OSWEGO, N.Y. — One year ago, Fredonia came into the Campus Center Ice Arena and stunned Oswego in the SUNYAC Semifinals. This year, Oswego made sure history did not repeat itself. The Lakers rode two quick goals late in the first period to defeat Fredonia, 4-1.
“We’ve been thinking about them since last year at this time,” said Oswego’s Brendan McLaughlin.
The surprise of the game occurred before it started. Kevin Amborski started in goal despite Pat Street being the number one goalie down the stretch with some spectacular play. Though Amborski was the goalie who got hot last year in the playoffs, helping his underdog team run the table, everyone expected to see Street in net.
Everyone that is, except Fredonia’s coach, Jeff Meredith.
“This is a building that Kevin’s played well in, the last two times he’s played there,” Meredith said. “I thought Kevin played well enough for us to be successful. He came up with the big saves. He battled hard. I was very pleased with how he did.”
Amborski stopped one excellent opportunity after another in the first period. Was it a case of deja vu for Oswego?
“Definitely,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Psychological part of it to start Amborski. Street started Tuesday, so we’re saying he’s probably going to start Street. I don’t think you can fault Amborski. He made some great saves, and you start thinking here we go again. I give our forwards credit for not panicking, not just throwing pucks at the net. We wanted to be patient, control the puck down low, and attack the seams. We were fortunate that McLaughlin’s line got one at the end of the first there and got some momentum. Then we were able to throw them out again and get another one.”
After an exciting end-to-end but scoreless first 18 minutes of hockey, Oswego stunned the Blue Devils with two scores in a 1:13 span.
The first came at 18:19 when Peter Magagna redirected a perfect backhand centering pass from Ryan Ellis. Ellis was down low as he received a pass from Mike Novak at the left point. Magagna burst to the net and stretched out his stick as Ellis’ pass deflected off the end of the blade past Amborski, extending Magagna point scoring streak to 14 games.
With 34 seconds left in the period, Oswego suddenly had a 2-0 lead. Amborski made a difficult glove save on Magagna. However, Amborski couldn’t hold onto it and it dropped in front of him. McLaughlin charged the net and banged it home up high as Amborski missed with his glove. McLaughlin now has a 15-game point scoring streak.
“The two goals at the end of the first period were pretty big,” Meredith said, “We know it’s got to be a 3-2 game for us to win it. We already spotted them the two and there’s still 40 minutes left for them to play.”
The second period went by without a goal, but not without many opportunities by Oswego. The Lakers outshot Fredonia, 17-4 in that period, and if it wasn’t for Amborski making one great save after another, the game would have turned into a blowout. The most impressive sequence occurred midway through the period when Amborski lost his stick and made no less than three solid saves. Amborski also got some help either from the posts or from Oswego missing shots with the goalie out of position.
“We said it doesn’t matter how many goal mouth scrambles that just went wide or how many posts they hit,” Meredith said to his team before the third period. “It’s just like a long foul ball in baseball. It means nothing. The fact is it’s the same as it was 20 minutes ago. We have to go at them. When you go at them, you leave yourself open, and that’s the price you pay for trying to generate something.”
Oswego finally got a third goal at 6:51 in the final stanza. Oswego had an extra attacker thanks to a delayed penalty. To make matters worse for Fredonia, defender Jeff Sylvester broke his stick. The Lakers buzzed around the net, and finally Tony DiNunzio picked up the loose puck to the side and stuck it inside the post.
Fredonia got it right back at 8:17 breaking the shutout on the power play. Colin Sarfeh’s shot was stopped by Scott, but the rebound went behind him. Bryan Goudy was right there to easily deposit it into the open net.
It didn’t take long for Oswego to regain the three-goal lead as C.J. Thompson scored 1:41 later on their own power play. Matt Whitehead controlled the puck behind the net, patiently waiting for an open Laker. He wound up passing it off the side to DiNunzio who quickly centered it to Thompson. Thompson’s redirect from the top of the crease easily beat Amborski.
Appropriately, the game ended with Amborski making yet another lunging glove save. The Blue Devils end their season at 15-9-3.
With all the attention paid to Amborski, it was easy to forget that Ryan Scott came up with some key saves early in the game to keep his team from falling behind.
“We’re down there peppering their kid, and he’s making saves and they come down, and that’s when you need your goalie to make the big save,” Gosek said. “For a while now, he’s been much more aggressive, tracking the puck into his body. This time of year, your goalie needs to be your best player, and once again he was our best player.”
This was Oswego’s first SUNYAC playoff win since 2004, which meant the senior class finally accomplished something they had not done before.
“It’s huge,” Oswego captain DiNunzio said. “There’s not a guy in the room that has won a SUNYAC playoff game. It was our mission. We got one more to go.”
Oswego (18-5-2) will now travel for the championship game next Saturday to face Plattsburgh, who defeated Potsdam, 6-0. The first and second place teams will meet in the biggest rivalry in the SUNYAC for an automatic berth into the NCAA playoffs.