Laker Ledger: Bengals only hurdle left for Lakers’ NCAA hopes

After the release of the second installment of the NCAA Div. III men’s ice hockey regional rankings on Wednesday, the goal is clear for No. 5 Oswego State: A win over Buffalo State on Saturday and it’s NCAA tournament bound.

The Lakers finished the regular season with a winless weekend at home, including a 3-3 tie against SUNY Plattsburgh and 4-2 loss against SUNY Potsdam. However, they only fell one spot in the new East regional rankings, remaining in the top three.

A trip to the SUNYAC finals on March 7 would secure Oswego State’s top three spot for the final East regional rankings, which come out on March 4. Barring any major upsets in the other conference tournaments, a loss on March 7 would not end the Lakers’ season.

Currently, the Trinity College Bantams and Amherst College Jeffs are the only teams ahead of Oswego State in the East. The Bantams and Jeffs are on a crash course to meet in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) finals. Whichever team wins will get the conference’s automatic bid, while the loser will surely be guaranteed one of the four NCAA at-large bids.

Behind the Lakers are Hobart College of the ECAC West, Massachusetts-Boston, Norwich University and Babson College of the ECAC East and SUNY Plattsburgh of the SUNYAC.  The Statesmen are only eligible for the ECAC West/Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) at-large bid, which seems in the hands of the defending national runner-ups Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Either Babson or Massachusetts-Boston will be eliminated from at-large bid contention after their conference tournament semifinal matchup this week. Then, the winner and Norwich will compete for the conference’s automatic bid with the loser grabbing an at-large bid. Finally, SUNY Plattsburgh’s play this season has left it only able to get into the NCAA tournament with the SUNYAC automatic bid.

The Lakers’ regular season resume has set them up well. Wins over Hobart and SUNY Plattsburgh are highlights on a season where they have won 17 games and were 2:13 of gameplay last Saturday away from the SUNYAC regular season title. A tie or win against SUNY Potsdam also would have secured the Lakers the No. 1 ranking in the final regular season national polls.

Between Oswego State and the SUNYAC finals are the No. 5-seeded Buffalo State Bengals. They knocked off SUNY Potsdam on the road in the SUNYAC quarterfinals on Wednesday night for their fifth win in their last six games. Sophomore goaltender Mike DeLaVergne allowed just two goals to the Bears, but has allowed 10 goals in two starts against the Lakers this season.

It is still uncertain whether the Lakers will have players back such as defensemen Bobby Gertsakis and Stephen Johnson, goalie Justin Gilbert and forward John Jackson. The impact of their absence was felt as the team struggled against SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam. That being said, Oswego State may be able to simply outscore the Bengals if the line of Matt Galati, Alex Botten and Kenny Neil can get back to form along with the currently hot line of Shawn Hulshof, Mike Montagna and Mitchell Herlihey.

The losses of SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Potsdam sending Buffalo State to Oswego for the conference semifinals may have just punched the Lakers’ ticket to the NCAA tournament. If they survive Saturday, Oswego State is in.

4 thoughts on “Laker Ledger: Bengals only hurdle left for Lakers’ NCAA hopes

  1. Andrew,

    It might be a bit premature to call Oswego a “lock” with a win on Saturday. While it certainly will improve the Lakers’ chances, nothing is guaranteed unless you win your league tournament, or until you see your name called on Selection Sunday.

    I’ve been following Division III hockey since I was four years old and I’ve seen a lot of interesting things happen when it comes to selecting at-large teams to the NCAA Tournament.

    While Oswego is in a great position in this set of NCAA rankings, things can and will change after this weekend and the following weekend. Remember, the only rankings that matter are the final ones that the public doesn’t have the fortune of seeing.

    Oswego is actually “hurt” a little bit by the fact they are playing a 12-11-3 Buffalo State team instead of a what would have been a 13-9-4 Geneseo team. It’s all a numbers game and you want to get wins against and play teams with better records so your strength of schedule improves.

    While its unlikely, don’t forget that Brockport could upset Plattsburgh and then in tune upset Oswego in the finals which would give Brockport the automatic qualifier and it would give Oswego another game against a close to .500 team rather than a Plattsburgh, which would be great for the strength of schedule numbers.

