OSWEGO, N.Y. — Plattsburgh’s Dave Friel shot the puck from a bad angle, yet it found its way past Ryan Scott for the game winning goal at 2:56 in overtime. The 3-2 come from behind victory over Oswego in Game 1 of the SUNYAC semifinals gives Plattsburgh the upper hand in the first to three points two-game series.
With six minutes to go in the contest, it appeared Oswego would be the team to grab the first game.
“We condition our players really good,” said Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery. “I thought we were in good shape there in the latter half of the third and in overtime. We were just one shot away from tying the game.”
Plattsburgh was able to get into position for that one shot thanks to a holding penalty by Tony Dufour. The Cardinals hadn’t scored on their first four power play opportunities.
“We took a couple of penalties near the end,” said Oswego coach Ed Gosek. “I thought we did a good job penalty killing right up there till the end.”
The goal itself was perhaps the longest delayed goal call in history. Dave Young’s shot apparently was stopped by Scott. He thought he had it. Oswego thought he had it. Plattsburgh thought he had it. The refs thought he had it. The goal judge thought he had it.
However, the puck had somehow squeezed through his pads and was in the net. After what seemed like an eternity, Plattsburgh saw where the puck was and started celebrating. The ref finally realized the same thing, and halfheartedly gave the goal signal. The red light never did go on.
Right from the start, the game lived up to its billing as an intense rivalry and a playoff contest. Despite a scoreless first period, the action was fast, furious, and hard hitting. Both teams had open net opportunities, but missed on the shot. There were very few second chances as the defense played it tight.
The first goal was scored quickly in the second period at the 1:51 mark thanks to some hard work by Plattsburgh behind the net. The puck eventually slid out front where Young easily tapped it into the near corner to give the Cardinals the 1-0 lead.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, Oswego tied it up on their first power play. Oswego controlled the puck thanks to their own hard work behind the net. Jean-Simon Richard eventually found Paul Perrier on the side of the net for the easy redirect before Craig Neilson could react.
Three minutes later and Oswego took the lead. Once again it was due to outworking the Plattsburgh defenders behind the net. Scott Irwin worked it to the front, then fed C.J. Thompson on the other side of the crease. Neilson stopped the first shot by Thompson, but with still nobody picking up the open attacker, Thompson was free to try again. This time he succeeded, giving the Lakers a 2-1 lead that would hold till the third.
“Our defensive system is to have our head on a swivel,” Emery said. “Tonight we did not have our heads on a swivel and that’s why the guy on the back post was wide open. You gotta have your head on a swivel in this game.”
Near the end of the second period, Oswego had their only other power play and nearly scored on numerous occasions. If they weren’t missing the net, Neilson was coming up with one great save after another. He wound up with 25 saves in the game.
“I got to take my hat off to our goalie who made some great saves,” Emery said. “Oswego had some great opportunities.”
Oswego also had a number of opportunities in the third period to grab that all important two-goal lead, but Neilson stopped them every time. Then, Oswego started taking those penalties near the end. And, before the home crowd realized it, they were going home disappointed.
What about the team? “Disappointed, but not discouraged,” Gosek said of the mood in the locker room. “We played pretty well. Their goalie played well. We had chances. We just didn’t finish. We can’t dwell on it. We have to come back.”
“We got a couple of lucky breaks tonight,” Emery said. “I’m happy but I’m not satisfied. It’s a two game series. There’s nothing to celebrate for right now.”
Speaking of the two-game series, the way it works, Plattsburgh could advance with a tie. That, however, doesn’t matter to Emery.
“I never play this game to tie,” he said. “You always play this game to win. I never play defensive. I want my team to be a good defensive team, but I never play defensive. I want to play the game to win.”
Meanwhile, Oswego has to think about the fact that they hope to play at least 80 minutes of hockey Saturday night. “For the most part we rolled four lines. I don’t think we overplayed anyone tonight,” Gosek said. “We hope the Potsdam series wore them [Plattsburgh] down. We hope to wear them down and get it done in the mini-game.”
The second game will start at 7:00 in Oswego. If the Lakers win, a mini-game will follow. Otherwise, Plattsburgh moves onto the finals.