OSWEGO, N.Y. — “Defensive hockey is not a matter of skill, it’s a matter of heart.”
Potsdam State coach Ed Seney said it best after his Bears completely shut down the faster Oswego State Great Lakers en route to a dominating 7-2 victory and a sweep in the SUNYAC semifinal round, earning a chance to compete for the SUNYAC championship.
Ryan Venturelli once again got the win, making 17 saves as Potsdam outshot Oswego, 41-19.
Right from the start, Potsdam swarmed all over the ice, taking away Oswego’s game. Oswego’s first shot of the game didn’t come until the 9:58 mark, and the Lakers only managed one more shot in that opening period.
Meanwhile, Potsdam got off 12 shots, but despite the Bears spending most of the time in their opposition’s zone, Oswego was doing a good job keeping Potsdam shooting from the outside. Joe Lofberg, whose inconsistent play in the second semester made him a surprise starter, was very strong in net for the opening period.
Ironically, the first period ended scoreless despite Potsdam’s domination, while the second period was Oswego’s best as scoring chances were fairly even, yet that would end with Potsdam ahead 3-1.
Potsdam finally broke through at the 2:17 mark of the second period when Brendon Knight took advantage of the no-two-line-offense rule in college, hanging behind the defense and receiving a pass from Erick Curtis. Knight went in for the breakaway, shot it at the five hole, and the puck barely made it in as Lofberg got a piece of it.
Oswego came right back two-and-a-half minutes later when Rob Smith found himself all alone in front of the net. This was a result of Potsdam thinking it had control of the puck and the defense started heading up. However, it was Chris DiCarlo with the puck, and he fed Smith, who one-timed a backhander over the outstretched leg of Venturelli.
Potsdam took the lead when Joe Munn simply outhustled Oswego. A pass off the center boards by Dave Weagle went past Munn, but he outskated the Oswego defender who was two steps ahead of him, got the puck, and ended up with a breakaway. He roofed it over the glove of Lofberg.
Mike Snow scored next when the Bears once again outhustled Oswego by getting rebound after rebound until Snow found himself with an empty net to shoot at, and he didn’t waste the opportunity.
The backbreaker for Oswego came just 38 seconds into the third when Knight skated across the slot area and backhanded a shot in as Lofberg was slow to react.
The nail in the coffin was when Oswego scored an own goal while it was on the power play. It appeared the Oswego player was passing it back to Lofberg, but the soft shot actually eluded Lofberg, going through his legs and into the goal.
Unlike soccer, someone has to be credited with the goal, and it went to Joe Wlodarczyk. Lofberg was replaced at this point with Tyson Gajda.
That made the score 5-1, but essentially the game was over. Mike McCabe scored off a rebound on the power play. Mike Lukajic gave Oswego’s fans one last chance to cheer when his wrist shot from the left point on the power play got by a screened Venturelli.
Finally, Mike Smitko, also on the power play, completed a play that involved so much quick passing like a baseball team passing around the horn, that he had a completely open net to shoot at. He ended up taking his time, slowly putting the puck in the goal.
“Our guys played very consistent,” Seney said. “When they broke down, Ryan made the save.”
Oswego becomes the second home team to get knocked out of the SUNYAC playoffs. They ended their season with an overall record of 17-9-1. Potsdam extended its season for at least one more week as it travels to Plattsburgh this weekend for the final round.