After splitting their regular season series with SUNY Fredonia, No. 3 seeded Oswego State grabbed the tiebreaker and knocked off the No. 6 seeded Blue Devils tonight, 3-2.
It was freshman Matt Galati who delivered the power play game-winner, his fourth of the year, at the 7:04 mark of the final period. The two minutes on the man advantage started out slow for the Laker unit, 0-for-2 to that point. On a second clean cycle around the zone freshman Alex Botten found Galati in the left circle staring down a wide open net.
The initial pass came from junior assistant captain Bobby Gertsakis at the point before Botten sent a pass untouched through the heart of the slot and onto Galati’s stick.
“Those guys do most of the work,” Galati said. “They kind of just give me the puck and I put it towards the net and hopefully it goes in the net. Bottsy [Botten] made a great pass and it was good movement up top from Bobby as well. So, [Botten] gave me a great pass and I put it towards the net and luckily there was enough open net and it went in.”
The power play goal was Galati’s ninth of the season and his Division III-leading 21st tally overall.
Other than the goal, the story of the third period was the solid play in the defensive zone by Oswego State. After a back-and-forth opening three minutes of the third, a strong penalty kill with freshman Dylan Smith in the box for tripping turned the tide as the Lakers took command of the puck down the home stretch.
“The importance of the penalty kill is if you’re not giving them any grade As and you can gain some momentum off of it, guys make some blocks, guys make some plays, it’s contagious,” said Ed Gosek, Oswego State head coach.
Freshman Matt Zawadzki got the start in net for Oswego State tonight and made 19 saves on 21 Blue Devil shots. He said he was very aware and appreciative of the play of the skaters in front of him and knows that will need to continue moving forward.
“Forwards. D. I thought we played great tonight,” Zawadzki said. “Defensemen and forwards were all sacrificing their bodies and that’s what it’s going to take. We’re just going to have to have that same discipline from front to back if we want to move and advance farther.”
With 41 seconds remaining in the second period, SUNY Fredonia tied the game for the second time on the night with one of the few lapses in the defensive zone by the Lakers.
Sophomore Mitch Kaufmann sent a shot on net, and during the scrum in the crease, junior Brian Doust shoved the puck home, making the score 2-2. Junior Stephen Castriota was given the secondary assist on the goal.
The Doust goal came less than six minutes after Oswego State had regained the lead at the 13:47 mark. The tally was scored by freshman Andrew Barton on a cross-net wrist shot in the heart of the slot, off an assist from linemate and fellow freshman Josh Timpano.
Barton and Timpano, along with freshman Krystian Yorke, made up the Lakers’ fourth and final line of forwards on the night. Their play as a unit throughout the night came to epitomize a strong depth from top to bottom for the hosts for all 60 minutes.
“Galati gutted it out, gets banged up in Plattsburgh and he’s a step off. Smitty [Smith] back with the broken wrist gave it a good effort,” Gosek said. “So, a lot of guys banged up from last weekend and previous weekends that gutted it out tonight and it wasn’t pretty. But, the contribution of all four lines, all six D, I think the depth tonight helped us come out on top.”
At about the midway point of the second, senior Alex Perkins tied the game at one with a power play goal of his own, off a feed from junior Cory Melkert who was originally sent the puck by sophomore Taylor Bourne.
With just 11 seconds left on the man advantage, Perkins found open ice atop the left circle and sent a puck on net. The traffic in front of Zawadzki left him struggling to see the puck as it flew over his left shoulder and into the back of the net.
The lone goal of the opening period came at the 15:41 mark from the Lakers’ third line. Junior University of Vermont transfer Mike Montagna picked up a loose puck in the crease, off a failed wrap around by senior captain David Titanic, deked right and beat Fredonia’s starting goalie freshman Jeff Flagler inside the right pipe. Like freshman Christopher Eiserman, Flagler’s teammates, back on Nov. 1, Flagler finished the game in Oswego with 38 saves.
Tonight’s win sends Oswego State on to the SUNYAC Tournament semifinals on Saturday night at No. 2 seeded SUNY Plattsburgh, whom they beat just four nights ago on the Cardinals’ home ice.
Looking forward to the next round, Galati believes more of the same play showcased this past Saturday night at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena will be what it takes to pull off another win in such a big game.
“I think we have to play the same way we did last week,” Galati said. “That was probably our best game so far this year. We battled through a lot of adversity. It’s a hostile environment, but I think we love it. We love the rivalry. We’re going to be up for that.”
Zawadzki has shown his ability to step up in games against the nationally ranked Cardinals twice this season and his 30 minutes of shutout play last weekend, on top of his performance tonight, have him, as well as the team, ready for another trip to the North Country.
“For me, it gave me confidence going to an environment like that, being able to step in and help the team get a win,” Zawadzki said. “It gave me confidence tonight and it’s going to give the team confidence going forward, going back to Plattsburgh. We know we can win there because we already have.”
Puck drop on Saturday is at 7 p.m.