Earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament and winning a conference title are both impressive feats, but the Lakers accomplished both in one game via a 4-0 victory over rival SUNY Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC Championship.
The game on Saturday was won in spectacular fashion. Not only was the win a shutout against Oswego State’s archrival, but also the game took place on head coach Ed Gosek’s birthday, giving him any coach’s dream birthday present.
“I told the boys we’re not gonna lose this one,” senior goaltender Andrew Hare said. “And I was telling myself today it would be unreal if I could shut them out…this is one of the times it actually worked.”
The victory against the Cardinals was also a sweet one for Oswego State since the Lakers lost both regular season match ups against the rival.
Not only do the Lakers have another SUNYAC title to add to the program’s list of accomplishments but now the Lakers are headed to their fourth straight NCAA Division III Men’s Hockey Tournament. They will play a quarterfinal game at Adrian College in Michigan on Saturday.
The SUNYAC championship game started off loaded with action, and both teams were getting opportunities during some back-and-forth action.
Plattsburgh goaltender Mathieu Cadieux started strong, as expected from the First Team All-SUNYAC goalie.
Two early penalties on Plattsburgh challenged the Oswego State offense and neither power play was able to produce any quality chances.
When the tables turned and Oswego State took a tripping penalty, Plattsburgh turned up the offensive pressure, but Hare and the defense were able to shut the Cardinals down.
Despite Plattsburgh’s efforts on the power play, Oswego State got the first goal, the eventual game winner, at 15:12 of the period.
Senior forward Tyler Leimbrock shot the puck over Cadieux’s left shoulder after getting the puck on a pretty passing play. The 3-on-2 play had junior forward David Titanic sending the puck to senior forward Matt Singleton who delivered it to Leimbrock for the goal.
“I just chipped it back to Titanic and he made a great play to Singleton and Singleton slid it over to me and all I had to do was put it in the net,” Leimbrock said. “It made my job pretty easy.”
After the goal the game began to feel more intense, with Oswego State now defending its lead and Plattsburgh determined to tie it up.
In the second period the goalies continued to shine, as the teams went back-and-forth for the first 10 minutes of the frame.
At 10:07, Oswego State took a penalty and, on the subsequent power play, the Cardinals would have tied up the game if not for the heroics of Hare and senior defenseman Zach Josepher.
Plattsburgh forward Kevin Emmerling nearly scored when the puck rolled along the Oswego State goal line. Fortunately for the Lakers, both Hare and Josepher got to the puck before any Cardinal could or before the puck rolled over into the net.
Oswego State doubled its lead to two during a delayed penalty call at 18:29 when a bounce off a skate in front surprised Cadieux and ended with the puck in the net. Senior forward Luke Moodie took the shot and senior forwards Chris Brown and Jon Whitelaw both assisted the goal.
“Goals by Moodie…like the one off the foot, yeah maybe it’s lucky, but that’s what happens in the playoffs,” Leimbrock said. “You get the puck to the net and it works out well for the most part.”
“Lucky goal, but I’ll take it,” Moodie said.
In the third period the Lakers improved their lead by another goal, virtually putting Plattsburgh in do-or-die mode.
Senior forward Chris Muise stole the puck from a Plattsburgh defenseman in the Lakers’ offensive zone, which started the play that lead to the goal. With the Lakers now having possession, the puck eventually made its way to Moodie in front, and he was able to bury it home. Assists on the goal went to Muise and Brown.
The game took a strange turn about halfway through the period when the Lakers took a penalty and Plattsburgh pulled Cadieux, keeping him on the bench for nearly three and a half minutes.
The Cardinals put on the pressure during that period; keeping the puck in Oswego State’s offensive end for most of the time.
Finally after more than three minutes of the Plattsburgh net being empty, the Lakers were able to score. Whitelaw, with senior forward Paul Rodrigues getting an assist, scored the empty net effort.
“I don’t know if I’d do it,” Gosek said of the move to pull Cadieux. “But I give [Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery] credit. He’s trying to change momentum and get one.”
For the last seven minutes of the period, Hare and the Lakers were able to keep the shutout alive, with Hare blocking everything that threatened the net.
As the final seconds counted down, the Lakers held the puck in the zone, and as the buzzer sounded the celebration began with every Oswego State player and fan cheering with excitement over the Lakers’ latest SUNYAC Champion title.
Plattsburgh’s Cadieux finished with 29 saves, still a respectable game despite allowing three goals. However, Oswego State’s goaltender was the star of the night in net.
Not only did Hare earn the shutout, his fourth of the season, but he was also awarded SUNYAC Tournament Most Valuable Player in the 30-save perfect performance.
“[Hare] had the best game probably since he’s been here tonight,” Moodie said. “He made big saves, but as a team effort that’s
probably the best team effort we’ve had.”
Although Hare was the most notable star, the entire Laker team played an impeccable game that required both mental focus and physical prowess.
“It was a three hour commitment to have the right focus to get the job done,” Gosek said.
According to Moodie, everything lined up right tonight for the Lakers, resulting in one of their best performances ever, which came fittingly in the conference finale.
“We said if we play our game we will be successful, and that’s what happened tonight,” Moodie said. “That game’s probably the best game I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here for four years.”
Looking ahead, Hare and the Lakers know every game going forward will require the same type of performance.
“The past two games have gone good for me so hopefully I can keep it going for the next three or four,” Hare said.