Lakers overcome five-game losing streak, gain crucial NEWHL points

The Oswego State Lakers were victorious over the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons after a five-game losing streak. In a thrilling 3-1 victory, the Lakers dominated on the offense, throwing 39 shots on net, and allowing seven shots from the Red Dragons.

This was a crucial matchup for both teams, who are both at the bottom of the Northeast Women’s Hockey League. Oswego State, before today, had two points in the league with SUNY Cortland having a one-point advantage with three.

“This was very, very important. Certainly the two points in the standings, but I think more so it was crucial for the team’s confidence,” Dillon said. “We’ve been working pretty hard, we just haven’t been consistent. We were most happy with this game in the last eight or nine minutes, where we really started to stick to the gameplan.”

The Lakers were able to overcome the 1.6 goals per game average they brought into the matchup, after shutouts from No. 2/2 Plattsburgh State, and Williams College, as well as losses from Buffalo State and the Ephs, head coach Diane Dillon was impressed with how her team played. She was extremely happy with her defense, who has given up 22 goals since the Nov. 12 loss against the Bengals.

“I think we were much better today defensively, specifically in the neutral zone,” Dillon said. “We were giving up way too many opportunities against Williams and Plattsburgh. I think you saw a much better effort today defensively. The goal they did get was in a spot extremely small.”

Despite the top efforts of the defense, the special teams units struggled again for the Lakers. It has been a common theme for Oswego State this season, who is 5-48 on the power play, which is only a 10.4 percent success rate.

The penalty kill was successful, killing both penalties they were tasked with. For 49 seconds, the team was on a 5-on-3, and allowed no goals to give the team a momentum boost to finish out the game. However, the Lakers did give up a shorthanded goal that went over Amber Samonek’s shoulder. Dillon said that it was a shot from Miranda Kolb, SUNY Cortland’s leading scorer, that no one could have stopped.

“We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities. We kind of slowed things down on the power play, we simplified things a bit,” Dillon said. “We did make a mistake that resulted in the goal. You’ve got to hand it to [Kolb], though. I was very happy with the PK today.”

Sarah Grupp opened up scoring for the Lakers at 3:36 of the second period, with assists from Philomena Teggart and Emma Morisette. Teggart was able to slide the puck in front of the crease from the left side, and Grupp lifted the puck over Rachael Farmer’s pad for the 1-0 lead over the Red Dragons. This was her first point of her senior season, and only her third goal of her Laker career. She also had a late breakaway opportunity in the third period, as well.

Grupp, who is a two-sport athlete with both soccer and ice hockey, is having her best season yet, according to Dillon. After a long soccer season that ended abruptly for the Lakers, Dillon has been proud of how hard she has worked early into the season.

“Her teammates were psyched for her to score,” Dillon said.

Olivia Ellis was able to add the second goal for the Lakers 1:26 into the third period, off of a rebound shot from Victoria Blake. Ellis’s shot was a hard one-timer from the left side of the crease, near the faceoff circle. Leah Czerwinski was able to score the insurance goal for the Lakers at 14:37 of the third period. Kate Randazzo and Grupp were both credited with the assists on the goal.

Czerwinski now has back-to-back games with a goal, after scoring her first of her career in the 7-1 loss against Williams College on Nov. 26. She had an assist earlier in the season, as well. She is now tied with Jean-Marie Padden for rookie goals, at two.

“For Leah, it’s a confidence builder as a freshman to score back-to-back games,” Dillon said. “It’s kind of bittersweet when you score in a losing effort, but for her to come back and score today, it was great.”

The backside, despite how successful it was in the game, was hurting in the locker room for the Lakers. With Kate Mlostek being scratched, the Lakers only sent out five defensemen, leaving Victoria Blake by her lonesome on the lineup card. However, they were not challenged much with Oswego State primarily playing in their offensive zone. Slow breakouts did hurt the Lakers, according to Dillon. She wants them to play quicker as the season progresses.

A noticeable player not on the ice was Mariah Madrigal, who missed her fourth straight game. The goaltender was hurt during the first game of the weekend series against the Cardinals on Nov. 18. She was reportedly seen with a brace on her right knee. Amber Samonek replaced her in the game, and has taken a majority of the ice time, leaving Mikaela Ditonto as the backup.

“We’re not in a hurry. She skated a little bit this week, and it was okay. It wasn’t worth taking the chance losing her for the second half [of the season],” Dillon said. “With Cortland tomorrow, she’s certainly not in the lineup. With a non-conference game [on Dec. 8], we’re looking for her to heal and be ready to go in January.”

For now, the Lakers will travel to SUNY Cortland for a rematch between the two teams, tomorrow, Dec. 2. The Lakers, after the 3-1 victory, now have a 16-1-8 advantage all-time against the Red Dragons. The Lakers have an 8-0-4 record against SUNY Cortland when facing them at the Red Dragon’s home ice.

Oswego State (4-6-0, 2-3-0 NEWHL) and SUNY Cortland (2-5-2, 1-5-1) will be playing against each other for the second of four times this season. The game starts with a 2 p.m. puck drop.

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