OSWEGO, N.Y. — Speed kills.
Oswego came out at full throttle, blowing by Plattsburgh, 6-3, to capture the SUNYAC Championship, the school’s eighth title.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Proud of our staff. When you win a championship, it’s easy to forget the people that make it all possible. Last one was in Romney, 2003. It’s been a long time coming.”
Breakaways, odd man rushes, skating by defenders — Oswego used its superior speed in every facet of the game.
“I thought we were quicker than we were the last there-to-four weeks,” Gosek said. “Right or wrong, we gave them three days off. We didn’t go out on the ice till Wednesday. They wanted to go, but we said no. Not just mentally to get their heads away from it a little bit, but physically to give their legs a rest. I thought we had that jump back. Especially in the first period, we had two or three two-on-ones, three-on-two opportunities, where we were able to beat their forwards back up the ice.”
The first goal of the game came on a quick center ice transition. Michael Gilchrist picked up a loose puck and pushed it forward to Luke Moodie, who fed Paul Rodrigues racing across the line on the left side. Rodrigues had Jon Whitelaw on the right in a rapidly developing two-on-one.
The Plattsburgh defender played it properly, cutting off the pass, allowing his goaltender to take the shot. Rodrigues still used Whitelaw as a decoy and then ripped a shot which flew over Ryan Williams’ glove into the far upper corner at 9:32.
Oswego made it 2-0 on a combination of speed and grit by the fourth line. Andrew Mather brought the puck into the zone down the right side boards. He fought off checks, kept his feet moving, and eventually out-skated the opposition. Before the angle was gone, he passed the puck across the crease, where Owen Kelly was left unmarked at the backdoor. Kelly easily redirected it into the near side.
Plattsburgh got on the scoreboard at 9:17 of the middle period. After a mad scramble in front of the goal, the puck squirted out to the left high slot area. Eric Satim picked it up and pushed it back towards the crease. Andrew Willock was there to pick it up, drag it around Kyle Gunn-Taylor, and deposit it behind him.
After the goal, the Cardinals’ faithful who made the long trip did not have much more to cheer about. Oswego scored three goals in a span of 2:15, the latter two 22 seconds apart, to blow the game open, 5-1, before the period ended.
“Obviously that stretch in the second was the turning point in the game,” Gosek said. “I thought they had some momentum going. They made it 2-1, and then we got a third one, a fourth, a fifth and things are rolling.”
Kevin Huinink fired a shot from the left point that found its way through the screen past Williams.
The fourth line scored their second goal of the night similar to the two-on-one for the first goal of the game. Mather brought the puck down the left side with a teammate to his right, whom he used as a decoy. Mather’s shot went high over the goalie’s shoulder, with Kelly getting the assist.
“I thought their performance last week and this week was outstanding,” Gosek said of the fourth line. “They did everything we asked of them. They kept it simple. They gave up nothing again. Those guys are the unsung heroes. I don’t know of a lot of championship teams that can expect to get point production out of their fourth line. It makes it that much sweeter because it really is a team effort.”
Taylor Farris scored his first collegiate goal, which surprised him as much as Williams. Farris took seemingly a stoppable shot from the left faceoff circle. However, it snuck through the five-hole.
Platttsburgh put Josh Leis in net to start the third, but it took only 51 seconds for Oswego to make it 6-1. Chris Laganiere passed from the left side to Tylor Leimbrock in the slot. Leimbrock wristed it past Leis.
Plattsburgh scored two late power-play goals at 15:16 and 17:42, the second with its goalie pulled, to close out the scoring. Satim got the first 15 seconds after the power play started, and Dylan Clarke got the second six seconds after the power play started.
Leis stayed on the bench for the extra attacker for the rest of the game.
Gunn-Taylor made 35 saves for the win.
“We said to him ‘Let’s get back to challenging,’” Gosek said. “‘Let’s be aggressive. Let’s get back to where you were in that first game up at Plattsburgh on the road. Don’t worry about the backdoor. Don’t worry about the rebounds. Let’s get out there and challenge.’ I thought it was one of his better games.”
Defenseman Kevin Huinink (1-2-3, +5) was named tournament MVP. The All Tournament team also consisted of forwards Tyler Leimbrock (Oswego), Dylan Clarke (Plattsburgh), and Chris Cerbino (Morrisville), defenseman Tyler Lyon (Oswego), and goaltender Gunn-Taylor (Oswego).
“Some people would probably question it, but we don’t,” Gosek said of Huinink’s selection as MVP. “Unfortunately, most people just look at points, points, points. They understood his importance last weekend and this weekend to make great defensive plays, to move and distribute the puck. It’s a positive for once those unsung heroes got some credit. It’s well deserved.”
Oswego (25-2-0) gets the automatic berth into the NCAA playoffs and will most likely host a quarterfinal game next Saturday. They wait to see who their opponent will be.
Plattsburgh (18-5-4) has a good shot at an at-large berth into the NCAA playoffs, but they will have to sweat it out for 24 hours before learning of their fate.