OSWEGO, N.Y. — Oswego was able to avoid looking ahead to their big game Saturday night and took care of business against Potsdam. The Lakers used a strong second period and held off another Potsdam comeback attempt to defeat the Bears, 5-3, in Oswego.
“Because of our rivalry with Plattsburgh, we tried every imaginable thing we could think of to get them to focus on Potsdam,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Too many times in the past we got caught looking ahead. All week long, starting Monday, we got back to basic fundamental practices and talked about Potsdam.”
In a fast and furious first period, Oswego got on the board at 14:25 on the power play. A shot towards the net got stopped by traffic in front. Potsdam, figuring the puck was going to go through, all went one way. This allowed Jocelyn Dubord to pick up the loose puck in the slot area and fire it into the net.
Two and a half minutes later, Potsdam tied it up thanks to constant pressure. Eventually, T.J. Sakaluk wound up with the puck on the left side. He passed it to the front of the net where Ryan Mattison redirected it past Ryan Scott.
The second period saw the game turn to Oswego’s favor. Immediately, they came out and put the pressure on the young Potsdam defense. Just two minutes in, Vince Cuccaro was forced to stop a breakaway.
Cuccaro continued to be pounded, and Oswego took the lead at 3:22. Don Patrick passed the puck from down low up high to Kevin Tracey. His shot was partially screened, and it squeezed between the post and Cuccaro’s outstretched right leg.
Midway through the period, Oswego jumped out to a two goal lead. At this point, the Lakers were simply outskating the Bears, forcing them to start running around chasing the puck. Dubord found himself with the disk in the high slot area and powered a shot past Cuccaro.
“The second period, they blew us out up in Potsdam,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said, witnessing deja vu. “They played a great second period tonight.”
“Eventually we did wear them down,” Gosek said of their domination in the second.
However, Potsdam, who has scored a league high 34 goals in the third period, wasn’t ready to give up.
“We’ve been a notoriously good third period team,” Thomaris said. “We started to come a little bit and then made a mistake and gave up a shorthander.”
That shorthander made it 4-1 and seemed to put an end to any comeback hope by Potsdam. The Bears lost the puck at center ice, and Oswego broke in two-on-one. Freshman sensation Tony DiNunzio used his teammate as the perfect decoy. At the last second with the defenseman and goalie playing the pass, he fired the puck himself easily fooling Cuccaro.
Despite the 4-1 lead, Potsdam started to mount their traditional third period comeback. On the same power play, they got that goal back. Oswego over committed in an attempt to get another shorthanded goal, and Potsdam reversed the rush on a three-on-two break. Pat Lemay went deep then passed it back to the trailing Mark Stewart who blasted it by Scott.
Two minutes later, and Potsdam cut the lead to 4-3 on another power play goal, just four seconds after the penalty was called. It was Stewart again, who right off the face off, shot it from a difficult angle off to the side of the net, but it found it’s way behind Scott on the near side.
Just when it looked like Potsdam would pull off the comeback, Oswego went on the power play.
“On the power play we fell asleep on the diagonal pass,” Thomaris said. “We were just a little tired.”
On that diagonal pass in front of the net from Gary Bowman to Jean-Simon Richard, the Potsdam defense and more importantly, the goaltender, never moved, as if they never saw it. This allowed the untouched Richard to easily put it into the unguarded net.
Potsdam continued to apply pressure and pulled their goalie, but Oswego was able to hold them off thanks to some outstanding saves by Scott.
Thomaris was proud nonetheless. “I give our guys a lot of credit for coming out in the third period like that after that second period,” he said.
Gosek was also impressed with his opponent, especially how much they have improved over the year. “When we played them in the beginning of the year till now, is remarkable,” he said. “We had to work hard for everything we got. They played well.”
Potsdam drops to 3-6 in conference and 7-12-1 overall. They fell two points behind Cortland for fifth place, but play the Red Dragons Saturday night, who will be coming off a big win over Plattsburgh.
“A couple of years ago, Cortland knocked off Plattsburgh and then fell flat on their face against us,” Thomaris said. “With all the seniors they have on their team, I don’t think that’s going to happen this year. I think they are looking to get four points. They are trying to get a home ice playoff spot which I don’t think they’ve had in a long, long time. I expect them to come at us with 40 shots. We have to be ready for the big storm.”
Oswego moves to 7-2 in the SUNYAC (14-3-3 overall) and with Fredonia’s loss to Geneseo, is now just one point behind first place. Now, they can start thinking about their big game against Plattsburgh.
“They could be 20-0 and we could be 0-20, and it will be a great game,” Gosek said refusing to get overconfident due to Plattsburgh’s struggles recently. “It will be an up and down game. It seems like in the past, the teams start out tight, and then as soon as a team gets a goal, the other one starts pressing and it opens up in a hurry. I wouldn’t think tomorrow night will be any different. It will be a fun game. It’s a great college rivalry. We look forward to it.”