Avery Webster skates

Avery Webster skates toward the net in the Lakers’ offensive zone during the Oswego State women’s hockey team’s 5-0 loss to Plattsburgh State Saturday.

OSWEGO — When playing against the No. 1 team in the country, it’s an opportunity to learn.

After coming out “flat” in the first period, the Oswego State women’s hockey team “rebounded” in the second and third periods with an increased energy — both on the ice and on the bench — head coach Mark Digby said the Lakers are starting to establish their identity off the ice, after learning who they were on the ice.

“Any time you have a young team, it’s easy to have the fluctuations in mindset,” Digby said. “Those are steps in the right direction that we took, in the second and third period, especially when you look at the comparables to last night and last Sunday. Again, never happy with a loss, but at the same time, there’s a lot to build off of from the second and third periods.”

Oswego State fell 5-0 to perennial powerhouse Plattsburgh State Saturday at the Deborah F. Stanley Arena in the annual TEAL game, remembering the life of Mary Gosek and raising funds for Peaceful Remedies, the local nonprofit that she founded.

Digby added that the Lakers played “dialed in” in the second and third periods, skating well with Plattsburgh. But the Cardinals capitalized on almost every opportunity they had.

“Plattsburgh is who they are for a reason. They’re as advertised. They’re very, very good. They probably have the most skilled group of forwards and defense in the country,” he said. “We said to the players after the game, ‘Steal what they were better than us at tonight and put it into our game.’ I like our chances. When you play the way that we did for the second and third periods, there’s a lot that you can coach.”

Nicole Unsworth scored the first two goals for Plattsburgh at 6:34 and 9:56, both unassisted. 

The Lakers had a few chances in the early stages of the second period, but couldn’t get anything past goaltender Ashley Davis, who made 31 saves to preserve the shutout, including 14 saves alone in the middle frame.

“When you play a team like Plattsburgh when you get chances like we had right at the beginning of the second period, you’re down 2-0, one of those has to fall. That sparks you and that gets you back in the game,” Digby said. “I think it says a lot about where we mentally in the second and third period when we didn’t capitalize on one of those chances and we were able to maintain momentum.”

The momentum came from an increased volume on the bench. Similar to when Oswego State traveled to Adrian College, the bench was loud, Digby said. The Lakers defeated Adrian 2-1.

“What the players talked about after the first period, it was just the energy,” he said. “Our bench was so loud in Adrian and we played loud and well. The second and third period we played loud. It was fun to see us playing like ourselves again.”

The Cardinals added one more goal in the third, a short-handed one from Kaitlin Drew-Mead, before Ivy Boric and Drew-Mead rounded out the scoring in the third period. 

Boric’s goal came on the power play during a Kyleigh Grugin body-checking minor penalty.

Oswego State committed just two penalties the entire game. The other penalty was a Grugin tripping minor. Despite the two penalties, Digby mentioned he wouldn’t ask Grugin to play any other way: aggressive.

“I’m not surprised that we didn’t take any penalties in the first period. We didn’t touch anybody. … It was just one of those situations where, ‘All right. I’ve got to play my position,’ instead of saying, ‘I’ve just got to be a hockey player,’” Digby said. “When we came out in the second and third periods, if we can play that way and still not take too many penalties, that will be a good sign for us down the road.”

Given how young the team is, Digby said the Lakers are “where they should be for this time of year,” especially with how energetic Oswego State played in the latter stages of the game with “that emotion.”

But there were some positives, such as the “mature plays” to get out of the defensive zone, Digby added.

“We’ve got to find a way to come out with that same mentality in every game that we play and just keep building off of that. We’re not a finished product yet,” he said. “We’re in a position where we can continue to take steps forward. I don’t think we’re having to worry about starting over, so to speak. I don’t think this game knocked us down at all. If anything, it probably built us up a bit with what we’re capable to do.”

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