It has been nine seasons since SUNY Cortland has knocked off Oswego State in men’s ice hockey, but one way the Red Dragons seem to be able to win is by breaking the usual composure of its SUNYAC traveling partner.
Last season, the Lakers averaged 10 penalty minutes per game in SUNYAC play, the lowest total in the conference. However, when it came time to play SUNY Cortland, the average ticked up just slightly, especially in the first meeting between the teams on Nov. 9, 2013.
When Oswego State headed down I-81 last fall, it committed a season-high eight penalties in arguably its chippiest game of the season. On the other side of the ice, the Red Dragons committed 13 penalties, including two 10-minute game misconducts on sophomores Sean Sullivan and Ryan Wagner, causing their ejections from the game.
So far this season, through two games, SUNY Cortland has committed eight penalties, including a game misconduct at Buffalo State on Saturday on junior Jason Kenney. The Lakers have also committed eight penalties through two games, including six trips to the penalty box on opening night at Buffalo State. Although they have had an equal number of penalties, the difference is Oswego State has not had a player ejected from a game as of yet, while SUNY Cortland has.
The Lakers are coming off a very impressive opening weekend during which they scored four unanswered goals to come back and defeat Buffalo State and then put up 10 goals in a victory over SUNY Fredonia. So far, so good. But, the Red Dragons seem to have a way with getting in Oswego State’s head, allowing them to keep contests close.
In last November’s meeting, it took the Lakers until late in the second period to pull away for a 4-1 victory, and they finished just two for eight on the man advantage, suggesting the strong possibility the win could have been much more comfortable.
Saturday night, Oswego State needs to come out with a mindset of staying composed. The Lakers must play especially poised because of the Red Dragons’ tendency to try and get under its opponent’s skin. If the Lakers can stay calm it should mean minimal play without five men on the ice, capitalizing on what should be numerous power play opportunities and, most importantly, another lopsided victory in their favor.
The success of this plan falls a lot on its implementation by the team’s three captains, Bobby Gertsakis, Nick Rivait and Denton King. Last weekend, only Gertsakis took the ice for both games as Rivait and King have battled injuries to start the season. If, for some reason, King and Rivait are not able to go on Saturday night, every man being accountable for himself will be even more crucial than usual.
Between transfers and freshmen, newcomers to the Laker roster committed six of the eight penalties at SUNY Cortland last year. The excuse of never experiencing the rough play of the Red Dragons is no longer on the table. Oswego State is a significantly better team than SUNY Cortland once again this season, and it is time to play like it, in all respects.
Last season, the Lakers were only able to beat the Red Dragons by scores of 4-1 and 4-2. This season, if Oswego State plays composed, the margin of victory should be even greater.