Two seasons ago in the NCAA Quarterfinals at Adrian College was the last time the Bulldogs and the Oswego State Lakers took the ice against each other. On that evening in southeastern Michigan, an overtime goal by Oswego State’s Paul Rodrigues sent the Lakers through to their fourth-straight Frozen Four. Saturday night, the two teams will take the ice again with a spot in the national semifinals on the line.
The matchup pits two programs against each other that are at very different points in their histories. Oswego State is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, while Adrian is in just its eighth season of existence. The Lakers are chasing their sixth-straight Frozen Four, ninth overall, and the Bulldogs are seeking their second appearance in the national semifinals ever.
Adrian head coach Adam Krug is in his first season with the program replacing Ron Fogarty, the coach that saw the team through its first seven seasons. Krug has stepped in and helped the squad not skip a beat. The No. 2 Bulldogs are 23-3-3 and already claimed their first Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) regular season and postseason tournament championships in program history. Not to mention, Krug has led them to the No. 1-seed in the West.
The No. 4 Lakers are led by Ed Gosek in his 12th season at the helm. This season was the first time since the 2008-2009 season that Oswego State did not claim either the SUNYAC regular season or postseason tournament title. But, a win on Saturday would keep the program’s streak of 20-win seasons going, a streak that began with the 2009-2010 season.
Even though Oswego State appears to have figured out its forward lines and ended its scoring drought, Adrian is still the favorite heading into Saturday night’s contest. The Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in the West and arguably in the country.
Another reason to favor Adrian is Oswego State’s record against teams from out west over the past six seasons. The Lakers are 4-5 against teams from the West since the fall of 2009. However, the only win in those four not at the Marano Campus Center Arena has been the 2013 NCAA Quarterfinals at Adrian.
Gosek put the sophomore line of Matt Galati, Kenny Neil and Alex Botten back together for last Saturday’s game in Geneva after breaking the trio up during the SUNYAC Tournament and they responded. Galati and Neil combined for three of the team’s six goals and Botten added three assists. The resurgence of the line along with the success of the line of Shawn Hulshof, Mike Montagna and Mitchell Herlihey may just have the team’s high-powered offense back on track.
Also, sophomore goalie Matt Zawadzki has Oswego State’s regular defensemen pairings back in front of him and back in a rhythm over the last three games after senior captain Bobby Gertsakis and sophomore Stephen Johnson missed the final weekend of the regular season. Overall, the Laker lineup on Saturday will feature 15 of the 19 Lakers that started on the 2014 NCAA Tournament run.
Adrian enters the quarterfinals with a combination of veteran and rookie skaters contributing to the offensive success. Its top five scorers include two freshmen (Kyle Brothers-48 points and Mathew Thompson-40), two seniors (Josh Ranalli-44 and Duston Hebebrand-28) and a sophomore (Jeremy Olinyk-28).
Its defensive core features three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. Jake Flegel, one of the Bulldogs’ freshman defenseman, will be key for his team. At 6-foot-4 inches tall, Flegel will be the only defenseman on the ice that can match Oswego State’s 6-foot-5 Chris Waterstreet.
At the back end of Adrian’s defense is senior goaltender Scott Shackell. Shackell is on an eight-game winning streak dating back to a series at the end of January at home against St. Norbert College. The senior has made the most starts of his career this season after securing the starting role. He shared the duties with fellow senior James Hamby over his first three years at the college.
The Bulldogs and Lakers are evenly matched heading into their fourth overall matchup. The last contest ended in overtime and this one could as well. Whichever way it ends, the victor will be considered a favorite at the Frozen Four in Minneapolis.
By the numbers
6-Oswego State’s six-goal performance in the NCAA First Round last Saturday night at Hobart snapped a six-game spell of scoring below the team’s average of roughly four goals per game.
8-Laker sophomore Matt Galati ended an eight-game stretch without a goal in the 6-1 win over Hobart last weekend, scoring two of the team’s six tallies.
10-Adrian College has 10 seniors on its 26-man roster. It is tied with Trinity College for the most seniors of any team left in the tournament.
18-The Bulldogs have scored five goals or more in 18 of their 29 games this season. They average just under five goals per game, which is second-best in Div. III.
Scoring/Special Teams Breakdown
Oswego State: 4.48 goals per game (4th in Division III)
Adrian College: 4.76 goals per game (2nd in Division III)
Oswego State: 2.07 goals per game (8th in Division III)
Adrian College: 2.31 goals per game (T-13th in Division III)
Oswego State: 31.87 percent [29-of-91] (2nd in Division III)
Adrian College: 25.83 percent [39-of-151] (13th in Division III)
Oswego State: 83.90 percent [73-of-87] (T-26th in Division III)
Adrian College: 85.70 percent [102 of 119] (T-15th in Division III)
Oswego State: Matt Zawadzki (12-3-2/2.02 GAA/.927 save percentage)
Adrian College: Scott Shackell (17-1-3/1.88 GAA/.932 save percentage)
Player to Watch: Oswego State sophomore Alex Botten
Prediction: 4-3 (OT) Oswego State