Lakers fall short in high-scoring NCAA quarterfinal

Adrian College goalie Scott Shackell (41) follows Oswego State's offensive play as senior Laker Mike Montagna chases down the puck. Shackell finished with 31 saves in the Bulldogs' 5-4 victory in the NCAA Quarterfinals in Adrian, Mich. (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian)
Adrian College goalie Scott Shackell (41) follows Oswego State’s offensive play as senior Laker Mike Montagna chases down the puck. Shackell finished with 31 saves in the Bulldogs’ 5-4 victory in the NCAA Quarterfinals in Adrian, Mich. (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian)

Adrian, Mich.–No. 1 Adrian scored two quick goals at the end of the second period to swing momentum en route to a 5-4 win over No. 6 Oswego State in the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday night.

The goals came from freshman Matthew Thompson and senior Ryan Lowe as the Bulldogs gained the lead for good, earning a spot in next weekend’s NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey Frozen Four at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn.

“Adrian’s a very good team. The mistakes we made they capitalized on,” said Laker head coach Ed Gosek. “It’s a game of momentum. That two minute burst at the end of the second was probably the difference in the game.”

Oswego State trailed by two goals two different times during the final 11 minutes of play but cut the deficit back to one each time, nearly tying the contest back up on several opportunities each time.

“They’re a resilient group and it starts with our leadership,” Gosek said. “Denton King’s not here. But, Bobby and Nick have done an outstanding job keeping the guys focused and I think that the lessons that they’ve learned from the previous three NCAA Tournaments made them understand what it takes and what it’s about.”

The game received goals from nine different players in a rematch of a 2013 quarterfinal won by Oswego State in overtime, 3-2.

“I think you learn from a group like that. Two years ago, Oswego was so strong and had a lot of seniors,” said Adrian senior captain Duston Hebebrand. “They were so dominant. They kept coming and coming. Now, we’re in their position and it felt good to just come out on top with a full team effort. We had four lines going all night long, which definitely gave us the victory.”

The defeat snapped the Lakers’ streak of five straight Frozen Four appearances, as well as the team’s stretch of five straight 20-win seasons.

“It’s not a fluke. It’s a consistent process that the players learn,” Gosek said. “They have to instill that in the younger kids that come for it to continue. You have to have people that are willing to sacrifice and put their own personal interest behind the team or else the team falls apart in a hurry.”

The Bulldogs came out and won the battle through the opening five minutes of the first period. A majority of the frame was played in front of Laker goalie Matt Zawadzki’s net with the sophomore making 12 saves. That being said, he let one shot in to open up the scoring at 7:31.

Oswego State sophomore Shawn Hulshof skates along the halfboards during Saturday night's NCAA Quarterfinals against Adrian College. Hulshof, the SUNYAC Player of the Year, tallied an assist in the contest to end the season with 42 points (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian).
Oswego State sophomore Shawn Hulshof skates along the halfboards during Saturday night’s NCAA Quarterfinals against Adrian College. Hulshof, the SUNYAC Player of the Year, tallied an assist in the contest to end the season with 42 points (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian).

After Oswego State covered its defensive zone well early on, Thompson controlled the puck behind the Lakers’ net and found fellow rookie Kyle Brothers in front for the game’s first goal. The tally was his 24th of the year, tying him for the Div. III lead.

The lead did not last long as the visitors struck back less than three minutes later as the sophomore line of Matt Galati, Kenny Neil and Alex Botten continued its hot play during the NCAA Tournament.

Senior defenseman Mike Wills fed Galati the puck on the goal line to the right of the net where he through a shot on net from a low angle. Bulldogs’ senior goalie Scott Shackell was unable to cover the puck up and Neil was in front to poke it into the back of the net, tying the game.

The Lakers earned their first lead of the game with the period winding down and Adrian’s Josh Ranalli in the penalty box for hooking. The team’s second-ranked power play broke through just 24 seconds into the opportunity off a Galati one-timer from the left circle.

Oswego State carried the momentum into the second frame, but it was the team’s defense that controlled the majority of play.

The Lakers covered their defensive zone and disrupted passing lanes throughout the 20 minutes keeping the Bulldogs’ offense at bay. But, that control ended as the period entered its final two minutes with Adrian opening up the scoring on the penalty kill.

The hosts sent Grant Telfer to the box for charging at 17:07 after the senior sent Lakers’ senior captain Bobby Gertsakis into the Bulldogs’ bench. The call sent the power play unit of Galati, Neil, Botten Gertsakis and Shawn Hulshof back on the ice. However, the second time around, the Lakers were unable to get into a rhythm.

With 44 seconds remaining on the man advantage opportunity, Thompson poked the puck away from Galati at the point starting a one-on-none shorthanded break. The freshman tallied a goal of his own, his 22nd on the season, to tie the game.

Adrian swung the momentum with its equalizer and just over a minute later closed the period’s scoring on a goal by Lowe. Freshman defenseman Jake Flegel sent the puck to Lowe at the backdoor from the opposite halfboards for the finish, giving Adrian a 3-2 lead heading to the final intermission.

Early on in the third period, the Lakers went on the penalty kill for a fourth, and final time, when Botten was sent to the box for boarding. The visitors successfully killed off the power play chance, finishing the night 4-for-4.

The play of Oswego State’s special teams return the game to a more back and forth pace at the start of the period. Yet, it was the Bulldogs that started the frame’s scoring with their third consecutive goal at 8:59 off the stick of Rob Heath.

Heath, who had played in just three of the team’s previous 10, was in the lineup in place of sophomore Brett Pinkerton. Pinkerton played in 27 games as a freshman and had played in six of the team’s last 10.

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Oswego State sophomore goaltender Matt Zawadzki made 27 saves in his final start of the season on Saturday night. Zawadzki finished his second season in Oswego with a record of 12-4-2 (Seamus Lyman | The Oswegonian).

“Rob’s worked hard in practice and he hasn’t always been in the lineup,” Krug said. “He had a really good week this week and Pinks hasn’t had the season I think he hoped, maybe he’s been in a sophomore slump a little bit. But, it was kind of nice that Robbie was able to come in the lineup, for not being in every game, and pitching in with a huge goal for us.”

The Lakers cut the deficit back to one a little under five minutes later with an unassisted goal by senior assistant captain Nick Rivait. But, Adrian ballooned its lead to two once again with a tally 1:02 after Rivat’s from Daniel Lisi.

Gosek shifted his lineup as the game wound down putting his top power play unit out in an even strength situation.

The Lakers got to within one goal one last time as senior Mike Montagna stuffed home a rebound off Hulshof’s initial shot with 1:39 to play. Gosek then pulled Zawadzki for the final 60 seconds, but a fifth goal never came even as his team pressured the Bulldogs net.

The win punched Adrian’s second ticket to its second Frozen Four in program history and sets up a meeting between the Bulldogs and Trinity College of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in Minneapolis. The other semifinal will feature Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Amherst College, the second NESCAC team to reach Minnesota.

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