    Lastly, there are actually only three at-large bids available to Oswego. There are three Pool C bids which go to teams that do not win their conference and there is one Pool B bid which is an “at-large” bid, but it is only available to teams that do not have an automatic qualifier for their conference (IE: ECAC West & WIAC).

    If neither Trinity or Amherst win the NESCAC and Adrian loses in the NCHA playoffs, your three Pool C bids could be gobbled up right there by those three teams. That’s not bringing in to play teams like Norwich, UMass Boston, Hobart, St. Norbert and Wis. Eau Claire who could all be possibilities as well to jump Oswego if the Lakers should falter in the SUNYAC playoffs.

    In the end, Oswego, just like every team at this time of year needs to be in Al Davis “just win baby” mode. Relying on a committee and the numbers criteria game to decide your fate is setting yourself up for disappointment and a lot of regret if you’re not one of the lucky three given another chance.

    Derek Dunning
    Oswego State ’09
    Director of Sports Information
    Norwich University

  2. Uh…what Derek said…

    except I prefer the great Jim Valvano’s take on tournament time – “Survive and Advance”

    Go Lakers…MHKY, WHKY, MBB…

  3. Mr. Dunning,
    First of all, thank you so much for your feedback. I love to know alum are reading my work, especially those still involved in Div. III athletics.

    I am in my second season covering Div. III men’s ice hockey for The Oswegonian and my sixth season following Oswego State men’s ice hockey (due to the fact that my brother went to the school from 2009-2013). I absolutely agree with all you have said and know that the rankings can fluxuate between now and March 8th. I actually like Brockport’s chances against Plattsburgh tomorrow after playing two one-goal games during the regular season. Then, bringing in the play of Aaron Green who’s hot play carried the Golden Eagles last season. His 59-save performance on Wednesday may just be enough to rev him up again.

    Not to mention, Trinity and Amherst are not safe in the NESCAC after Bowdoin’s impressive run through the conference tournament last season. Your school, Norwich, is still in for a dog fight in the ECAC East with UMass-Boston and Babson. Then, throw in MSOE or SNC knocking off Adrian, possibly even Scholastica after they stunned Lake Forest. Plus, Eau Claire or River Falls beating WSP then Hobart winning the ECAC West could open up a Pool C for a WIAC team like WSP.

    Oswego State is far from safe but, for the sake of the topic, I decided to write about why the Lakers could lock up an NCAA bid with a win this weekend. It is out on a ledge, but those perspective are open for discussion and can provoke good discussion, such as this.

    As for saying there is four at-large bids, I clumped the four together for the sake of space. I am aware the fourth bid is only available to WIAC and ECAC West teams.

    Since my column is only 500-600 words, I definitely shortened some sections I normally would expand and cover the bases you have mentioned.

    Once again, I appreciate your readership and feedback, along with Lou’s.

    Good luck to Norwich this week and if both Oswego State and the Cadet’s seasons continue to go well hopefully I will meet you and thank you in person soon.

    -Andrew Pugliese

    1. Andrew,

      Ahh the victim of the almighty copy edit and inch reduction! I hear you on that. I actually worked as a sports reporter for a daily newspaper in Gloversville, NY for nine months prior to taking my current position at Norwich. I feel the pain there. Sometimes I don’t even recognize my story after an editor hacks away at it.

      You had some great thoughts in your post and I’m glad you have the opportunity to report and educate the fanbase about how the process works in the Oswegonian. That’s a huge plus for a college newspaper to have someone who understands the process.

      I too am looking forward to a potential Oswego/Norwich heavyweight bout down the road. It happened in the 2013 semifinals in Lake Placid and it was a terrific game with a great performance by Oswego.

      In my perfect world the two would meet for the 2015 national championship and i’d be smiling whatever the outcome!

      One thing is for sure, there is a lot of hockey left to be played and the teams playing their best hockey will come to the forefront shortly. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

      Go Lakers! (and Cadets 😉 )

      -Derek Dunning ’09

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