The NCAA Div. III Men’s Ice Hockey Championship brings a brand-new season for all 12 teams. For the Oswego State Lakers (SUNYAC) and the Hamilton College Continentals (NESCAC) it brings a second chance. Both programs lost in their respective conference championship game but earned a Pool C bid. Tonight the slate is wiped clean, and the only thing that matters is staying alive for the next round.
Strength vs. Strength
The third-ranked offense is going head-to-head with the third-ranked defense in the nation. The Lakers have faced high-ranked defenses before though. Buffalo State is one example and Oswego State failed to beat the Bengals on the road on Dec. 10. They corrected that later on, beating the Bengals twice by a combined score of 12-3.
The NESCAC, as a whole, is not the same offensively-driven conference as the Lakers. So, this matchup will be intriguing to see which style prevails. Oswego State is no slouch on defense either. They allow under two goals a game and are ranked inside the top five in that statistic, which may give them the edge.
The Lakers will need an early goal tonight. The game will slowly slip the Continentals’ way if the Lakers are held off the scoresheet late into the game. An early power play goal will really get the Lakers’ offense going. And once the floodgates open, teams do not come back from that.
That is easier said than done with the back end and goaltender the Continentals will bring into the Marano Campus Center. Hamilton College owns the third best penalty killing unit in the nation, and the Lakers’ power play was spotty in the 1-6 showing they had in the SUNYAC final.
Special teams will be the difference maker tonight. It is hard to win any games, let alone playoff games like this one, with the power play and penalty kill not having a solid outing.
Three new forwards will slot in tonight, but all lines saw a major shake up. Aaron Huffnagle, Joey Scorpio and Josh Zizek are the three drawing in for Cameron Berry, Jody Sullivan and Mitch Emerson. The top six as a whole looks a lot like the lineup ran out there regularly in the early portion of the schedule. The defensive pairs will stay put.
The trio of Alex Botten, Kenny Neil and Shawn Hulshof are back playing together. This line was once the top point producing line in the conference, but was broken up after the mid-season skid.
David Jacobson will start his first postseason game of his Laker career in place of Matt Zawadzki. His last appearance was in relief for Zawadzki in the regular season finale against Buffalo State. He currently is 12-2-0 on the year and sports the best winning percentage in the SUNYAC.
Evan Buitenhuis is between the pipes for Hamilton College. The junior won the NESCAC Player of the Year and was a First Team selection with his conference-leading 1.52 goals against average and .948 save percentage. Buitenhuis will need another one of his patented performances in goal tonight to keep the Continentals alive in their first ever NCAA tournament game.
Players to Watch
OSW: Matt Galati
Galati is without a goal in his last nine games. He has not played poorly though. The senior just has not been able to bury one of his heavy shots. A power play goal tonight from his patented spot above the circle will be just what the doctor ordered.
HAM: Conor Lamberti
The 6’1″ defender was a big part in the success of the defense this year for Hamilton College. Lamberti has only taken three penalties all season and is as disciplined as they come. That amount is also tied for second least on the team in skaters with at least 23 games played. He will be relied on tonight to control the prolific scorers of Oswego State.
By the Numbers
OSW: 21-5-1/13-2-1 (No. 4/5)
HAM: 19-4-4/11-3-4 (No. 9/11)
Shots per Game
Shots Allowed per Game
Goals Per Game
OSW: 4.74 [3rd in Div. III]
HAM: 3.22 [34th in Div. III]
Goals Against per Game
OSW: 1.93 [T-5th in Div. III]
HAM: 1.74 [3rd in Div. III]
OSW: 34-124 (27.4%) [4th in Div. III]
HAM: 25-155 (16.1%) [56th in Div. III]
OSW: 105-124 (84.7%) [19th in Div. III]
HAM: 85-95 (89.5%) [3rd in Div. III]
*Overall statistics from USCHO.com
As previously stated, this game is going to come down to special teams. Whoever can win that battle will be moving on in this tournament. Both goaltenders will also be key factors, especially on the penalty kill. Oswego State also seems like the team that is better suited to do so if its power play is more consistent than it was in the SUNYAC final. If the Lakers can contain the speed of the Continentals, that will be a huge component of their game taken away, giving the Lakers even more of an edge.
An empty-net goal seals it for the Lakers within the last minute.
Lakers win 4-2
*Follow @GonianSports on Twitter for full in-game updates of Oswego State’s NCAA Tournament action.