OSWEGO, N.Y. — In another thrilling nail-biter of a playoff contest between Potsdam and Oswego at the Great Romney Field House, game one of their SUNYAC semifinal round went to Potsdam, 4-3, in a see-saw battle.
Oswego took 1-0 and 2-1 leads before Potsdam turned the tables to snatch a 3-2 lead. However, after Oswego tied the game late in the second, Potsdam needed Mike McCabe to score early in the third and then hang on for the one-goal victory. Ryan Venturelli made 21 saves, including stopping two breakaways, to remain undefeated in playoff competition. Potsdam outshot Oswego, 32-24.
Unlike two regular-season contests that saw Oswego outskate the Bears, this time Potsdam head coach Ed Seney was able to compliment his squad’s effort.
“We played our game,” said Seney. “Last time we fell behind, this time we were able to take it to them.”
One advantage of conference playoffs is that the teams are already familiar with each other. Thus, there is no feeling-out period, and the game started out at a frenzied pace with end-to-end hockey, many scoring chances, and few whistles.
Oswego broke the ice at the 6:04 mark when Brian St. John skated down the right side heavily covered. St. John did what every hockey player is taught in that situation: throw it in front and hope you have a man there. Matt Vashaw was that man, as he was able to get behind the Potsdam defenders to receive the puck alone in front of the net. Vashaw didn’t waste the opportunity, one-timing it back the other way into the net.
Eight minutes later, Potsdam would tie it up on the power play, which went 2-for-5 for the Bears. Dave Weagle on the left point passed it across to Mike McCabe on the right point. McCabe fired a slapshot, but it went wide on the near side. However, the shot was hard enough that it bounced off the endboard and back in front of the net on the opposite side. Joe Wlodarczyk was there to knock it into the unguarded goal.
Oswego would leave the period with a 2-1 lead thanks to a Steve Cavallaro power-play goal with 1:09 left. Joe Carrabs fired a wicked waist-high blast from the left point and Cavallaro tipped it up, just enough to go over the shoulder of Venturelli, but low enough to ricochet off the crossbar and down into the goal.
Potsdam tied it up early in the third when John Bernfell flicked a shot from the left point that somehow managed to elude Tyson Gajda. After the goal, Gajda replaced his broken stick, which may have led to his misplaying it.
Potsdam took the lead just over a minute later when Anthony Greer, while on a two-on-one, used his teammate as the decoy and wristed it past Gajda, who was expecting the pass.
At that stage of the game, the intensity picked up even more. Freewheeling skating, numerous scoring opportunities, and bodies flying — exactly what one expects from a playoff game. In the waning minutes of the second period, the action slowed when due to a slew of penalties. Oswego took advantage of this scoring a goal while skating four aside.
It was Vashaw who got his second of the night on a breakaway just after a Potsdam two-on-one was foiled with excellent defensive work. Vashaw waited for Venturelli to make the first move, and easily put it by him.
The Bears scored the game-winner on the power play 3:24 into the final period after a scramble in front of the net. Mike Snow’s initial shot was saved by Gajda, but Oswego could not clear the rebound. McCabe fought his way to the puck and knocked it in.
Afterwards, Potsdam dominated the third period outskating, outhustling, and outmanning the Lakers. Oswego stood up to the Bears, and was able to mount its own attack in the final few minutes of the game; Potsdam only gave up five shots in the third, with most of those coming in the closing minutes.
Seney admitted that in these two-game series, “The first game really doesn’t mean anything. It all comes down to the second game, and there’s no tomorrow.”
Faceoff for game two is 7:00 p.m. Saturday night at Oswego.