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College Hockey:
Bears Edge Oswego

— To say that Potsdam goaltender Ryan Venturelli, once again, was the difference in the game, would be an understatement. Oswego outshot Potsdam, 17-6, in the first period and 48-21 overall, yet it was Potsdam, with two goals in the third period, that came away with a 3-2 victory.

The strong goaltending as well as better protection in front of the net enabled Potsdam to keep the game close, which allowed the Bears to eventually wear down Oswego, who was playing in its fifth game in eight nights, for the third period come-from-behind win.

“The schedule was in our favor,” conceded Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris. “Our guys were pretty healthy, and they’ve had tight games during the week. We knew that coming in. It was unfortunate for them, but fortunate for us.”

“That first part of the third period, we were just outworked. Plain and simple,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “They won the battle for the loose puck. We didn’t take care of our checks. Whether it was because we were tired or lack of effort, it’s inexcusable. We turned it on in the end. Venturelli played very well. He made the saves when he had to.”

Oswego did get on the board first in the latter half of the first period on the powerplay. Venturelli initially made another great save, but this time the Bears could not clear the rebound. Kevin Tracey was able to knock the rebound under a diving Venturelli.

Potsdam returned the favor on the powerplay very early in the second period. Chris Lee, continuing his strong play from the night before, skated with the puck from the right point to the left side, then made a perfect centering pass to Myles Palliser, who one-timed it in.

That momentum lasted a scant 12 seconds, as Oswego immediately went right back at Potsdam with Scott Irwin finishing off the play with a shot from the slot area.

“Hey, we can win this game,” is what Thomaris told his team after that goal. “The way to win it is hard work and to use our head. Making sure they have to go through us to get to the net.”

Oswego poured it on after retaking the lead, but Venturelli was up to the task, stonewalling the Lakers each time.

“We’re up 2-1 with all kinds of pressure, quality chances, not just outside perimeter chances, but we didn’t bury it. Once again, you let them stay in the game, and it comes back to bite you,” Gosek said in comparing this game to last night’s loss against Plattsburgh.

Once Potsdam weathered the storm, they were the ones who started controlling play about midway through the second period. Though the period ended with no further scoring, it became obvious that Potsdam had the extra step.

Though Gosek didn’t want to use the schedule as an excuse, he was right to say, “the guys were tired. It’s just they didn’t have the extra jump, didn’t get the loose pucks, finish the checks. For whatever reason, but they were tired. Hey, I give Potsdam credit. They worked hard. Their goalie made the big saves that kept them in it. They snuck a win out on the road. Compliments to them. We just didn’t have it in the third.”

Potsdam did have it in the third, and the Bears scored twice to take the lead. The first came on a solid solo effort by Mark Stewart, who skated with the puck from center ice, into the zone, then behind and around the net. He faked the wraparound, drifted out a hair, and let go of a shot that bounced off Laker goaltender Sebastien Matte and into the net.

Potsdam captain Scott Craig made up for all the times he put his team shorthanded (he was called for three penalties) by scoring the game winner on a power play. The Bears worked it down low, and Craig simply jammed it in. Lee got another assist, which gave him three goals and two assists on the weekend, extending his team leading point total to 21.

There was still 11:36 left on the clock, and now Potsdam had to hold off Oswego, who started to get their intensity back. The teams traded penalties and then Oswego started to pour everything it had at Potsdam. Venturelli was forced to make one big save after another, and his defense helped out with tight backchecking and timely clears.

Eventually, Oswego was forced to pull Matte with 1:17 left, but despite keeping the puck in the Potsdam zone for most of that time, the Bears withstood the storm for the win.

Oswego finally gets to rest from its tough 14-game first semester in which the Lakers wound up at 9-2-3, with both losses coming this past weekend. Those losses were also in conference play where they are 4-2-1. When the Lakers do return to action, they don’t make it any easier for themselves. They will be competing in the Times Argus Tournament at Norwich on New Year’s weekend, playing St. John’s of Minnesota and then either facing the host or Elmira.

After the final whistle, various players got together nearly triggering an ugly incident. The result of that skirmish was the Bears will lose senior defenseman Mike Smitko who was given a game disqualification. Potsdam also might lose Louis David-Demers who left the game early after blocking a shot off his foot. He’ll be diagnosed fully when the team returns home.

That next game for the Bears will be home against Hobart next Saturday before the team goes on winter break. Potsdam is now 6-6 overall and 4-3 in SUNYAC.

In an oft repeated line this year, Thomaris said, “Ryan was solid in the net, again.”

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