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Oswego State squandered a four-goal lead at SUNY Geneseo tonight in the SUNYAC Tournament Championship, but a power play goal in the final minute of play clinched the crown for the Lakers, 7-6.
Being a part of a team that lost 14 seniors from last season’s national runner-up team and brought in 24 new faces this season, junior Chris Carr, named to the all-tournament team, said it is gratifying to see how far this team has come.
“I don’t want to say you have doubts, but you lose 14 guys who were great hockey players and you have no idea who’s coming in,” Carr said. “You’ve never seen them play hockey or anything. For us to be able to come together like this. I don’t want to say it’s surprising because throughout the year we worked so hard and you see the potential we have, and I’m glad we’re finally fulfilling that potential.”
After a back and forth start to the third period, the Oswego State short handed unit, which had successfully killed off just one-of-four penalties through the first 55:22 of play, turned the tide of the game by thwarting a Geneseo power play opportunity after Laker freshman Chris Waterstreet was called for charging.
Freshman net-minder Matt Zawadzki, named to the all-tournament team, was able to stop one last rush by the Knights (without his stick) before his defense cleared the puck out of the crease with 17 seconds left on the power play. With about two minutes remaining in regulation, SUNY Geneseo’s Cam Hampson was sent to the penalty box for taking an Oswego State skater to the ice during a scuffle in front of the Knights’ net, opening the door for the Lakers.
Freshman Shawn Hulshof, who eventually scored the final goal, understood the importance of that moment for the team.
“It’s pretty much do or die,” Hulshof said. “We have to capitalize on that power play. It started off pretty good. We were moving it around well. Near the end, we were a little tired, but we found a way.”
Hulshof was officially awarded the game-winning goal off a feed from fellow freshman, and tournament most valuable player, Alex Botten with 28.7 seconds remaining in play. Hulshof picked up a rebound off Botten’s initial shot from the right circle and stuffed it by Knights’ junior goalie Brian Haude.
The tally came five minutes after Geneseo junior captain Jack Caradonna had tied the game up one last time on a shot from the point through traffic, which beat Zawadzki over the shoulder. Caradonna finished the game with two assists to go with the goal, earning him a spot on the all-tournament team as well.
Midway through the period, Botten, who tied the conference record for assists in a SUNYAC game with five, put away his only goal of the night. A play that started with some struggles to get the puck out of the Lakers’ end found freshman Matt Galati who put the puck on Botten’s stick as he streaked up ice and beat Haude for Oswego State’s sixth goal.
“We were struggling a little bit in D-zone, just on that play. I thought our line played great defensively. We had a little bit of lapse on that play,” Botten said. “I found the puck on my stick and I saw ice, so I took the ice. I used their D as a screen, because he went down on one knee, so I tried to put all my might into that shot and fortunately it went in.”
Botten’s tally put an end to a streak of four unanswered goals by the Knights, which had spanned over 15:35 of play.
The hosts started the third off with two goals in 5:23 from freshman Jack Ceglarski and sophomore David Ripple and finished the second with scores from junior Tyler Brickler and senior captain Zachary Vit, who was named to the all-tournament team. Ceglarski and Ripple, along with Caradonna, led the team in points on the night with three apiece.
Ceglarski’s goal created some controversy throughout the arena as, from some angles, it appeared the left pipe of Zawadzki’s net had come off before the puck crossed the goal line. The freshman goaltender was visibily angry as he skated after the referee who made the call. Although his goalie lost his composure, head coach Ed Gosek was overall pleased with the freshman’s play.
“It’ll be a learning experience for him. I thought he played well,” Gosek said. “The net was off. Whether it should’ve been blown or not, in hind sight, it doesn’t matter.”
Zawadzki finished the title game with 40 saves.
Just short of six minutes prior to Brickler’s tally starting the streak, Galati had finished the Lakers’ fifth goal of the game, which was when Geneseo head coach Chris Schultz decided to make a goalie change, substituting Haude for sophomore Nick Horrigan. Horrigan finished with 24 saves in 33:05 of play, while Haude made 10 stops in his 26:35 of time in the crease before being pulled for an extra attacker.
Galati picked up the garbage next to the net off an initial shot by Botten from the slot, which Horrigan was only able to block, giving Oswego State a 5-1 lead at the time. The goal was Galati’s second of the night. Carr picked up the secondary assist.
Less than four minutes prior, Carr had put away his second goal of the night himself. One of just nine players back from last season’s squad, Carr has been battling injuries, including a torn-up hip and a concussion, since the second half of last year. So this win meant even more.
“It absolutely feels great. This is why we play the game. This is why I got the surgery, why I take the time during the injuries and this is why we play, we want to win,” Carr said. “When you have 30 guys, everyone coming together, working their tail off in practice, we have something to show from it; it means the world. If you don’t win that game, yeah, you know you worked hard, but no one else does.”
At the 4:40 mark of the second, freshman Josh Timpano, the scorer of the game-winning goal against Plattsburgh last Saturday, scored once again. This time, he was able to tip a shot from the point by junior assistant captain Bobby Gertsakis and redirect it past Horrigan. Gertsakis picked up his third assist of the tournament on the goal, helping him to all-tournament team honors.
The Knights finished off scoring in the first with under five minutes remaining, after the Lakers started the game off with two unanswered.
Oswego State sophomore transfer Morgan Bonner was sent to the penalty box for goalie interference at the 16:13 mark. Within 16 seconds of having the extra skater advantage, Geneseo’s Ripple was able to take a loose puck and beat Zawadzki and open the hosts scoring. Vit and Caradonna earned the primary and secondary assists respectively.
That goal shifted momentum after a rather dominate start by the visitors. The Lakers outshot their counterparts 9-1 through the first seven minutes and scored on two of their first 10 shots.
With Knights’ sophomore Nate Brown sent off for charging, Galati scored Oswego State’s first of two power play goals at the 11:17 mark of the opening period. Galati’s tally followed, his line mate, Carr’s just 36 seconds into the contest.
After an initial shot from the top, the puck was slid from the left pipe to the right. While Horrigan was still defending the one side of the net, Carr found plenty of open twine to bury the game’s first goal.
Tonight’s win not only clinches the SUNYAC title for Oswego State, but also an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey tournament, which is set to begin with the first round on Wednesday.
Gosek sees a game like tonight’s paying great dividends for his team as the season continues on.
“These experiences for this group of young guys, as we always say, over these last four years getting to the final four, making the tournament, they learned from these experiences,” Gosek said. “You get to practice longer. You’re in these high pressure situations. They hear us talk about different things. So, it helps mature a team in a hurry and I think it will serve us well in the future, in terms of handling adversity.”
The Lakers will find out where they fall in the bracket during the selection show tomorrow night at 10 p.m.