Last week, Syracuse Post-Standard assistant sports editor Jason Murray sent me on assignment to cover the Oswego State men's hockey team's appearance in the Division III Frozen Four. It turned out to be a very short assignment. For whatever reason, my article appeared in the paper, but not online at Syracuse.com. Therefore, I have decided to post it here for those that did not get a chance to see it.
The game was billed as a matchup of two of the nation’s most stringent defensive units, yet defensive miscues on the Lakers’ end proved to be the difference in St. Norbert’s 4-3 victory at the Herb Brooks Arena.
The Green Knights capitalized on costly giveaways by Oswego State’s blue liners, including one by former West Genesee High School standout Stephen Mallaro that resulted in the game-winning goal for St. Norbert forward Cody Reefer with just 39 seconds remaining in the third period.
“I was going to go off for a (line) change,” said Reefer, a freshman who had scored a dozen collegiate goals prior to this one. “Sam (Tikka) flipped the puck in, I saw (Mallaro) actually tried to play it, so I thought I’d force him. It ended up working out; it bounced over his stick and wound up going for a breakaway.”
The game’s first marker was similar to the last in that it was the result of an Oswego defenseman’s misplay. St. Norbert forward Johan Ryd picked the puck off the stick of Oswego State defenseman Kevin Huinink in the neutral zone. He then darted to the inner hash of the right circle before dropping to his left knee as he let loose with a wrist shot that rocketed over the glove of Laker goalie Kyle Gunn-Taylor with 1:59 remaining in the first period.
“I was just being tenacious on their (defensemen),” said Ryd, a Swedish sophomore who skated on St. Norbert’s top line of forwards. “Their D seemed to be wanting to hold on to the puck for a long time.”
“You can’t give any team, at this point in the season, the opportunities that we did,” said Oswego State head coach Ed Gosek, moments after suffering his first NCAA tournament defeat. “We said we don’t want to beat ourselves. But the truth of the matter is--yeah, they capitalized on it--but we gave them way too many chances.”
After taking a 1-0 deficit to the locker room for the first intermission, the Lakers came out flat for the majority of the second period. Junior Owen Kelly, a transfer from Division I Air Force who has had a relatively quiet two-year tenure at Oswego State, seemed to take it upon himself to jump start the Lakers’ offense.
“All season long: Justin Fox, and Eric Selleck, and Chris Laganiere, they’re the people everyone wanted to talk about because they got the points,” said Gosek. “Owen, he’s one of those kids that takes no shifts off in practice and works his tail off in the game.”
The Plattsburgh, NY native controlled the puck for the majority of a late-period shift in which he fired two shots on net. Oswego State wound up scoring a few minutes later when senior Neil Musselwhite beat St. Norbert goalie B.J. O’Brien top-shelf. Kelly then put his stamp on the period when he dove to the ice to block a St. Norbert slap shot with 21 seconds on the clock to help preserve a 1-1 tie going into the second intermission.
The Oswego State offense continued to roll in the third period. After allowing a power play goal by St. Norbert forward Tyler Allen, a rebound from the edge of the crease off a shot that hit the crossbar, the Lakers knotted the score at 2-2 less than a minute later. Junior Justin Fox faked a slapper from the top of left circle before walking in and beating O’Brien with a wrist shot to the far post with 14:48 left in the third.
The Green Knights were undeterred, however, as Ryd pulled a puck off the right wing half wall and fed a wide open Tikka in front of the Oswego State net. Tikka potted the puck past Gunn-Taylor to give St. Norbert their third lead of the game at 3-2 with 12:58 left in regulation.
The Lakers’ last goal wouldn’t come until the later stages of the third period, when freshman Jon Whitelaw buried a feed from line mate Paul Rodrigues to tie the game at 3-3 with 2:32 left. That tally sent Oswego State’s large fan base into a frenzy. They remained that way until Keefer’s second goal.