Call it the second chance game.
Both Oswego and Norwich finished first in their respective conferences. Both lost in their conference semifinal playoff game on home ice. Both were given second chances with an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs. Perhaps it’s fitting they meet in the NCAA Quarterfinal Round at Oswego on Saturday at 7:00 P.M.
“I think that’s why you have the at-large bids because there are times teams have a great year, but they lose one game at the wrong time,” Norwich coach Mike McShane said.
“We’re excited to have a second life and try to make the most of it,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Certainly our playoff success hasn’t been that great lately, so we’re looking forward to proving ourselves.”
These two teams also have a lot in common in their makeup and playing style.
“Both teams have quick, skilled forwards who can handle the puck,” Gosek said. “Both have solid defensemen. Both have good goaltenders.”
Norwich averaged 4.3 goals per game and have four players with double digit goals: Rick Cleaver (24), Nikita Kashirsky (17), Eric Lauriault (11), and Raphael Robitaille (11). Lauriault leads the team with 27 assists while Cleaver has 20 helpers.
Oswego is also loaded with offensive firepower. The Lakers averaged 4.92 goals per game also with four players in double digits: Brendan McLaughlin (23), Ryan Ellis (16), C.J. Thompson (14), and Garren Reisweber (13). McLaughlin has 28 assists, Ellis 26, and Peter Magagna 22.
Though both teams have good defenses, the goalies will still see a lot of action. These are not teams that play a trap or defensive style of game. They go at their opposition, plain and simple.
“It will be an up and down game,” Gosek said. “The teams will be playing extremely hard. It’s going to come down to special teams and goaltending.”
“Defense has to stay strong, especially against their forwards,” McShane said. “Goaltending has got to be there.”
The goaltending is an interesting aspect of this game. Ryan Scott is a junior for Oswego with a 2.43 GAA and .911 save percentage. He has the experience, but not the playoff wins. Meanwhile, the Cadets have mostly relied on a freshman, David Thompson (1.91 GAA, .908 save pct.).
Goaltending is potentially the biggest wildcard in this contest.
As for special teams, McShane said, “They have a very good powerplay.”
“They’re a very disciplined team,” Gosek said. “You aren’t going to get a lot of powerplay opportunities. When you do, then you have to take advantage.”
McShane echoes those sentiments when asked what the key will be for the game, “Taking advantage of the opportunities that develop.”
Norwich is second best in the nation allowing only 13.8 penalty minutes a game. Indeed, Oswego will not have many opportunities to show off their 21.8% effective powerplay. Oswego is also fairly well disciplined, committing 17.1 penalty minutes per game. Norwich will need a few more chances as they convert 19.1% of their powerplays.
How the game is called is another key wildcard to keep an eye on.
With the way these two teams play, Gosek will most likely get one of his wishes: “I hope it’s a great game for the fans to watch.”
There is one item that separates these two teams. After Saturday, one of them will not get a third chance.