ADRIAN, Mich. — In a game that featured the nation’s most potent offenses, the goaltenders and defenses stole the show as the Oswego State Lakers defeated the Adrian Bulldogs, 3-2, in overtime to advance to the Frozen Four in Lake Placid.
Lakers star Paul Rodrigues was the hero at the 13:32 mark of the overtime when he took a pass from Luke Moodie before breaking in on Adrian goaltender Scott Shackell and beating him low to end the game.
For the Lakers, experience proved to be a key, as its senior-laden roster led them over a Bulldogs team that had only five players with NCAA tournament experience.
“We were resilient tonight,” said Adrian coach Ron Fogarty. “We were resilient, but nothing beats experience. They have one heck of a senior-laden team.”
The four seniors on the Adrian roster tried to impart what wisdom they could into their teammates as the game went on, but were not able to overcome the talent and experience on the other bench.
“We told everyone to live in the moment, enjoy playing in front of the crowd. We emphasized that everything was the same though. Same pucks, same nets, same everything,” said Adrian senior Zach Graham.
As the first period got underway, the Lakers jumped on top early on a pair of back-to-back penalties. The Bulldogs killed off the first, but Oswego’s Chris Muise took advantage of the second power play and beat Shackell low to the blocker side at 6:11 of the first.
Despite lots of good opportunities, the Lakers were unable to extended their lead as Shackell shut the door for the rest of the period.
After staying out of the box completely in the first period, Oswego was called for five penalties in the second, giving the nation’s No. 1 power play a big opportunity. Josh Ranalli tied the game up at 3:35 on Adrian’s first power play.
Ranalli’s goal provided the Bulldogs with some momentum and allowed them to jump all over the Lakers. Freshman Shaquille Merasty scored at 5:30 to give Adrian the lead, 2-1.
With time running down in the second, the Lakers seized the momentum back as Jon Whitelaw found a loose puck in front of the net before putting it past Shackell to tie the game at two.
“I thought we really took control in the second period,” said Shackell.
For Oswego coach Ed Gosek though, the second period really provided the turning point for the game.
“I think for us, the turning point was killing off those penalties late in the second and coming back getting that greasy goal at the end. I felt that helped us grab the momentum back at the end.”
Across the hall the Bulldogs, tried not to focus on the late goal during the intermission.
“We always say that even if they get one, our game plan doesn’t change; we can’t let our lows go too low, and our high’s too high,” said Graham.
The third period was dominated by the goaltenders and defenses, as neither team scored despite several opportunities and posts being hit.
Both goaltenders played extremely well for their respective clubs with Shackell making 52 saves on 55 shots and Hare making 31 on 33 shots.
After the game the Lakers enjoyed the win, but were already moving on to their next opponent.
“We have a really special group of guys here, and they have the right chemistry and work ethic; I am very proud of the guys, what they have done and what they are doing,” said Gosek.
Across the hall, Fogarty was also proud of the effort his team had put in all season, and especially during the game.
“This team should hold their head high. I am very proud of this team and the seniors here. I think everything they have done speaks for itself.”