Laker Gameday Preview: Feb. 14 at SUNY Geneseo

Forward Chris Carr shoots on a breakaway, the shot slipping past Geneseo goalie Nick Horrigan to make the score 4-1 Lakers in last season's SUNYAC Championship at SUNY Geneseo. (David Deffenbaugh | The Oswegonian)
Forward Chris Carr shoots on a breakaway, the shot slipping past Geneseo goalie Nick Horrigan to make the score 4-1 Lakers in last season’s SUNYAC Championship at SUNY Geneseo. (David Deffenbaugh | The Oswegonian)

The second-best team in Div. III men’s ice hockey, Oswego State has one blemish on its record in contests versus other Div. III teams, Nov. 25 against the SUNY Geneseo Knights.

It was a Tuesday night game at the Marano Campus Center at the tail end of a stretch where the Lakers played three games in five days. After ties against the College at Brockport and Utica College, the Knights came to Oswego seeking to avenge their loss to the Lakers in last season’s SUNYAC Championship in Geneseo. They grabbed the 2-1 win over Oswego State, but since then the two teams have gone in different directions.

The Lakers have won 10 of 12 since Nov. 25 and with a win on Saturday night would jump No. 9 SUNY Plattsburgh to take over first place in the conference. SUNY Geneseo has gone 7-5-3 and are no longer even receiving votes in the USCHO.com top 15 poll.

But, Saturday night, the Lakers return to Wilson Ice Arena for the first time since last March’s 7-6 win to take the SUNYAC title from the Knights, the conference’s regular season champion. A win for the Knights might not do much for their seeding in the conference tournament, but it could very well spoil the Lakers chances of having home-ice advantage throughout the 2015 Championships.

The key to Saturday’s matchup for SUNY Geneseo is the play of goaltender Nick Horrigan. Horrigan stood on his head in Oswego earlier this season, making 29 saves and holding the nation’s best scoring offense to one goal. However, the last time he took on the Lakers at home, he allowed five goals and was pulled with seven minutes remaining in the second period. Horrigan will also need help from an offense that, without last season’s captain Zachary Vit, has been unimpressive.

The 12th-best scoring team in Div. III last season, the Knights at this point in the current season have just one player, Tyler Brickler (10-16-26), who has eclipsed the 20-point mark. For comparison, the Lakers have six players north of 20 points and senior captain Bobby Gertsakis currently sits at 19 points.

A place where Oswego State picks up a solid portion of its five goals per game is on the power play. The Knights, 12th in the nation on the penalty kill, have caused problems for the Lakers in this facet of the game. In November, SUNY Geneseo killed off both of Oswego State’s chances before converting on a chance of their own to open the game’s scoring early in the third.

The Lakers’ defense has slowly ticked up into the top 10 in the nation in terms of scoring defense after spending much of the first half of the season in the middle of the pack. Their ability to hold down the Knights until the goals come on Saturday night will be crucial to the team’s success.

By the numbers

5-It has been five weeks since SUNY Geneseo has received a vote in the USCHO.com poll. The preseason No. 4 team in Div. III, the Knights have been absent from the polls since Jan. 5.

6-Oswego State sophomore forward Shawn Hulshof has scored a goal in six straight games dating back to Jan. 23. Hulshof leads the team with 38 points (18 goals-20 assists), which is also the fourth-most points in the nation.

22-Current members of SUNY Geneseo have contributed to 22 of the Knights’ 25 goals against Oswego State over the last four seasons.

Scoring/Special Teams Breakdown

Offense

Oswego State: 5.00 goals per game (1st in Division III)

SUNY Geneseo: 2.91 goals per game (T-43rd in Division III)

Defense

Oswego State: 2.14 goals per game (T-10th in Division III)

SUNY Geneseo: 2.14 goals per game (T-10th in Division III)

Power Play

Oswego State: 32.47 percent [25-of-77] (2nd in Division III)

SUNY Geneseo: 16.50 percent [17-of-103] (40th in Division III)

Penalty Kill

Oswego State: 82.10 percent [55-of-67] (37th in Division III)

SUNY Geneseo: 87.00 percent [87 of 100] (T-12th in Division III)

Goalie Matchup

Oswego State: Matt Zawadzki (9-1-1/2.21 GAA/.922 save percentage)

SUNY Geneseo: Nick Horrigan (9-7-3/1.70 GAA/.943 save percentage)

Player to Watch: Oswego State sophomore forward Alex Botten

Prediction: 4-3 Oswego State