Oswego coach George Roll adds seven rookies to an already-young squad.
This year’s Lakers are talented, but like the rest of the SUNYAC, just a notch or two below league-leading Plattsburgh.
“We’re pretty much a freshman, sophomore team. I think in a couple years we will have closed that gap [with Plattsburgh] — not to say we can’t beat them on a given night, but I do think their talent level is better, stronger, than the rest of the league,” said Roll, whose team starts its 2001-02 season against the defending national champs.
“How long that process takes, we’ll have a better idea after this weekend, obviously.”
Defense And Goaltending A Plus
Defense will be one of Oswego’s strengths, particularly in the early part of the season.
“I think our defense is pretty solid, although we’ve got two freshmen playing. I think the two of them have made the transition fairly smoothly to this level. Mark Strzoda and John Nadalin are both very reliable at both ends of the ice,” said Roll.
As we noted in last week’s SUNYAC column, Roll has three good goaltenders vying for ice time in Joe Lofberg, Tyson Gajda, and Sebastian Matte. “It’s gonna be a difficult situation in terms of who is going to be No. 1,” said Roll.
Gajda will get the start for the season-opener against Plattsburgh, but all three are “going to get their opportunity to prove themselves and when that opportunity presents itself, they’ve got to make the most of it.”
On offense, the Lakers have lost their top four scorers from last season, totaling 48 goals and 140 points.
Several of the last two years’ recruits are poised to pick up the scoring slack, including three sophomore forwards: SUNYAC rookie of the year Mike Lukajic, Brian St. John, and Matt Vashaw, junior John Hirliman. Defensemen Joe Carrabs and Nate Elliott will also contribute offensively.
However, depth at forward is going to be a challenge for Oswego, at least early on.
“We’ve got some talented young guys, but I think physically, some of them are a ways away from really making an impact at our level,” said Roll. “I think that they’re capable of it but I don’t think we’ve got the depth to score with four lines. I think our top two lines are pretty strong, but again, they’re all freshmen and sophomores.”
Roll also thinks that the Lakers may not rack up the goals they did last season, when they averaged more than five per game.
“I don’t think we’re going to be as explosive as we were last year, especially early on. But as the season progresses, I think we will get better in that area.”
Patience Is A Virtue
One thing Roll believes is vitally important to the development of his young team is patience.
“I think that especially with this team, we’re just going to have to be patient and try to get better every weekend,” said Roll. “I think it’s going to take some time. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. There are going to be some growing pains with this team, but I think they’re definitely capable of putting up some real good numbers.”
Oswego will be a playoff team again this season. How high they finish and how far they go in the SUNYACs will hinge on the continued development of a young and skilled squad.