The Oswego State women’s ice hockey team defeated the Stevenson University Mustangs 2-0 on Friday night to give the Lakers their 100th win in program history, all under head coach Diane Dillon.
“It’s exciting,” Dillon said. “It’s a major milestone for the program and we’re happy about that. It’s wonderful for all of the young women who played for the program and I’m really happy this group of young women got it.”
Dillon has been coach since the 2006-2007 season, and is excited to have reached this point in her career.
“It takes time to build,” Dillon said, recalling how it was the first year she was coach. “You have to stick to the vision.”
Dillon credits the administration for helping her reach this success and patience with the program.
“They understood that we were building,” Dillon said. “We only started off with eight wins the first year. You have to have the support of your administration. The hockey community and Coach [Ed] Gosek of the men’s team have always been supportive of us. With the president, the AD, and the facility, it’s all been building every year.”
While Dillon said it was on her mind, she did not let it get in the way too much.
“A lot of people have been asking me about it, but it really wasn’t the focus,” Dillon said. “I don’t mean to minimize it, but it’s really about this season and where we are in our progression toward the playoffs.”
The first period woes continued for the Lakers as they failed to take a lead into the second period for the fourth straight game.
In the second period, Brianna Rice scored her 12th goal of the season 15:12 into the period. Rice now leads the team in goals, and is second in points with 20, two behind Olivia Ellis’ 22 points. The power play goal was the 16th of the season, and the 10th in the last 29 chances.
Erika Truschke passed the puck to Lizzy Marks, who was very wide in the slot, almost even with the goal. Then Marks sent a pass right across the ice to Rice who was standing near the crease and put the puck in the back of the net.
“She’s a giant out there,” Dillon said about Rice, who is the tallest player on the team at six-feet-tall. “She can be a real force, but she’s one of the nicest and sweetest young women you will ever meet. She’s having a nice year.”
Although they were only one for six on power play opportunities Friday night, the Lakers still scored at a higher percentage than Stevenson was allowing all year, which was only nine percent.
“It’s starting to come together, and most importantly, they believe in what we are doing,” Dillon said. “Even though we were only one for six, we had two or three really good opportunities. For me, as a coach, when you’re getting those scoring chances, you’re still accomplishing something.”
Ellis added a second goal in the third period to give the Lakers a 2-0 cushion, with Andrea Noss on the assist. With Bridget Smith in goal, that is all they needed. Smith collected her sixth shutout of the season and saved 20 shots in the process.
“We gave Tori (Trovato) a couple games last weekend, so she hadn’t really been in the net too often,” Dillon said. “So I think for her to get focused mentally again with the routine of game day, preparation, and come up with another shutout, it does everything for her. Anytime she is in the net, we know we have a chance to win.”
As a senior, Dillon reflected on her progression during her four years at Oswego and the improvements she’s made.
“It’s wonderful for Bridget,” Dillon said. “Coming in during her freshman and sophomore years, she got a good chunk of playing time. Junior year she had Tori playing so there was more competition in the net, and she was struggling with a few things. To see her progression through four years, and how it’s supposed to be, and I’m glad to see that her senior year.”
With the win the Lakers improve to 17-4-1, while their ECAC West Conference record remains the same at 12-3-1. With the loss, the Mustangs fall to 16-7-1.
Although it was a non-conference game, Stevenson was a test and a tough opponent for the Lakers. Dillon was confident on her team moving forward.
The Lakers will finish up the weekend series Saturday at 3 p.m. at home.
“We’re going to try and work with a few more things offensively,” Dillon noted, as she is also trying to prepare for next weekend’s matchup against No.1 Elmira. “Although it’s a non-conference game, we’re a week away from Elmira and two weeks away from a playoff game.”
Saturday is also Senior Day for Oswego State, where goalie Bridget Smith will be recognized.
“This is an important weekend for her,” Dillon said. “She’s going to deny it and say it’s just another game, but tomorrow is her last regular season home game.”
“We’re a machine now. We’re here to go to work and keep operating in the way it is effective for us,” Dillon said. “We just have to make sure we are doing the things that we do very well and getting those things down. During playoff times, the emotions can get the best of you, so have to have the execution down, and that is what we are focusing on.”