Lewiston, Maine — A plethora of shots and quality goaltending were not enough to keep the unimaginable season going for the Oswego State men’s ice hockey team, as it fell to Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the national semifinals, 2-1.
Early in the final period, the Pointers took two penalties in quick succession during the opening minutes to give the Lakers a five-on-three advantage for 1:45. Stevens Point prevented its opponent from getting open looks around the net and successfully killed off both penalty to hold on to the lead.
Laker head coach Ed Gosek spoke of the team mixing up its play with a two-man advantage due to lack of success throughout the year.
“Last weekend at Babson we had a five-on-three and didn’t convert. We’ve had other five-on-threes during the year, so we changed it up a little bit to give the guys a fresh outlook and try to get the guys some better looks,” Gosek said. “It didn’t materialize as you could see. Our puck management, it didn’t seem like we were aggressive enough…just little things, attention to detail, that for whatever reason we were a little off on that.”
The penalty kill seemed to shift momentum further into the favor of the Pointers as they became more comfortable in their own end. The Lakers outshot Stevens Point 18-6 in the final frame, but the play of Pointers junior goalie Brandon Jaeger and the team defensively, as a whole, kept Oswego State off the board. Jaeger finished the game with 45 saves.
Although the shot totals suggested and offensive domination by the Lakers throughout the third, Stevens Point was quite successful putting pressure on the Oswego State defense and freshman goalie Matt Zawadzki. Zawadzki, who finished with 29 saves, kept his focus on allowing his team a chance to win throughout the game.
“They brought a good offense all game long. My mindset going into the third was, ‘We have to keep it within one if we really want a chance to get back in.’ We did a really good job of that for the whole period and we took it down to the very last second,” Zawadzki said. “It was just disappointing that we couldn’t get the job done. We maintained ourselves and played a good hockey game.”
The Pointers came out firing in the middle frame, but some unfavorable bounces helped the Lakers and Zawadzki as all of Stevens Point’s shots missed wide.
Gosek recognized the talent of his team’s opponent tonight, but was still pleased with the Lakers’ overall performance in the defensive zone.
“I thought our D did a pretty good job. There were a few times where they were creative but, for the most part, we did a pretty good job,” Gosek said. “They were good and gritty around the net and we could’ve done a better job at tying up sticks and engaging, but they battled hard too and it was a good hockey game. This year doesn’t go our way, so there’s no regrets.”
After spending much of the first five minutes in its own end, Oswego State used a few turnovers by its opponents to start shifting momentum. In the middle ten minutes of play, the Lakers were able to take command of the shots on goal battle; however, a few costly miscues on prime opportunities left them unable to take advantage before momentum returned to the Pointers favor.
At the 15:24 mark of the second, Oswego State freshman Chris Waterstreet was called for tripping, giving Stevens Point its lone power play opportunity of the game. The one man advantage was all the Pointers needed, as sophomore Joe Kalisz was able to put home the eventual game-winner with 23 seconds remaining on the power play.
At 17:01 of the frame, fellow sophomore Alex Brooks found Kalisz in the left circle. Kalisz sent a one-timer just inside the near pipe, beating Zawadzki. The secondary assist on the tally was given to senior captain Tyler Krueger.
The goal was Stevens Points’ second unanswered after they scored the second of two first period goals with just a minute remaining in the opening 20 minutes.
The Pointers had been threatening for much of the final minutes of the opening frame when a loose puck in front was left uncovered for just long enough to get on freshman Kyle Sharkley’s stick.
The first two shots during the scrum in front found pipe and the back netting before Sharkley picked it up on the goal line and lifted it over a sprawling Zawadzki to tie the game at one.
The goal helped Stevens Point right the ship a bit after the Lakers had surged ahead, following its goal around the midway point of the first.
At the 10:11 mark, freshman Shawn Hulshof and senior captain David Titanic worked a give-and-go, finishing with Titanic feeding Hulshof in the low slot to beat Jaeger with a wrister into the open net.
“Shawny found me in the middle and Montagna did a good job driving the middle lane and it opened up a lane to Shawny coming in late,” Titanic said. “I ditched the puck off.”
“I saw a wide open cage and, unfortunately, the guy got a stick on my shot but it found a way,” Hulshof said. “It was a good turning point for us and our momentum through the game.”
Oswego State was outshot 18-13 in the first 20 minutes of play, but finished the game with a 46-31 advantage in shots on goal.
With the loss, the Lakers’ season comes to an end. As a team with 19 freshmen and five transfers, the pressure was off this year, but Gosek knows that won’t be the case going forward.
“Well as I said to my A.D. [Sue Viscomi], this is going to be the last game, last season, where there’s no pressure and no expectations,” Gosek said. “Unfortunately, we’re going to be back to where it’s been the last few years. Where everybody expects you to always be here and we’re accustomed to that and I’d rather it be that way than the other way around. It’ll be a whole new challenge for our returners to manage a new scenario. The expectations will be very high.”