Trent Grimshaw controls the puck

Oswego State’s Trent Grimshaw handles the puck during the Lakers’ 6-1 loss against No. 1 SUNY Geneseo last Saturday. Oswego State travels to Williams College today for a non-conference weekend series with the Ephs.

OSWEGO — Suddenly, the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons for the Oswego State men’s hockey team are adding some similarities.

The 2019-20 Lakers started off 4-0, sweeping the North Country while also defeating SUNY Cortland and Brockport State. Then the infamous 9-1 loss to SUNY Geneseo happened on Oct. 6, 2019, sending the remainder of the season for a spin.

While this year’s squad had a few more games — and a little bit of a slower start — going 3-3-1 (3-1-1 SUNYAC), the Lakers had been undefeated in SUNYAC play. They topped Cortland, Potsdam and Brockport, while tying with Plattsburgh.

But Geneseo spoiled the strong conference start, this time with a 6-1 win for the Knights last Saturday.

After a strong 2-1 victory over the Golden Eagles last Friday, where Oswego State was “cohesive in all three zones,” head coach Ed Gosek said, that page was quickly flipped when the No. 1 team in the nation came to town 24 hours later.

“Starting out, I thought we were OK. Then, they got the two quick goals which was deflating,” Gosek said. “You go down 2-0 to a good team, they can open it up a little bit. It was just a series of mistakes they capitalized on. They were very opportunistic. Our takeaway is that we’ve got to hang tough in those moments in games.”

Oswego State wasn’t without its opportunities throughout the game, especially early on. The Lakers had a couple chances to open the scoring after getting the puck in the slot right in front of Geneseo’s goaltender, Matt Petizian.

But the Lakers weren’t able to capitalize, despite out-shooting the Knights 23-17. The only goal Petizian allowed was when Alex DiCarlo scored on a one-timer during a five-on-three power play for the Lakers later in the third period. But the damage had already been done — Geneseo was up by six goals at that point.

“There’s periods in the game where we have to have some pushback or a timely save or you have to have extra discipline,” Gosek said. “Mentally staying checked in during those periods in the game, I think that’s going to be something we’re going to have to spend time on and continue to work on with this team.”

And staying focused is something that this young Oswego State team has done in the early stages of the season, especially during practices, Gosek mentioned. But as he’s said all season long, it’s been a lot of “two steps forward, one step back.”

This past weekend, Oswego State capitalized three times on the power play. DiCarlo scored during the Geneseo game, while Trent Grimshaw and Rocco Andreacchi both notched man-advantage goals during the Brockport game.

That was a step forward for the Lakers.

But the overall lack of scoring — Oswego State is averaging just two goals per game — has been part of the steps backward. The Lakers have allowed an average of 2.7 goals per game. The other stat on the scoreboard, shots, has seen Oswego State take a 32-25 average lead against opponents throughout the season.

“We’re averaging six to eight Grade A (opportunities) each period. We’re averaging two goals a game. At some point, you make your puck luck, some of those will hopefully begin to fall for us. That’ll open things up for us,” Gosek said. “We won’t feel like we can’t make a mistake and feel like we have to have perfect goaltending to win a game. … It’s just taking time.”

There also hasn’t been the usual “breakout” scorer for the Lakers. In previous years, one or two players proved themselves as prolific scorers. Recent seasons saw players such as Anthony Passero, Travis Broughman or Josh Zizek come to mind.

Broughman — the only returner from the listed names — is tied for second in points on the team this year with five. But, he was held off the point sheet this past weekend. Sophomore Connor Sleeth leads the team with seven points, while DiCarlo (5) and freshman Ben Addison (3) round out the top four. 

Gosek added that, for the time being, Oswego State will have to rely on what he calls “by committee” scoring — where a large group of players have to hit the scoresheet to be successful, getting boosts from “secondary scorers.”

Without players that have stood out as scorers, it’s also been a “revolving door” with the lineup, Gosek said.

“We’ll keep rotating guys through and eventually some guys will take charge here,” Gosek said. “One of these games, somebody’s going to have a breakout game here. That’s just a matter of time. By committee, we’re going to have to settle with that until we can get somebody going or somebody gets a hot hand or shows us something here to deserve more ice time on special teams and five-on-five.”

Oswego State, after its slew of SUNYAC matchups, travels to Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts) for a weekend series with a game Saturday at 7 p.m. followed by a Sunday contest at 3 p.m. 

Williams (2-0) is a member of the NESCAC. The Ephs shut out both of their opponents last weekend, with 1-0 wins over Colby College and Bowdoin College. Both games were league games.

Jacob Monroe and Connor Tobin both scored for Williams over the weekend, with four different players recording assists. Goaltender Evan Ruschil played both games, making 43 saves against Colby and 25 against Bowdoin.

The last time Oswego State faced Williams was in late 2018, with matchups on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 in Oswego. The Lakers fell in the first contest 2-1, before bouncing back for a 6-3 win the second game. Broughman scored two goals in the second game.

Since it is a non-conference weekend for Oswego State, Gosek said there will be “a little bit of tinkering” with the lineup, and the coaching staff will “give some other guys an opportunity to see what they can do.”

But he knows this weekend will be competitive with Williams — a team Gosek added that will “present a good test.”

This weekend also begins what could be considered the “final stretch” of the first half of the season. After the Williams series, the Lakers have one more league game (vs. Morrisville State on Dec. 4), with two more non-conference games (at SUNY Canton Dec. 3 and at Nazareth College Dec. 11). Gosek said if the team can win all five games, being 8-3-1 “doesn’t look so bad” compared to the team’s current record of 3-3-1. 

“We still control, at this point, our own destiny. That’s a good position to be in. I know it’s early in the year. We feel that we have nowhere to go but up with the way we’re playing,” Gosek said. “Guys are starting to get some chemistry and understand how it is that we need to play game-in and game-out. … We’ve got to start to find some offense.”