Knights capitalize in third to steal victory

Oswego State freshman Mitch Herlihey streaks along the boards during Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to SUNY Geneseo at the Marano Campus Center Arena (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian).
Oswego State freshman Mitch Herlihey streaks along the boards during Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to SUNY Geneseo at the Marano Campus Center Arena (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian).

SUNY Geneseo served No. 5 Oswego State its first loss of the 2014-2015 season on its home ice Tuesday night, 2-1.

After 41 minutes of scoreless play, the Knights broke through during a five-minute power play opportunity to get the scoring started. They scored once more to put the game away and move ahead of the Lakers into second place in the SUNYAC standings by a single point.

Oswego State played three games in five days without a victory and although Tuesday night was its first loss head coach Ed Gosek was still pleased with his team’s performance.

“I thought it was our best one of the three,” Gosek said. “We competed hard, our unforced turnovers were minimized and I just think their goalie played extremely well. We outshot them two to one, and it was like ours were shots from outside. There were some Grade A chances from in tight there.”

The Lakers put senior goaltender Nick Horrigan to the test right from the start of the opening period of play. The home side managed 15 shots in the first 20 minutes, and Horrigan stopped each and every one. The senior finished the night with 29 saves out of 30 shots faced.

While Oswego State held a major advantage in shots, 15 to 3, the Knights were the quicker and stronger side in the period. The Lakers held the zone for much of the frame, but when SUNY Geneseo broke out sophomore Matt Zawadzki and the Laker defense felt the pressure. The top line combination of sophomore Stephen Collins and senior Tyler Brickler nearly connected on several occasions.

Tuesday night was Zawadzki’s second straight start after being benched on opening night at Buffalo State. He struggled against Utica College on Saturday, but Gosek thought his sophomore goaltender responded well.

“I thought he tracked the puck well and made a big glove save in the first period when we turned it over,” Gosek said. “We only gave them three shots in the first period, one was a good one and I thought he played well. That’s a positve and we need to get him going. We need to get him up to speed and keep him going in that mode.”

Oswego State’s power play, third-best in Div. III, was given two opportunities in the first period with David Ripple and Jack Ceglarski sent to the box for hooking and too many men on the ice offenses, respectively. It was able to get off six shots between the two chances, but neither power play unit was able to connect on a pass in front as the Lakers were held goalless in the first.

The Knights held the puck in their offensive zone for much of the opening minutes of the second period, including during their first power play opportunity of the evening. But, the Laker penalty kill was up to the task.

Following being shorthanded, sophomore Shawn Hulshof was able to get a shot off from the left circle, yet, like most of the Lakers chances in the first two periods, he was unable to settle it for a clean look.

Soon after, the Knights were back on the power play as sophomore Kenny Neil headed to the bin for board. Oswego State was able to keep the visitors out of the offensive zone for a good portion of the two minutes, even managing a shorthanded breakaway by junior Brandon Adams.

Right before the 10-minute mark of the frame, it appeared as though SUNY Geneseo was going to break through, but Laker senior captain Bobby Gertsakis was able to tangle up the lone Knights’ stick as he looked at a wide-open right side of Zawadzki’s net.

With 1:22 left in the frame, Oswego State lost sophomore Andrew Barton for the remainder of the game as he was assessed a five-minute major penalty for roughing and then a game misconduct along with it, causing his ejection from the game. Gosek had his thoughts on the events, but did not see it the way the official did.

“We watched it,” Gosek said. “He’s choked up on his stick to take the draw, puck goes to the corner, he turns around with his stick, sliding his hand up the shaft and he hits the kid in the chest and the referee calls it a butt end. He’s not even looking at the kid and I don’t even think he knows the kid is there. That’s my take on it. Obviously, the referee has his take on it. I agree to disagree with him.”

The Knights began the third with 3:38 left on their power play and exactly a minute into the final frame senior Tyler Brickler finally buried the game’s first goal with a backhander to give his team the lead. Freshman Mitch Herlihey lost his stick in the neutral zone as the Knights gained possession. When he skated after it, he gave up a five on three opportunity to the visitors and they struck.

The Lakers had to shift up their line up as the game went on and injuries and the loss of Barton factored into the game plan. Gosek recognized the impact it had on his side.

“Well, there were some injuries,” Gosek said. “As the game went on, we had to make adjustments so we had a lot of guys playing with different people. We lost some of the continuity there. You lose Barton to the penalty, Galati’s groins bothering him, we have other guys with wrists and shoulders and they’re trying to give us what they can. So, the lines became all scrambled and tried to not over play a lot of guys and tried making sure we had something left in the third.”

Just over two minutes later, with 26 seconds remaining on the Lakers’ five-minute major call, sophomore Stephen Johnson illegally covered up a puck in the crease after blocking a shot by SUNY Geneseo sophomore Stephen Collins as Zawadzki vacated the net. The play gave the visitors a penalty shot opportunity, which head coach Chris Schultz chose Brickler to take. The senior carried the puck to the right pipe and sent a backhander on net that was easily caught by Zawadzki.

The Lakers created a few chances in the minutes following their return to full strength, and even got a third power play opportunity at the 8:21 mark with Brickler sent off for interference. However, their usually reliable power play continued to struggle as it finished the game 0-for-3. Gosek was optimistic even through the struggles on the man advantage.

“Well, I thought they still had pretty good puck movement,” Gosek said. “I thought we had chances. We had looks. Again, we shot some over the net. We shot some into them. Last week, or two weeks ago, those shots were going in and today they hit them in the chest or were going over the net or we shoot them wide or they get a skate or stick on them. That happens. If we weren’t getting chance, we’d be upset or looking to change some things, but when you’re getting good looks and getting good opportunities you can’t ask for anything more. Pucks weren’t falling tonight.”

A few minutes later, SUNY Geneseo expanded its lead to two. Zawadzki went out behind the net to collect the puck, but it bounced off the boards and back to the front of the net. The sophomore skated back to his crease to make the save and lost the puck behind himself as he appeared to tip it in off his skate. The goal was awarded to sophomore defenseman Derek Stahl.

The second Knights goal seemed that it was going to be the game’s final tally, yet sophomore Laker defenseman Chris Raguseo was able to put home his second goal in as many games as the final buzzer sounded to bring the game to its final score.

Even in defeat, Gosek knows the road ahead is still long and the Lakers need to refocus quickly for a few tough road games ahead of them.

“At this point in the season, we move forward and, hey, we sharpen our pencil, we’ll review the film, we’ll continue to talk to the guys and show video. It’s a long season,” Gosek said. “We don’t need to be our best right now. We need to be our best at the end of the year. Not that we don’t want to be our best right now, but these things are going to happen. So, more importantly, is how we react. That’s not an easy task going up to the North Country. Both those teams are playing extremely well and being a young team that we are still, relatively, you shake the confidence a little bit and you’ve got to get that back. I hope tonight they have that because they really deserve better than what they got.”

The Lakers have 10 days off before returning the ice for their final weekend of play for the fall semester. Their next contest is scheduled for Dec. 5 at SUNY Plattsburgh.