In the finale of the Pink the Rink weekend, Oswego State completed the sweep of Buffalo State with a 8-1 victory. The Lakers expanded their lead over the Bengals for third in the conference standings to five points.
The first period was all Oswego State, and the Lakers took control of the game and did not ease up. In the span of 10:30, the Lakers scored four goals, all by different players, from a variety of angles.
The first goal potted by freshman Sarah Grupp, her first collegiate goal, and was the final breakthrough after a couple of shots early that did not get in.
By the end of the period, Laura Thacker, Brianna Rice and Lizzy Marks all lit the lamp to complete the frame’s scoring.
The Lakers kept up the pressure in the second period as sophomores Ashley Lyman and Erika Truschke hooked up for a pair of goals that increased the lead to six. Lyman assisted both goals to Truschke.
“We’re into the second half of the season, things are starting to gel,” Head coach Diane Dillon said. “This younger team is starting to come together, and it takes time.”
Senior goalie Bridget Smith surrendered her only goal in the second period when Nikki Kirchberger went top shelf, just getting the puck over Smith’s outreached arm. Smith finished with 28 saves in the game.
The third period brought many penalties, giving the Lakers another opportunity to score, which they capitalized on twice. Buffalo State committed five penalties in third, seven total, and gave the Lakers a huge advantage. The tallies were buried by Andrea Noss and Alli Ulrich. Dillon commented on how it was a great advantage to her team.
“You saw how many penalties Buffalo State committed, and it really hurt them,” Dillon said.
With the extent of the penalties in the game, Dillon also commented on the severity of them and the impact they had on the players in the game.
“Buffalo State has always been a physical team. My comment to the ref is that I wanted to make sure we are protecting my players,” Dillon said. “These women don’t grow up playing check hockey. They’re not prepared for it. To me, it’s about calling a fair game, of course. But it was the stuff after the whistle, sticks, hits to the head.”
The Lakers did on Saturday what has eluded them for a majority of the season, be efficient on offense.
Power plays have clearly been holding this team back. Coming into this weekend, the Lakers were one of the worst teams in power play efficiency, scoring only six goals on 58 chances. However, in the last two games, the Lakers have almost matched their total of power play goals, scoring five times in 11 chances.
“The more you work at something, the better you get,” Dillon said. “We’re a lot harder to play against now. That’s something I’ve been preaching all season: discipline. We have to make sure we’re the ones on the power play, not them. We really talk about making teams pay the price.”
Dillon continued on how scheme and strategy have led to the improvement of the team overall.
“The college game is a special teams game. It always has been,” Dillon said. “We have two power play units coming together, and we have two different looks, so it’s harder to play against us. Buffalo State tried it too but we were pretty good at picking it up because we play against two different units in practice. Anytime you have a special teams situation, it’s a chance to change the momentum or the course of the game. That’s the kind of mentality our team is playing with.”
With the victory, the Lakers now have created a cushion for themselves in the standings, and now lead the Bengals by five points.
“I think everyone can take a big deep breath. We’re certainly not out of the woods. Woth these four points we gained, it makes it very difficult for Potsdam, Cortland, or any other teams to catch us,” Dillon said. “We still have Elmira, we still have a game against Utica, which is always a tough game, and we have two against William Smith. We really needed to win these games.”
In ECAC West news, No. 2 Elmira College defeated top-ranked SUNY Plattsburgh, ending their perfect season, and possibly shaking up the standings not only in the conference, but also in the national ranking. Dillon’s reaction was simple.
Oswego State plays Elmira in the final two games of the regular season, at Elmira. While Dillon does not want to get too far ahead of herself, she said she has thought about the game.
“We’re using the analogy of climbing Mount Everest. That’s where it gets really tough,” Dillon said. “Everything gets more tough and you have to be more focused and it is harder and harder to accomplish what you’re trying to do.”
Oswego State still has a trio of conference games coming up within the next week. They travel to Utica to play a rescheduled game. Then next weekend the Lakers have a home and home series with William Smith College on Saturday and Sunday.