville State (63.50 percent).

Players to watch: Oswego State freshmen forwards Alex Botten and Kenny Neil: Neil and Botten combined for 37 points in the Lakers’ first 15 games this season. Since the restart of SUNYAC play on Jan. 24, they have combined for just 10 points in eight contests. The chances to score were there for Oswego State last weekend, but, unlike the second game at Morrisville on Feb. 8, the Lakers were unable to overcome slow starts versus SUNY Geneseo and The College at Brockport. Oswego State will need Neil and Botten, arguably the team’s best play making tandem to step up and make the offense flow tonight if they want to beat SUNY Potsdam and seal the three seed in the SUNYAC tournament.

Prediction: 6-3 Oswego State