The Oswego State Men's ice hockey team is gearing up for the fourth annual Pathfinder Bank/Oswego Hockey Classic, which is set to begin on Saturday, Jan. 2 and will conclude on Sunday, Jan. 3, at the Campus Center Ice Arena. This year’s tournament field includes Connecticut College of the New England Small College Athletic Conference, Elmira College of the ECAC West, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association, and host Oswego State. Saturday's contests feature Elmira versus MSOE at 4 p.m. followed by Oswego State versus Connecticut College at 7 p.m.
The Pathfinder Bank/Oswego Hockey Classic has become one of the premier tournaments in Division III since its inception in 2007, as two of the last three NCAA Division III National Championship teams have also been champions at the Classic. Host Oswego State won the first edition of the Classic en route to its first national title in 2007, while St. Norbert College captured the 2008 tournament title on its road to a national championship. Tickets are still available and may be purchased prior to game time.
The Lakers, who are the defending Classic champions, enter as the nation’s top-ranked team as bestowed by US College Hockey Online (USCHO) on December 14 with an overall record of 13-1-0. Since suffering a 2-1 loss to Elmira on October 24, Oswego State has rattled off 12 straight wins to match a program-best mark set on two different occasions during the 1987-88 and 1990-91 seasons. During the stretch, the Lakers have won nine of those contests by three or more goals, including a 5-2 road win over conference Plattsburgh State, to climb from a pre-season ranking of eighth to the top of the list.
Oswego State’s early season success can be attributed to strong play at both ends of the rink and youth, as the team is comprised of five sophomores and 12 freshmen. The Laker offense ranked third in scoring in NCAA Division III at the end of the calendar year, averaging 5.71 goals per game after posting 80 goals. What makes the squad even more dangerous is its’ unselfish play as Oswego State is also averaging 15.1 points per game. The line of sophomores Eric Selleck and Chris Laganiere and junior Justin Fox has become one of the most dynamic lines in the nation, as they have combined to score 34 goals and 57 assists for 91 points this season and are each nationally ranked in the top eight in points per game. Special teams have also played a key role as the Lakers have the 11th ranked power play in the country, converting 25.8 percent (23/89) of the opportunities it receives. Senior Neil Musselwhite, who leads the nation with four short-handed goals, anchors a penalty kill unit that ranks 16th (70/81 at 86.4 percent).
One of the largest questions for Oswego State entering the season was goaltending, but senior Kyle Gunn-Taylor and sophomore Paul Beckwith have combined to allow only 26 goals for a 1.86 goals against average, which is tied for seventh-best in Division III. Gunn-Taylor carries a record of 9-0-0 with a 1.67 goals against average to go along with a .927 save percentage, while Beckwith holds an equally impressive .926 save percentage, a 4-1-0 record, and a goals against average of 2.21.
The Lakers will be forced to shake off any rust from the break when they face opening-round opponent Connecticut College (1-7-0). The Camels have been competitive in every game they have played this season having dropped six games by two or fewer goals, including a season-opening 3-2 overtime loss to 11th-ranked Williams. Senior Greg Parker has dominated time between the pipes for Connecticut College as he has played seven of the eight contests compiling a 3.02 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. Sophomore Julien Boutet and senior Trevor Bradley lead the offensive attack with five points each with Boutet recording four goals and an assist and Bradley posting three goals and two assists.
Since starting the season 1-2-0, Elmira brings an eight-game winning streak into the Classic for an overall mark of 9-2-0 and is ranked sixth in the recent USCHO.com poll. The Soaring Eagles averaged 1.67 goals per game in their first three contests, but have turned up their offensive production by more than three goals to 4.75 goals during the eight-game stretch. Senior captain Rusty Masters and sophomore Darcy Vaillancourt pace the Elmira offense with 17 points each. Masters is the team’s leading goal scorer with ten goals, including five power play goals, while Vaillancourt is the top assist recipient with 11. The Soaring Eagles boast one of the most experienced goaltenders in the nation in Casey Tuttle, who is one of four goaltenders in Division III with at least eight wins. Tuttle ranks in the top 30 in save percentage (28th, .914) and goals against average (25th, 2.44). Strong special teams have also played an important part early in the season as Elmira has the eighth-best power play unit in the country converting 28.4 percent (21/74) of its opportunities and the 11th-best penalty kill at 89.6 percent (60/67).
Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) is the West Region representative at the Classic this year, coming in with a record of 5-4-1. The Raiders, who have a youthful roster of 19 underclassmen, started the season 4-0, but look to reverse their fortunes in 2010 after closing out 2009 1-4-1. MSOE sits in the top 15 in scoring offense (15th, 4.20 goals per game) and scoring defense (12th, 2.10 goals per game). The stingy defense is led by sophomore goaltender Connor Toomey, who has appeared in nine contests with a record of 4-4-1. Toomey owns a paltry 1.80 goals against average, which is ranked 11th in Division III, and has a .917 save percentage. Offensively, MSOE is led by sophomore forward Todd Krupa’s 14 points (five goals, nine assists). Classmate Brock King has numerous timely goals for the Raiders, as he leads the team with four power play and three game-winning goals.
Courtesy of SUNY Oswego Sports Information Department
Photos courtesy of SUNY Oswego Sports Information Department
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