With a win this weekend in the semifinals of the ECAC West women’s ice hockey playoffs, the Oswego State Lakers would accomplish a trio of tasks they have not yet accomplished in their program’s history: defeat SUNY Plattsburgh, win at Elmira College’s home ice and head to the finals of the ECAC West.
“In a one-game format, anything can happen,” head coach Diane Dillon said.
Oswego State lost both games against SUNY Plattsburgh this year, by scores of 4-0 and 5-1. SUNY Plattsburgh was then ranked No.1 in Div. III, but is now ranked No.2.
Despite both losses, this team may be one of the best that has ever gone out on the ice in program history. Currently ranked sixth in scoring defense and 20th in scoring offense in Div. III, this team also set a program mark with 19 wins, two more than last year.
However, this upcoming contest against SUNY Plattsburgh hosts many challenges. The Cardinals rank first in the nation in scoring offense, averaging over five goals per game, and are fifth in scoring defense.
“We certainly look at tendencies and special teams,” Dillon said on what she would be looking for in film study this week.
The Lakers have come very close in recent history to upsetting the Cardinals but have not been able to capitalize on all cylinders of their game to do so. In a game where one team is the underdog, sometimes it takes an aggressive game plan to catch the other team off guard. Dillon said that she is waiting to see how the game unfolds.
“We’re planning on different scenarios for different lines, for Plattsburgh and our own, and we like to show them a couple of different looks so we are preparing for everything,” Dillon said.
The biggest strength of this Laker team, that will keep this game competitive, is their excelling play on special teams capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes and not allowing them to capitalize on their own. The Lakers are the best team in the nation at killing their opponent’s power play, and have seen an improvement at moving the puck and taking better shots in the second half of the season. A team like Oswego State can defeat anybody in the nation, if they limit penalties and continue its superior penalty kill.
“If they play well defensively,” Dillon said. “We’ll get some opportunities, but we just have to bury them. We had opportunities in the last Plattsburgh game, we just didn’t finish, or we missed rebounds, things that could have changed the outcome of the game.”
However, the matchup of the game will be both goalies, both of which are in the elite category of players between the pipes in Div. III. Bridget Smith of Oswego State was named first team All-ECAC West, and is also tied for first in the nation with a .948 save percentage, and tied for second with six shutouts. Camille Leonard of SUNY Plattsburgh earned All-ECAC West honorable mention and is tied for ninth in the nation in save percentage, and tied for second in shutouts with Smith and Trinity College freshman Sydney Belinskas.
The key for Oswego State is to keep the game a low-scoring contest. If it contains the Cardinals within the first two periods, it has a great chance to upset them. The Cardinals have scored their least amount of goals (40), and have surrendered the most (19) in the third period of their games this season. For the Lakers, it is the other way around. The Lakers are outscoring their opponents 30-7 in the third period this year, and pose a threat to any team that they are trailing or tied with after two periods. That, and also having the chance to upset the No. 2 team in the country, would also be a huge momentum shift in favor of the Lakers if they find themselves in that situation.
Team Offense –
Oswego State: 2.65 goals per game (20th nationally)
SUNY Plattsburgh: 5.12 goals per game (1st nationally)
Team Defense –
Oswego State: 1.58 goals allowed per game (6th nationally)
SUNY Plattsburgh: 1.52 goals allowed per game (5th nationally)
Power Play –
Oswego State: 19.09 percent [21-for-110] (17th nationally)
SUNY Plattsburgh: 24.18 percent [22-for-91] (4th nationally)
Penalty Kill –
Oswego State: 93.2 percent [82-for-88] (1st nationally)
SUNY Plattsburgh: 86.6 percent [71-for-82] (19th nationally)