POTSDAM, N.Y. — Leading into the SUNYAC semifinals, everybody was talking about the Potsdam power play. However, it was the Oswego power play that was the difference as the Lakers won game one, 6-3, in Potsdam.
Oswego scored three power play goals, and by the time the Potsdam power play produced, it was too little, too late.
“The last three games our power play has been much more effective,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “We went from below 20% a couple of weeks ago to creep up above 25%. Our guys were patient and made some nice plays.”
Even more importantly, they slowed the Potsdam power play. “We spent a lot of time on their power play,” Gosek said. “We did a lot of video work, did a lot of walkthroughs, did a lot of talking. We did what we needed to do.”
“we had an idea what we wanted to do to kill a penalty,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said. “They did what we expected. We just didn’t do a vary good job of killing them.”
After a scoreless first period, Oswego got the ball rolling at 8:53 of the second with their first power play tally. A classic round the horn play left Mike Lukajic wide open down low on the goalie’s right. He received the crossing pass from Andy Rozak for the easy one-timer into the unguarded near side of the net.
Less than three minutes later, Ryan Venturelli appeared to make the save, but the puck was jammed in by Sean Kotary to make it 2-0. Potsdam argued the call, but after the referee checked with the goal judge, it was allowed to stand.
A power play goal ended the scoring for the second period. Jean-Simon Richard, standing in front of the net, quickly converted a pass from behind the net by Ryan Woodward.
Both of Oswego’s second period power play goals were caused by what coaches would call “unnecessary penalties.” The first when Phil Aubry was called for cross-checking long after the play ended. The second was a rarely seen playing with a broken stick infraction by Greg Lee.
“They were bad penalties on our part,” Thomaris said. “We’ve gotten away with it all year long. We just can’t afford that now.”
After Potsdam missed a 3-on-1 opportunity early in the third, Oswego jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Lukajic, going one-on-one, simply outskated the defender and flipped a shot into the upper reaches of the net.
Potsdam attempted to get back into the game when they finally converted a power play goal. After the initial save, Jared Bremner pushed the puck past a sprawled out Tyson Gajda.
That momentum didn’t last long — less than a minute. After the Bears started chasing the puck in their own zone, Andy Rozak patiently drifted away from the net, waiting for Ryan Venturelli to go down. He did, and Rozak flipped it over the helpless goaltender.
“we answered the call when they scored the one,” Gosek said. “We came right back. I thought that was huge.”
At this point, Thomaris decided to pull Venturelli, and rest him for the next night. Vince Cuccaro came in and let one more goal go in. Naturally, on the power play.
Jocelyn Dubord didn’t appear to have anything to shoot at. Somehow, he found an opening to give Oswego a 6-1 lead.
The Bears came back with two late goals which meant more for personal statistics than the outcome for the game. Myles Palliser scored a power play goal, and Greg Lee put one in with eight seconds left.
Most teams go into a two-game series with the attitude that the first game doesn’t mean much. For Oswego, the exact opposite was true. Had they lost, it would have been their third straight defeat to Potsdam.
“If we come here in and lose tonight, then we lose three straight to them and that puts more pressure on us,” Gosek said. “I think tonight’s game was huge. I tend to agree it usually does not mean a lot in the first game, but I think in this case it means a lot for us to get that confidence.”
“It sets the tone for tomorrow night’s game,” Lukajic said. “We have a lot of momentum going into tomorrow. But we’ve got to come prepared for a tough battle.”
Oswego will be prepared and then some. About that power play that worked so well? “We’ll review it again tonight with the video and make some changes and adapt to the changes they might make,” Gosek said.
Thomaris certainly expects his team to be ready. “It’s do or die. Our backs are against the wall. All those clichs are there, so I don’t think it’s time to end the season just yet,” he said.