GENESEO — The second-seeded Oswego State men’s hockey team travels to Ira S. Wilson Arena today to take on top-seeded Geneseo in the SUNY Athletic Conference championship game at 7 p.m.
The Lakers (16-9-1, 12-3-1 SUNYAC) are coming off of a 4-1 victory over Plattsburgh in Tuesday’s semifinal game. The Knights shut out Potsdam 7-0 in the other semifinal matchup.
Oswego State has been hot over the last 10 games with an 8-1-1 record during the stretch. The Lakers’ only loss was against Geneseo (5-3) on Feb. 9.
Travis Broughman (15 goals, 12 assists) and Anthony Passero (7 goals, 20 assists) are tied for the team-lead in points (27). Josh Zizek is next with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists). Michael Gillespie (6 goals, 18 assists) and Max Novick (6 goals, 18 assists) have both racked up 24 points so far.
Oswego State coach Ed Gosek spoke highly of the Lakers’ performance of late and emphasized how far the team has come since the beginning of the season.
“We have learned a lot of lessons over the course of the season,” he said. “We are arguably playing our best hockey of the year.”
According to USCHO.com, the Knights are ranked second in the nation. They currently have a record of 21-3-2 (13-1-2 SUNYAC). The Knights are also 2-0 versus the Lakers this season, winning by scores of 9-1 and 5-3.
Andrew Romano leads a high-powered Geneseo offense with 55 points (14 goals, 41 assists). Conlan Keenan is second with 50 points (22 goals, 28 assists), and Tyson Empey is third with 29 (17 goals, 12 assists).
Gosek knows how good the Knights are, but also knows the Lakers are prepared to compete at a high level and face off against one of the best teams in the nation.
“Obviously, we would’ve liked to finish first and be hosting,” he said. “Geneseo has a very good team. They won the league, and they’re second in the country for a reason. It will be a heck of a challenge, but we are excited about it and the opportunity.”
Back on Nov. 16 in the 9-1 loss to Geneseo, the Lakers had 88 penalty minutes. It led to seven power-play goals for the Knights.
On Feb. 9 in the 5-3 tilt, the Lakers played much better versus the Knights, however, Oswego State suffered the same fate as the first meeting. Trailing 3-1 heading into the third period, the Lakers rallied with goals from Max Novick and Michael Gillespie to tie the game at 3-3.
A goal from Cam Russell gave Geneseo a 4-3 lead with 1:29 remaining in the period. The Lakers battled and eventually pulled their goalie. This led to an empty-net goal for the Knights, who escaped with a victory.
Despite the loss, Gosek was happy with the way the Lakers performed in the second meeting compared to the first, but knows the team must perform at an even higher level today.
“Last game here, we thought we were better than the first time we played them and we need to be better (today) to be successful,” he said.
Gosek knows the team has to make adjustments against such a good team like Geneseo, and it starts with Oswego State’s defense.
“They are very talented so they are going to get opportunities. They have a lot of guys that can score,” he said. “Defensively, we have to be better in all three zones and then when you do give up opportunities, you’re relying on your goaltender to come up with some big saves and give you a chance.”
Gosek also mentioned several areas the Lakers struggled with in the previous meetings with the Knights this season, including “Discipline, staying out of the box, being good on the penalty kill and limiting their chances five-on-five,” he said.
The Lakers will certainly have to play their best game of the season if they want to move on to the NCAA Division III Tournament in the upcoming week.
The task will not be easy as the Lakers play on the road and compete at the highest level versus one of the best teams in the country.
Gosek is looking forward to today and everything that comes with a championship game.
“You’ve got number one and number two in the league [SUNYAC] and that’s the way it should be,” he said. “It is a great place as the (Marano) Campus Center is for a championship atmosphere. They will have a sell out, they’re loud and vocal. It is a great college atmosphere and that is what you want for a league championship.”