Lakers comeback, grab home opener

Sophomore Alex Botten falls to the ice, while putting away the Lakers sixth, and final, goal in a 6-4 victory over SUNY Cortland on Saturday night at the Marano Campus Center Arena (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).
Sophomore Alex Botten falls to the ice, while putting away the Lakers’ sixth, and final, goal in a 6-4 victory over SUNY Cortland on Saturday night at the Marano Campus Center Arena (David Armelino | The Oswegonian).

Oswego State grinded out a victory in its regular season home opener on Saturday night over SUNY Cortland, 6-4.

Despite giving the Red Dragons seven power play opportunities and squandering an early three-goal lead, the Lakers responded with three third period goals to seal the victory. The game winner was scored by sophomore Matt Galati.

Laker head coach Ed Gosek did not give his team a good mark in the category of composure for tonight’s contest.

“I thought some of them were undisciplined, unnecessary and undisciplined,” Gosek said. “There’s going to be some where, like the one at the end where his momentum was taking him and he was running into the kid, he can’t hold up that stuff’s going to happen. But, there’s some where we’re cross checking people and we’re using our stick. That’s not going to happen. We’re not going to fall back into that again. So, disappointed and failing grade when it comes to discipline and penalties.”

Just 1:44 into the game, SUNY Cortland senior Kevin Antonik was sent to the penalty box for cross checking. The Lakers were quick to respond with the game’s first goal only 12 seconds into the man advantage.

After scoring three goals, and earning SUNYAC men’s ice hockey player of the week this past week, sophomore Kenny Neil picked up where he left off tonight with the opening score. His linemate, Shawn Hulshof, fed him the puck at the right pipe, where he was wide open, and he lifted the puck over SUNY Cortland’s freshman goalie Drew Weigman.

It was only 33 more seconds until sophomore Andrew Barton was left alone in the slot and took his time beating Weigman, giving the home side an early two-goal advantage. Sophomore Krystian Yorke and senior captain Bobby Gertsakis picked up the assists after fighting along the far boards to hold the puck in the zone.

The Red Dragons had the first of several offensive chances after Barton’s goal but, for the most part, the Lakers held possession in their offensive zone throughout the period. Freshman net-minder Mackenzie Sawyer made his collegiate debut for the Lakers and faced just seven shots in the first frame. He finished the contest with 20 saves.

Gosek was glad he was able to give his freshman goaltender a shot this early in the season.

“I thought he tracked the puck well with first game jitters and so forth,” Gosek said. “There’s certainly a lot of things to work on. At this point in the season, if we didn’t get him in to see what he’s capable of I’m not sure when we would’ve got ’em in. So, I think it was important to get him in and give him some playing time. Now, we’ve given them all an opportunity. We can settle down and make a decision for next weekend.”

Oswego State capitalized one more time in the first period at 12:39, again on the power play. The second time, it took the Lakers just four seconds to find the back of the net.

The Red Dragons sent junior Kyle Herring to the bin to serve their too many men on the ice penalty after a defensive zone clearance found a visitor’s skate in front of their bench. Hulshof was the scorer on the period’s final goal, beating Weigman top shelf off a pass from sophomore Alex Botten. Gertsakis picked up the secondary assist. Weigman finished with 30 saves, despite allowing six goals.

At the end of the first, junior Jason Kenney was sent off for interference. The Red Dragons were able to kill off the penalty’s first 12 seconds to finish the period. Then, they completed the kill to start the second, swinging momentum in their favor.

Time on attack was balanced to start the second frame before SUNY Cortland broke through with its first goal of the game.

Assistant captain Nick Zappia poked a loose puck home past Sawyer at 5:23 off assists from Drazen Zack and Sam Pinsler.

From there, the Lakers struggled to hold possession in the offensive zone, and, when they were able to control the puck, clean shots did not come.

Gosek saw his team’s change in play during the middle frame and the impact it had on the game as a whole.

“It was puck management and unforced turnovers,” Gosek said. “Circles, not stopping loose pucks, stick checks, not winning battles. It’s pretty simple. As we say, we don’t want to protect a lead. We want to play with a lead.”

The most prevalent example of Oswego State’s struggles was during its two-plus minutes of man advantage when Adam Diorio was sent off for roughing. During more than 10 seconds of empty net, the Lakers were only able to get off a one-timer, then several giveaways by Gerstakis and senior Mike Montagna made the penalty kill a bit easier for the visitors.

Four minutes later, Red Dragons’ freshman Andrew McCann deked through the slot and sent the puck under Sawyer, finding fellow freshman Tommy Nolan for the team’s second goal at 15:28.

Less than three minutes after celebrating his goal, Nolan was sent off for the night along with Oswego State senior defenseman Mike Wills. The two got into a scrum after a whistle in front of the Lakers’ net during which Wills lost his helmet. The call for both was game misconducts for facemasking. Also on the play, SUNY Cortland’s Michael Markowitz and Oswego State’s Sean Federow picked up offsetting roughing penalties.

Only 2:23 into the final 20 minutes of play, the Red Dragons found an equalizer by freshman Dan Broderick, completing a natural hat trick of their own to respond to Oswego State’s in the first period.

However, it took the home side just 1:03 to retake the lead on the first goal of the season for senior Mike Montagna. Neil carried the puck to the goal line, left of the net, and slid it through the crease right on to Montagna’s stick for the finish.

An interference call on sophomore Josh Timpano at 3:35 put SUNY Cortland up a man for the fifth time on the night. But, a tripping call on McCann after just 1:42 on the man advantage killed the momentum carried by the visitors. The Red Dragons finished the night 0-for-7 on the power play.

A penalty kill that was middle of the pack last season, Oswego State’s units have allowed just two goals on 14 opportunities, thus far in the new season. Gosek has noticed the change and credits it to his assistant coach.

“We’ve wanted to improve on it. I think Coach Digby has done a good job with some of the areas we thought we needed to work on, when we went over every single power play goal we gave up last year, looking for tendencies or looking for things we need to change,” Gosek said. “I think Mark has done a good job of communicating and getting both units on the same page.”

From there, Oswego State retook control for good. At 8:25, Galati, the Lakers best power play threat throughout the 2013-2014 season, picked up his first goal of the season on the man advantage.

With Antonik in the box for tripping, Gosek called a timeout to set up his power play. Less than a minute later, Neil found Galati for the eventual game-winner.

The Lakers finished the evening 3-for-7 when up a man, and Neil was very pleased with the play of the man advantage.

“Well, that’s our go-to play on the power play,” Neil said. “We talk about it all the time. Botts bringing it down low to me and then I send it to Hulsh or G back door. We had a couple power plays after that and didn’t execute that play, but the coaches let us know. So, we knew we had to get out there and get a goal.”

Oswego State threatened on a power play directly following Galati’s goal, but its sixth, and final, tally of the night came off the stick of Botten, who buried his third goal of the season while falling over in the heart of the slot.

The Red Dragons put away one more goal with 37.2 seconds remaining in the contest, but did not have a second comeback in them.

With tonight’s win, the Lakers improve to 3-0-0 on the season, both overall and in SUNYAC play, while SUNY Cortland drops to 0-2-1.

Oswego State returns to the ice next season for two non-conference tilts at home as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the men’s ice hockey program. The Lakers two opponents are SUNY Canton featuring Eric Witzel, a transfer from Oswego State, on Nov. 14 and Nazareth College, coached by former Laker head coach George Roll, on Nov. 15. Puck drop is 7 p.m. on each night.