Last weekend, No. 2 Oswego State (13-2-3, 8-1-1) held off SUNY Cortland, 7-4. The win, along with losses by St. Norbert College and Trinity College, helped the Lakers leapfrog the Knights and Bantams to the No. 2 in this week’s USCHO.com poll. Now, they have their annual two-game series with the Morrisville Mustangs ahead. With the SUNYAC playoffs around the corner, every win is crucial as the Lakers chase home ice throughout the conference championships.
In their seventh season in the conference, the Mustangs have already reached their second-highest points in conference total in program history. Their 12 points are five shy of tying the program record set during the 2010-2011 season. But, more importantly, those 12 points have the Mustangs tied with SUNY Geneseo for third in the SUNYAC.
In this season’s installment of Lakers v. Mustangs ice hockey, the Mustangs are still underdogs, but the combination of their track record at the Marano Campus Center Arena and their season-to-date suggest this weekend will be tough points earned by the Lakers.
Just how tough is Morrisville State when it travels to Oswego? By comparison, the average margin of victory for Oswego State in Morrisville is four goals as opposed to just two when playing at home. Also of note, the overall series record favors the Lakers 12-1-2. The Mustangs’ one win and each tie were games played at the Marano Campus Center Arena. Not to mention, the breakdown in the Mustangs’ last three trips to Oswego is: Oswego State 3-Morrisville 2 (February 2013), Oswego State 3-Morrisville 3 (November 2011), Morrisville State 5- Oswego State 2 (February 2011).
This season, the Mustangs’ offense ranks among the top 20 in Division III at 3.45 goals per game. The attack is led by sophomores Joseph Santino (9-12-21) and Darren Young (4-14-18). However, parity in scoring is a major factor in the team’s success as well. Eight Mustangs have five goals or more this season and 13 have five or more assists.
Morrisville State has the third-best scoring offense in conference play, only behind Oswego State and SUNY Plattsburgh. On top of that, the team has even dropped down into the middle of both the SUNYAC and nation overall in terms of penalty minutes. Yet, a lack of defensive consistency, which is a staple of the program’s inadequacy, has tripped the team up and kept it from breaking out.
The Mustangs have allowed four or more goals in 12 of their 20 contests, and two or fewer just five times. For a team averaging between three and four goals a game, defense has been an Achille’s heal. Against an opponent like Oswego State, this will be exposed and exploited.
The Lakers have the highest scoring offense in the entire nation and are led by four sophomores with the ability to create chances and score at will. Even though Kenny Neil will be out of the lineup on Friday night, transfer John Jackson jumps up onto the top line with Alex Botten and Matt Galati and will fill the role nicely. Jackson is a talent wing who works hard from start to finish on each shift and has a knack for finding the open man, much like Neil.
Oswego State will be without freshman goalie Matt Zawadzki on Friday night as he is rested following a minor injury that came about during last Saturday’s game at SUNY Cortland. The absence of Zawadzki will not be much of a setback with junior Justin Gilbert as a formidable back up. Gilbert has allowed less than two goals a game in seven starts this season.
The Mustangs may hang around on Friday and make a game of it, but the offensive prowess enjoyed by the Lakers historically in this matchup will win the night.
By the numbers
1-In 17 match ups over the last eight seasons, the Mustangs have knocked off the Lakers once. The 5-2 victory came on February 12, 2011 at the Marano Campus Center Arena.
3-Oswego State has allowed five goals to Morrisville State four times. Three of the those four occurrences were games played in Oswego.
8-Morrisville State has only had a men’s ice hockey program for eight seasons, seven of them as a member of the SUNYAC and one as a Div. III independent.
Scoring/Special Teams Breakdown
Oswego State: 5.06 goals per game (1st in Division III)
Morrisville State: 3.45 goals per game (T-18th in Division III)
Oswego State: 2.28 goals per game (T-15th in Division III)
Morrisville State: 3.80 goals per game (59th in Division III)
Oswego State: 32.81 percent [21-of-64] (2nd in Division III)
Morrisville State: 17.50 percent [14-of-80] (41st in Division III)
Oswego State: 81.50 percent [44-of-54] (37th in Division III)
Morrisville State: 81.40 percent [70 of 86] (38th in Division III)
Oswego State: Justin Gilbert (4-1-2/1.59 GAA/.934 save percentage)
Morrisville State: Steven Dombrosky (6-7-4/3.93 GAA/.885 save percentage)
Player to Watch: Oswego State freshman forward David Ferreira
Prediction: 7-3 Oswego State