OSWEGO — The off-ice intangibles of the “energy” and the “vibe” on the bench propelled the Oswego State women’s hockey team to a 5-0 shutout over SUNY Potsdam Friday during the team’s second annual Teddy Bear Toss.
Laker head coach Mark Digby said it reminded him of the way the team played at the beginning of the season — with the exhibition games against King’s College and Neumann University, as well as the season-opening weekend at Adrian College and Trine University — and he was not only excited to see it all return, but “it’s way better to feel it” on the bench.
“Statistics-wise and analytics-wise, we have not been that much different game-to-game. Then when you watch the video and you watch the body language on the bench, that’s where our differences come,” Digby said. “It wasn’t a hockey thing, it wasn’t a whiteboard thing, it wasn’t a video thing. It was just a mindset thing. … Everybody plays better when it’s there. Tonight, it was there.”
The energy and excitement from Oswego State’s bench showed early. After killing an early penalty, the ensuing power play for the Lakers saw Morgan Shines send the teddy bears flying after she opening the scoring at 8:57 of the first period.
Eighty teddy bears and other stuffed animals were collected for the Toys for Tots organization.
The Lakers didn’t stop there. They threw 20 shots on net during the first period, but couldn’t find a way past Potsdam’s Ellie Zurfluh.
Ariella Haas scored the first goal of the second period just 1:26 in after picking up a rebound from Megan Teachout’s original shot. Teachout scored with 11:00 left in the period after working her way around a couple Potsdam defenders. Mack Hull added the team’s fourth goal of the game after she found a loose puck and got a backhand shot past the stretched pad of Zurfluh.
Simone Bednarik rounded out the scoring with a power-play goal with 9:12 left in the game. Eight players recorded at least one point in the contest.
“When you play with the right attitude and the right mindset, and when you play with a little chip on your shoulder, you build confidence pretty quick,” Digby said. “You started to see it with players that we really have high expectations for. They played a skilled game, but they also played a heavy game. They were competing extremely hard for loose pucks tonight.”
While dominating possession over Potsdam, Digby added there was an added grittiness to the offense’s play — such as driving to the net or making certain plays “at appropriate times” to continually lay on pressure and re-attack after original shots.
“Our willingness to intelligently create two-on-ones in the offensive zone, that opened up space and then we drove pucks to the net at appropriate times,” he said. “Our defense made smart decisions with the puck, and intelligent decisions when to get involved without the puck. Maybe a little too much in the first period, but after that, they really did a good job of staying on top of pucks and distributing pucks at the offensive blue line.”
With three of the team’s five goals coming off the power play, Digby mentioned that were is an added depth with the team’s offense. During the third period, Oswego State’s coaching staff “threw a random line out” for the power play.
Shines’, Hull’s and Bednarik’s goals came on the power play.
“The first period, I’m not sure how great the power play looked, but they scored a goal by doing what we asked to do: get the puck to the net and find a way to get a rebound, which they did,” Digby said. “It’s nice to be able to put just a line and two defenseman and have it still look like a power play. Our depth of offense, when they’re clicking, we’re pretty happy with it.”
Sophomore goalie Joanna Hiebert saw limited action, making just seven saves in the contest to preserve the shutout. She had to stop just one shot in the third period. This was her first collegiate shutout.
Hiebert also played in the 4-4 tie against Potsdam a couple weeks ago, with Digby mentioning it was “pretty nice” to see the goaltender bounce back.
“I don’t want to say she can shake off the last performance, but she wasn’t happy with herself after the last one,” Digby said. “To come out against the same team, as much as it’s a new game and it’s a different setting, there’s so many moving parts. It is different, but at the same time, the same jerseys are coming at you.”
Oswego State (4-2-1, 2-2-1 NEWHL) returns to action today against non-conference opponent William Smith College for a 7 p.m. puck drop. The Herons (2-6, 1-5 NEHC) enter the game on a four-game losing streak, most recently a 5-3 loss to Johnson & Wales University.
These teams last met officially a few years ago, resulting in a 1-1 tie on Feb. 18, 2017. During the 2019-20 season, the Herons traveled to Oswego State for an exhibition game, where the Lakers were victorious 4-1.
Teachout scored twice in the contest latter contest.
With Oswego State’s first mid-week game of the season, Digby said it’s a good chance for the team to find a “rhythm” heading into next semester.
The Lakers have three mid-week games starting in January, and there might be an additional mid-week game after the contest scheduled for Friday against SUNY Canton was postponed.
“They’re going to come rolling at us pretty quick come January. ... Hopefully we can utilize this to our advantage,” Digby said. “
“To try to stay on the right side of our non-conference schedule, this is one that you need. It’ll be a big game. (William Smith) is playing very good hockey. It’ll be tough. It’ll be a fun game to be a part of.”