Laker Ledger: Core four already among best ever

Heading into the 2013-2014 season, on top of replacing the seniors of the Class of 2013, a question on the minds of many was how Oswego State was going to replace the line of Paul Rodrigues, Luke Moodie and Jon Whitelaw. On Feb. 6, 2015, we have four names to answer that inquiry: Kenny Neil, Shawn Hulshof, Matt Galati and Alex Botten.

Between the fall of 2009 and spring of 2013, Rodrigues, Moodie and Whitelaw scored 166 goals and tallied 238 assists for a total of 404 points. Their consistency made them a staple of the Laker offense during their tenure and paced the team to 99 wins, four NCAA Frozen Fours, four SUNYAC regular season titles and two SUNYAC tournament titles.

In the Class of 2017, head coach Ed Gosek brought in 18 talented skaters who had the ability and potential to fill the shoes of the graduated line of Nos. 7, 10 and 14. While many have come on since the run to last season’s Frozen Four in Lewiston, Neil, Hulshof, Galati and Botten have stood out above the rest in terms of producing at the level of their predecessors.

The four have combined for 93 goals and 125 assists, already amassing 218 points, which is more than half the points Rodrigues, Moodie and Whitelaw had in their four seasons. Knock on wood: Botten and Galati have the potential to eclipse the 100-point mark by the end of junior year. Such statistics speak to the argument that this Laker offense is even more potent than the years of the Class of 2013.

From their efficiency on the power play, where they’re a part of the same unit, to three of the four being on the same line (Galati, Neil and Botten), the four sophomores have become one of the nation’s best team cores.

In fact, during the 2014-2015 season, the four have evolved as players and become even more effective.

Galati has 15 assists through 18 games after only tallying 12 all of last season. His increased play-creating ability makes him tougher to defend as he becomes more than a goal-scoring threat.

Hulshof had just 20 points all of last season and already has 28 thus far this season, ranking in the top 10 among Div. III players. He is the most balanced offensive player on the squad.

Botten continues to be the best playmaker on the team with his speed and high ice hockey IQ. He has scored big goals, such as the sixth goal in last season’s SUNYAC championship. His 45 assists in the last two seasons are the most of any Laker. His 21 assists so far this season are the third-most in the country.

Neil, who tore his medial collateral ligament right before Valentine’s Day last season, has come back just as strong for his sophomore campaign. He had 26 points through 24 games and was considered on pace for a point total similar to Botten and Galati. A grinder and playmaker, he is right back to tallying points at the same clip.

All four sophomores are a threat to explode on any given weekend, like Hulshof did against Buffalo State and SUNY Fredonia when he went for six points in two games.

The worries of replacing Rodrigues, Moodie and Whitelaw are long gone. Hulshof, Neil, Botten and Galati have already etched their names in Oswego State men’s ice hockey lore. More SUNYAC titles and Frozen Four appearances seem inevitable, along with individual accolades– even a national championship perhaps.