OSWEGO, N.Y. — In one of the most anticipated games in Division III hockey history, Oswego defeated Adrian, 5-2. When it was all over, everybody got something out of the game. Oswego showed they are still the top team in the nation and defended the pride of the East. Adrian showed they can play with the top teams in the country and put a plug in for the West, and the fans will continue to debate.
“It’s a great learning experience,” Adrian coach Ron Fogarty said. “We learned from a great team. They’re number one in the country for a reason.”
“I thought our guys were resilient,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “I was proud of our effort. They are a good team. They got good players, are well coached. I can see why they are making noise out west.”
However, it didn’t turn out to be the free-flowing game most expected.
“I thought it would be more of an up-and-down game,” Gosek said. “What got us out of our flow, we lost Dormiedy and Moodie in their first and second shift of the game. So right off the bat, we were overplaying some guys, and we didn’t get into a good flow.”
Despite Oswego buzzing the Adrian net in the first period, mainly due to a number of power plays, including a long two-man advantage, Adrian hung tough, keeping the Lakers off the scoreboard, until the final 1:14, when Oswego snapped off two goals in 44 seconds to take a 2-0 lead.
Neil Musselwhite got the first, thanks to a perfect pass from Jon Whitelaw. Musselwhite banged it home up high.
“It was a great three-on-two play when they had Musselwhite on the back door,” Fogarty said.
For the second tally, Paul Rodrigues raced down the right side, ripping off a perfectly placed shot up and over Brad Fogal’s right shoulder into the far upper corner.
“Rodrigues has been a goal scoring through juniors; he made a great shot off the post,” Fogarty said.
“I thought we played well in the first period,” Gosek said. “I know we had two late goals to show for it, but I thought we had a lot of grade ‘A’ chances early on.”
“We came out on our heels a little bit because of Oswego taking it to us,” Fogarty said. “They are a great skating team.”
Adrian started to take control of parts of the second period, which was played a lot more evenly than the first. The Bulldogs persistence finally paid off at 13:59 when they beat Kyle Gunn-Taylor for the first time. A long flurry produced numerous chances for Adrian before Mike Dahlinger finally picked up the loose puck and swept it around the goalie.
“Kind of what I expected in the second,” Gosek said. “They got their act together and came out and played a much better second.”
However, once again Oswego got a late score to retake a two-goal lead due to a terrible mistake by Fogal. Fogal misread the play behind the net and got stuck there while the puck came out to the slot area onto Musselwhite’s stick. Musselwhite scored perhaps the easiest goal of his career, shooting it into the wide open unguarded net.
“We played a lot better in the second period,” Fogarty said. “We had an unfortunate mishap there to lead to the third goal. A miscommunication behind the net.”
The final period was filled with penalties, topped by a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind to Adrian’s Shawn Skelly. However, thanks to some good penalty killing and a bunch of other penalties, Oswego was unable to take advantage.
“After killing the five-minute major, we were right there,” Fogarty said.
“In the third, we played well, but then we get into a little penalty issue,” Gosek said.
That penalty issue allowed Adrian to pull their goaltender with 2:41 left to go on a six-on-four. Adrian did score, but it came after they committed a penalty, thus making it simply an extra attacker goal.
Dahlinger picked up a fat rebound and put it past Gunn-Taylor for his second of the night.
Gunn-Taylor wound up with 28 saves. Fogal made 42 saves.
“I thought Gunn-Taylor played very well,” Gosek said.
Oswego prevented any sort of Adrian comeback by shooting in two empty-net goals in the final 31 seconds, the first by Stephen Mallaro and the second by Musselwhite, giving him a hat trick.
“Again, I thought he was our best player,” Gosek said of Musselwhite. “Not just because of the goals, but the intangibles. He’s a warrior. He’s banged up, too. That’s the kind of character he shows.”
Ironically, the Mallaro goal was the only power-play tally in a game that saw 25 penalties for 77 minutes and 17 power-play opportunities. Part of the problem was Adrian’s inability to handle the adversity of close, tough games, not having played teams like Oswego on a game-to-game basis.
Barring a match up in the NCAA playoffs, it will be awhile before these teams play each other. In two years, Adrian has committed to coming to Oswego for the Pathfinder Bank Classic.
Oswego (16-1-0) gets a week off before returning to conference play with a home game against Buffalo State on January 22.
Adrian (10-3-0) hits the road again with a pair of games at Milwaukee School of Engineering next weekend.