The Oswego State men’s ice hockey team opened its 50th season against the USA under-18 team with a thrilling victory, 5-3.
The Lakers received goals from three different players, including a pair from sophomore transfer Joey Davies. The team picked up goals at even strength, on the man advantage and shorthanded. It last did so, as a squad, in last year’s NCAA quarterfinals at Babson College.
The USA under-18 team came out and put the pressure on the Lakers off the opening faceoff, forcing the home side to drop back in support of sophomore Matt Zawadzki. Zawadzki finished the night with 13 saves in two periods of play.
Head coach Ed Gosek felt both his goalies looked solid during their time between the pipes.
“They were both solid,” Gosek said. “They both tracked the puck well. They worked hard to see the puck coming. Coach Sears was here tonight and I’ll talk to him tomorrow to evaluate. All in all, I’m please with both of them. We want to build on that. The consistency of the goalie position is key.”
After the first few minutes, physical play along the boards, and a few rotations through the lines, helped Oswego State balance time of possession. Just minutes after sophomore Chris Waterstreet nearly beat the national team’s goalie Luke Opilka on a breakaway, sophomore transfer Joey Davies broke open the scoring for Oswego State.
At the 4:26 mark of the first, Davies was left alone at the right pipe when a puck from sophomore Dylan Smith found him. The newcomer, from University of Alaska-Fairbanks, lifted the puck past Opilka for the game’s first score.
The visitors returned with pressure similar to that of the game’s opening moments off the next faceoff and, after Zawadzki was able to stop them the first two times down, the equalizer came at 7:22 from University of Michigan commit Brendan Warren. The Carleton, Mich. native sent a wristshot straight through Zawadzki’s legs, tying the game at one.
Throughout the opening period, turnovers plagued the Lakers; however, a few turnovers by the USA under-18 side allowed Oswego State to pressure them. While, no goal came of it. It played a part in Christian Evers committing an interference penalty at 13:39 to give the home team its first power play opportunity, which sophomore Matt Galati took advantage of.
With just over six minutes to play, Galati sent a slapshot past Opilka from the left dot, off passes from junior Brandon Adams and sophomore Josh Timpano. Galati was fourth in the nation last season with nine goals on the man advantage.
Oswego State kept the pressure up but, with 29.2 seconds left in the opening frame, Grant Gabriele even the score up once again, 2-2. The assists were awarded to Jeremy Bracco and Auston Matthews.
In the middle 20 minutes of play, the Lakers were able to come out fast and control possession early. The momentum carried over into their play on the penalty kill when sophomore defenseman J.J. Hart was given two minutes for tripping. The hosts, tied for 46th in Division III last season on the penalty kill at 79.4 percent, were able to hold the national team off the board.
Gosek was very pleased with the performance of his sqaud’s shorthanded units throughout the evening.
“I thought we were aggressive when we should be aggressive,” Gosek said. “The mental part of the penalty kill was the key, forwards not drifting off out of passing lanes, D having awareness and getting sticks in passing lanes. Coach Digby has done a great job with the PK guys.”
The USA under-18 team kept up the pressure for several minutes following its advantage, but Zawadzki continues to keep his team in the game with a number of crucial saves. Galati picked up his net-minder at 13:31 of the period with his second finish of the night, putting Oswego State back in front, 3-2. The sophomore beat Opilka from just inside the left circle with the wristshot off passes from his linemate, senior Chris Carr, and Davies.
The goal was the home team’s lone control of possession during a rather long stretch but, at 18:49, the Lakers broke through again. The fourth goal of the night came from Adams assisted by sophomore Chris Raguseo. Raguseo carried the puck to the goal line before sliding it to Adams in front.
Junior Justin Gilbert came out in net for the home side in the third and impressed throughout the period, finishing the period with 17 saves on 18 shots against.
Gilbert sees tonight’s win as just an example of the production his team will put on the ice throughout the 2014-2015 season.
“That’s definitely a good start in the right direction for myself and my team as well,” Gilbert said. “I think we surprised a lot of people tonight with how well we played and I think it’s just a good recipe for what’s to come.”
Gilbert’s play kept Oswego State ahead throughout the period as the visitors more than matched their shot total from the first two periods in the final frame.
The USA under-18 team did get one more on the board in the third, starting the scoring at 7:28 off a goal by Joseph Masonius who beat Gilbert through traffic from the point.
With the lead cut in half, the Lakers were forced on their heels for the next several minutes.
At the 12:00 mark, junior Morgan Bonner was sent to the box for tripping. It appeared the door was open for the visitors, but it was Oswego State that would capitalize.
There was 45 seconds remaining on the penalty when Adams picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and found Davies streaking through the slot. Davies was able to beat Opilka to the right pipe for his second of the game, and his team’s fifth, and final score.
The Lakers had a trying first week of practice leading up to tonight’s contest, but Davies touched on how great it was for the team to put in such a solid performance.
“It was really tough,” Davies said. “We worked really hard all week. Everybody was working really hard to get into the lineup and to come out and get that first win was great. But, to keep our legs throughout the whole game was pretty tough. They’re a great team. They’re very, very talented, work really hard, and to keep pushing we just had to stay positive on the bench and help everybody out, so it was nice.”
Oswego State is back in action next Friday night to start SUNYAC play against Buffalo State at 7 p.m.