OSWEGO — It’s been a roller coaster ride for the No. 10 Oswego State men’s hockey team in the first half of the 2019-20 season.
The Lakers started out their campaign with a 4-0 record, then lost three straight to nationally-ranked Geneseo, Hobart, and Salve Regina. The Lakers then capped the fall semester with three-straight wins against Plymouth State, Buffalo State, and Fredonia.
Through hardship and games they’ve had to grind out, Oswego State finds itself with a 7-3 overall record and a 6-1 mark in the SUNY Athletic Conference.
“It’s been a mixed bag,” Oswego State coach Ed Gosek said. “We’ve had some issues with discipline and penalty minutes. Sometimes you need things to be addressed and guys had to sit because of it.”
The 6-1 conference record speaks volumes for the Lakers. It includes an ugly 9-1 loss to the Knights on Nov. 16, but the six victories are seen as Oswego State getting the job done against conference opponents.
Oswego State’s impressive mark in the conference currently has it at the top of the standings, a half-game ahead of defending champion Geneseo.
“Our goal this year is not to focus on the big picture as much as winning the regular season. We want to host the (conference) playoffs,” Gosek said.
“It’s our goal to get back on top of the SUNYAC. We’re pleased where we’re at, but it’s going to take a lot to stay up there.”
The loss to Geneseo put the team in a bit of a downward spiral, which led to the losses against Hobart and Salve Regina.
“I think some of the guys were still fragile (after the loss to Geneseo),” Gosek said.
Overall, Gosek mentioned how the “first half could’ve been much worse,” but the Lakers found a way to break through a tough stretch.
“The shortcomings in those three (losses) made a difference for us down the stretch of the semester,” he said. “I think all of those games (in the first half) will make us better in the long run.”
Gosek added, “I’ve been pleased with how we’ve handled adversity. I believe we’ve become a better team because of it. It has humbled us.”
Oswego State has had a variety of playmakers contribute to the scoring. Anthony Passero, playing unselfish hockey, leads the team with 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists). Travis Broughman has a team-leading seven goals, and Max Novick is second in assists with eight. Three Lakers have tallied four goals (Mitch Emerson, Jody Sullivan and Colton Fletcher) and those with three goals apiece are Novick, Joseph Molinaro, Josh Zizek and Tyson Kirkby.
Gosek has had to move some pieces with the lines in his depth chart, which showcased the depth of the team’s bench.
“By committee, it’s a positive thing,” he said. “When you have injuries and other things, you can weather the storm based on what you have.”
In goal for the Lakers, David Richer has seen the bulk of the time. He has a 6-2 record with a .913 save percentage and a 2.39 goals-against average. In addition, Richer has recorded three shutouts.
Richer took in a mix of tough moments and games where he’s been able hold his own between the pipes.
“He’s been inconsistent. He’s got the shutouts, but things have gotten away from him in other games. He’s made some big saves, but at the same time he’s allowed some goals where he wishes he’d have them back,” Gosek said.
“He’d like to get back to a consistent level of play. If he can do that, we can have a lot of success.”
Richer is working out the kinks, but Gosek said the defense has to help him “keep the puck out of the net.” The Lakers have scored 4.4 goals per game (second in the SUNYAC), but have allowed an average of 2.8 per game.
“Our goals-for is where you need to be when it comes to being in the national hunt, but we have to get our goals-against down,” Gosek said. “We have to be better on the penalty kill and better defensively.”
Aside from issues with the penalty kill, Oswego State has struggled on the power play. The team has nine goals in 41 power-play opportunities (22 percent), which is fifth in the conference.
Gosek has seen some improvement with the power play, but is hoping to see consistency in the second half of the season.
“We started off by not being able to score a power-play goal to save our lives. Now, it’s getting on track,” he said. “They’re playing with confidence and moving the puck much better, but it hasn’t been a consistent bright spot.”
Oswego State kicks off the second half of the campaign with its annual Pathfinder Bank Classic. The team hosts Saint Mary’s University (Minnesota) on Friday, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. in the opening round of the tournament. The tournament also includes Williams College and the University of New England.
“They’re three very good teams,” Gosek said. “It’s coming right off the bat of the second half of the season. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best.”