Freshman Matt Zawadzki pitched his fourth shutout of the season and Oswego State scored three in the first two periods to seal the victory at Babson today in the NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey quarterfinals, 3-0.
Today’s win put the Lakers into their fifth consecutive national semifinal. Seeing his team in its second straight national quarterfinal, after a three season drought from the NCAA tournament, Babson head coach Jamie Rice thinks the Beavers can learn a lot from their opponent today.
“One of the great things about sport is, not only what it teaches you about yourself, but what it teaches you about who you can aspire to be,” Rice said. “Certainly, when you look at Oswego over the last five years making the Frozen Four, when you’re good you want to be better. You need people to aspire to and people to chase…It’s incredible to think about the job Ed [Gosek] and his guys have done with the players. That’s what we want to be. We want to be that type of team.”
Babson controlled much of the puck possession from the early second into the third, but three penalties early in the third took away its momentum and returned it to the Lakers.
Senior defenseman and assistant captain Matt Furey knew that playing down a skater so much in the third was a factor in the Beavers’ struggles to make a comeback.
“Absolutely. Obviously you want to play the game five-on-five; you don’t want to be in the box at any point, especially when you’re down three. So, even though we killed the off, the clock’s ticking and we’re down three,” Furey said. “You want to start chipping away at the lead, get back in the game, and it’s certainly difficult to do when you’re taking penalties.”
The Beavers threatened to cut into the deficit down the stretch, but Zawadzki sprawled all over the crease and, with help from the five skaters on the ice, secured the win. The South Carolina native finished with 27 saves, compared to 24 stops by his counterpart Beavers’ sophomore Jamie Murray.
Zawadzki accredited much of his success in net this afternoon to the play of his teammates in front of him throughout the contest.
“I thought defensively we played really well. Any time we’re able to not let the other team score it’s a reflection of the whole team. When I can see the puck, I’m going to stop it. That’s what the coach expects and that’s what I’ve been able to provide for the team,” Zawadzki said. “I can’t ask for anything more than the defense playing well like that. It made my life way easier tonight. I was able to stop it when I saw it and they were able to clear it when it was in front. We were able to put together an all-around good defensive effort tonight.”
The Beavers won the opening faceoff of the middle period and from there were able to increase time on attack in the 20-minute span, but the only power play of the frame, although in their favor, would benefit Oswego State in the end.
At 3:03 of the period, freshman Krystian Yorke was sent off for hooking giving Babson its first man advantage of the afternoon. However, with four seconds left of shorthanded play, sophomore Sacred Heart transfer Morgan Bonner picked up a Beavers’ turnover at the defensive blue line, turned up ice along the left half boards and eventually fed the puck untouched to linemate Brandon Adams. Adams deked once to the right pipe and lifted a backhand over Murray into the net to expand the Laker lead to three.
From there, after about 2:30 of back and forth play, Babson slowly began to take over the majority of time with the puck. The Beavers, who outshot the Lakers 11-4 in the period, were carrying the puck in the Oswego State zone, but a combination of good ice coverage by the forwards and defensemen for the visitors and saves by a poised Zawadzki kept the hosts off the board.
The Lakers came right out the gate playing aggressive and pushing into the Beavers’ zone during the opening 20 minutes. Murray stood tall and the defense kept a majority of the Lakers’ shots from the outside.
As the period carried on, Oswego State was able to break through into the low slot and at the 11:25 mark senior captain David Titanic was able to draw a slashing call on Beaver junior assistant captain Andrew Bonazza to give the Lakers their first power play opportunity. Then, 46 seconds later, Babson senior captain Troy Starrett was sent off for tripping, giving Oswego State 1:14 on a five-on-three advantage.
Titanic saw the important role special teams played in the outcome of the game and believes the team needs to build off today’s performance.
“Whenever you get on the plus side of the special teams, it’s an advantage,” Titanic said. “Most of the penalties we drew were hard working penalties, guys moving to the net and moving their feet, working hard down low. It was a credit to our guys, outworking the opposition down low. I think we have to keep doing that moving forward. Every PK and power play we’re going to see from here on out is going to be top notch and we have to use special teams to our advantage.”
The Beavers were able to kill off the rest of the Bonazza penalty, but, with nine seconds left on the Starrett infraction, freshman Shawn Hulshof was able to redirect a Bobby Gertsakis shot from atop the right circle past Murray to give the Lakers the early lead. Freshman Matt Galati earned the secondary assist.
Just over a minute later, as Oswego State kept up the pressure, Galati went from distributor to scorer at the 15:11 mark, beating Murray with a wrister from the low slot.
Junior assistant captain Nick Rivait started the play with an outlet pass from the defensive zone to a streaking Alex Botten. Botten was able to deliver the puck to Galati, in stride, from just inside the left circle for the finish.
The Lakers did not let up in the final five minutes and finished the period outshooting Babson, 12-1.
With the victory, Oswego State advances to the Frozen Four next weekend in Lewiston, Maine. The Lakers will take on Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Oswego State has a 1-4 record versus teams from the west in the NCAA Tournament over the past four years and Gosek knows the Pointers are a great challenge ahead. However, he realizes in the end it’s still about how his team plays.
“Well, we watched the game last night and they’re a very good team, as was St. Thomas. For whatever reason, other than the championship year, we haven’t favored well against the western schools,” Gosek said.
“Even at this point, with making it to the last weekend of the year, it’ll still be about us and trying to improve and get better,” Gosek said.