Lakers look to turn strong season into playoff success

Freshman Bridget Hamlin handles the puck along the boards during the Lakers’ game against the Cardinals.  (Perry Kennedy | The Oswegonian)
Freshman Bridget Hamlin handles the puck along the boards during the Lakers’ game against the Cardinals. (Perry Kennedy | The Oswegonian)

The No. 3 seeded Oswego State women’s ice hockey team is set to host sixth seeded Buffalo State in the opening round of the ECAC West playoffs on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Campus Center Ice Arena.

The Lakers are looking for their first playoff win since dispatching Neumann College in 2012. Oswego State fell to Neumann in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs.

The Lakers bounced back this season following last year’s playoff defeat, finishing the 2013-14 season with a 16-8-1 record (10-5-1 ECAC West). Oswego State’s opponent, Buffalo State, got the No. 6 seed despite only winning three games out of 25 this season. Fortunately for the Bengals, their three wins all came against conference opponents, enabling them to clinch the final playoff spot.

Oswego State will look to replicate its performance that led to two wins against Buffalo State this season. The Lakers traveled west to Buffalo to face off against the Bengals in a weekend series. Oswego State won both games behind a steady offense and dominant goaltending.

Sophomore Tori Trovato posted 17 saves en route to a shutout performance in a 3-0 win on Jan. 18.

The Lakers used a balanced offensive attack to control the game, recording 37 shots for an average of 12.3 per period. Oswego State scored one goal in each period, with freshman Erika Truschke scoring in the first, senior Leslie Jarvis scoring in the second and sophomore Lizzy Marks capping off the scoring in the third.

Junior goalie Bridget Smith received the starting nod from head coach Diane Dillon the following day and, like Trovato, shutout Buffalo State and helped the Lakers secure another 3-0 win.

After a scoreless first period, the Lakers went ahead 1-0 in the second period following a power play goal scored by freshman Kendall Appelbaum. Oswego State took its 1-0 lead into third, and scored two insurance goals to secure the victory. Freshman Alexa Aramburu and senior Emma Smetaniuk each tallied goals in the third period. Smith finished with 16 saves on the night.

One of the key reasons behind Oswego State’s success this season is its aggressive approach on offense. The Lakers outshot their opponents 818-547 this season, good for a 271-shot advantage. Oswego State managed this by sharing the puck and finding opportunities for each player.

This was no different against Buffalo State, as six different skaters scored goals in the two wins against the Bengals. If Oswego State can keep a balanced approach on offense, the Lakers should continue this trend.

The Lakers also benefited from solid goaltending during their sweep of the Bengals, with Smith and Trovato combining to stop all 33 shots sent their way. Both goalies had strong seasons, and each will provide a nice security blanket for the defense.

Oswego State’s defense will look to keep Buffalo State’s two leading goal scorers away from the net in Saturday’s matchup. Kara Goodwin (15) and Nikki Kirchberger (10) combined for 25 of Buffalo State’s 34 goals this season.

Both had their scoring chances against the Lakers earlier this season, combining for 18 shots in the two games. However, the Lakers’ goaltenders kept the puck out of the net and held the duo scoreless.

If the Lakers can share the puck, attack the net and hold Goodwin and Kirchberger scoreless, Oswego State should walk away with the a victory and advance to the ECAC West semifinals at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena on March 8.