“Everybody here is excited,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “They remember when we made it four years ago and got to the finals. It’s been great here. Oswego is a hockey community.”
The city of Oswego loves speed. In the summertime, all the talk in the town concerns themselves with the famous Oswego Speedway and the ultra-quick super modified racing that takes place there. One of their favorite drivers is local hotshoe Joe Gosek, Ed’s brother. In the winter, the townsfolk head inside to watch another speedy sport, ice hockey, and one of their favorite teams, the Lakers.
Oswego State hockey has been through a lot the past few postseasons. That has all been documented to death by now. The pressing concerns at this moment is how are they going to do in Superior, Wisconsin, and how are the fans going to get out there to support their team?
“The distance to Superior makes it difficult to get the time off from work,” Gosek said. “Spring break starts this weekend, so that might hurt some students being able to go. But, they still have a lot of people going out.”
Superior is further than Norwich, the site the last time Oswego made it this far. Gosek was part of that squad as an assistant coach to George Roll who afterwards took the head coaching job at Clarkson. Gosek plans on using that experience to help him this year.
“What it does, it makes you realize that it goes so fast,” he said. “It takes a lot of things to go your way to get here, so you want to make sure you take a minute to appreciate the opportunity. That’s important for us as a program to respect that, but at the same time we want to make sure we play hard and play focused. I think there can be a good mix of both.
“Also, trying to keep the guys focused from all the little distractions that can occur. What we did last time that worked and what we will change.”
The Lakers are a team that likes to skate and come at you, which they did against Norwich in the quarterfinals jumping out to a 3-0 first period lead. However, once they grabbed that early lead, they essentially played out the rest of the game with a defensive style. That isn’t surprising considering they haven’t let up many goals this year.
“The fifty goals we let up this year is the least amount of goals this program has ever let up,” Gosek said. The next lowest is 2004-5 when they let up 66 in the same number of games.
That’s a stingy defense for a team most associated with as being an explosive offensive team. Stingy enough for their 1.85 goals allowed per game to be second best in the country. Who’s first? Their opponent on Saturday, St. Norbert at 1.74. The Green Knights also have the best penalty kill in the country.
When you get this far, it doesn’t get easy.
“They’re a deep team,” Gosek said of St. Norbert. “I don’t see much drop off between the first and fourth lines. They have six good defensemen and solid goaltending. The special teams are very good. You expect all that from a number one team.”
That and a lot more.
“We’ll need to compete hard as we did against Norwich,” Gosek continues. “But, we’ll also have to stay disciplined and work hard, and execute when you get the chance. You don’t get many shots on St. Norbert.”
Not many at all. Opponents average only 20.5 shots a game.
“I would expect both teams to play sound defensively,” Gosek said.
Oswego will rely on their speed and snipers to break through the St. Norbert defense and goaltender, Kyle Jones, who has played every game this year. That includes Brendan McLaughlin (24-29–53), Ryan Ellis (14-26–42) if he returns to action, Peter Magagna (10-22–32), C.J. Thompson (14-11–25), Garren Reisweber (13-11–24), Ryan Woodward (8-15–23), and Ryan Koresky (3-17–20). And, let’s not forget about Tony DiNunzio, if he suits up for this game, is quite capable of causing fits for the opposition as is Matt Whitehead and Neil Musselwhite. St. Norbert may be deep, but so is Oswego.
Another key factor will be goaltender Ryan Scott. Now that he got, as he put it, the monkey off his back, he can continue to play this weekend with the attitude he had going into the Norwich game. A game where Gosek admitted he challenged Scott.
“I went out just to win, and not be afraid of losing. There was no fear tonight,” Scott said after the game.
You can’t have fear when you are dealing with speed. And in a city that loves speedy sports, they are hoping the lack of fear means a lot of celebrating.
Sophomore forward Brendan McLaughlin twice had six point games this season and once last year.
Oswego has never faced St. Norbert, but now will not only play them on Saturday, but the Green Knights are coming to next year’s Pathfinder Bank Oswego Hockey Classic, and Oswego may return the favor the following year.
Oswego has made the national semifinals twice before, winning both times but then losing in the finals to the host team. In 1987, they beat St. Cloud State, 5-2, before losing to Plattsburgh, 8-5. Four years ago, they beat Middlebury, 6-0, then lost to Norwich, 2-1.
Oswego is the largest school in the tournament this year. They have an enrollment of 8,300 while St. Norbert and Middlebury each have 2,100 and Manhattanville is the smallest with 1,483.