LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — In this century, the only times Oswego and Norwich get together, it’s in the NCAA playoffs. Whoever won that match went on to win the national championship.
In 2003, Norwich won in the championship game. In 2007, Oswego won in the quarterfinal round and then won the next two games.
For 2013, it was the semifinal round where they met, and it was Oswego who came out on top, 6-3, thanks to a four-goal third period. Norwich was outshot in the game, 34-27, a rarity for the Cadets.
“In the first period, I felt we transitioned the puck as well as we have all season long,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Second period, I thought they made some changes, so our passes weren’t there. In the third period, I thought we executed well early on and we just chipped away.”
“I thought it was a great game for the first 50 minutes; it was up and down,” Norwich coach Mike McShane said. “They had five minutes where they dominated. After that, we just didn’t answer.”
The first few minutes of the contest were played at a frantic pace. Within 3:18, each team notched their first goal.
It took just 20 seconds for Norwich to do so, as Pier-Olivier Cotnoir, from the slot, took a pass from Kyle Thomas and wristed it by Andrew Hare.
“It certainly didn’t get off to the start we wanted,” Gosek said. “It was like last year against St. Norbert. The biggest difference this year is the experience, the maturity on how we handle adversity.”
“You don’t want to let a goal in that early,” Hare said. “As a goalie, you just try to erase it and just imagine the score is still zero-zero.”
Oswego responded with a furious pace, pouncing on every loose puck in the Cadets’ zone. Jon Whitelaw missed a wide-open net, followed by Chris Carr not being able to connect right in front. Finally, Paul Rodrigues was able to make good on the pressure when he snuck behind the goalie while receiving a pass from Zach Josepher. Rodrigues simply pushed it into the unguarded net.
“We knew we had to battle for 60 minutes,” Norwich captain Cotnoir said. “When we got the first goal, we were happy we got the momentum. But then they scored quickly and the momentum was gone.”
The teams continued to go at each other hard, though the pace did start to wane. This time, the scoring chances were thwarted by the goalies, resulting in a 1-1 tie after one, despite a last-second breakaway by Whitelaw, who was forced to rush his shot due to pressure from behind.
Again, each team scored in the second period, and again Norwich got its goal first, and again Oswego quickly matched it.
Norwich’s goal came on a superb breakout pass. After winning the faceoff deep in its own zone, Thomas broke out getting behind Oswego’s defense. Corey Hale fired the puck from his goal line off the center ice side boards. The banked pass ended up perfectly ahead of the speeding Thomas, who easily picked it up en route to a breakaway. Thomas went straight in and fired it past Hare at 8:06.
“Hale made a great pass,” Thomas said. “After that, it was off to the races.”
A minute and a half later, the Lakers tied it again. Kyle Badham from the left boards passed it across and back to Tim Carr skating down the high slot. Carr wristed a shot high over Chris Czarnota’s glove.
The first penalty of the game was not called until past the midway point of the second period against Oswego. Seconds later, Tory Allan intercepted a pass for a short-handed breakaway. He aimed for the corner above Hare’s glove, but fired it high and wide.
The teams ended a period tied yet again. For the third period, it was Oswego who scored first … and then often.
Chris Muise took a pass at the left circle from Chris Brown. Czarnota cheated over to his right to cover the short side, enabling Muise to find the gap inside the far post at 6:14.
Six minutes later, the game was decided in a 1:43 span. Tyler Leimbrock scored at 12:04 by not giving up on the play. He stole the puck, providing him a golden opportunity alone with the goalie, but he didn’t convert. However, the Lakers kept at it, and soon afterward, David Titanic fed Leimbrock in front, who backhanded the tip in to make it 4-2.
“I was just trying to get the puck deep,” Leimbrock said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t convert on the breakaway. But, Titanic made a great play to get me the puck.”
Another terrible giveaway by a Norwich defender virtually fed Matt Singleton in the crease. Singleton faded backward, waiting out the goalie before picking his spot to make it 5-2.
“We had a lull in the middle of the third period,” Thomas said. “And they scored those two quick goals.”
Hale gave Norwich one last gasp, firing a shot in from the top of the right circle at 17:49. Norwich pulled Czarnota, but despite some pressure, Muise scored an empty-net goal to clinch the game.
Norwich ends its season at 24-4-1.
Oswego (25-4-0) moves onto the national championship game for the second year in a row. The Lakers will face the winner of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Utica.