That is what is in Oswego State coach Diane Dillon’s voice this week. Why is she excited? It may have something to do with her squad’s impressive 3-1-1 start. That record includes her team’s first ECAC West victory over the weekend on the road in overtime against Buffalo State.
“I couldn’t be happier to take seven out of 10 points, it’s fantastic,” said Dillon. The Lakers opened the season, and a brand new rink, with a weekend sweep of Chatham. The next weekend they opened up ECAC West play and tied Cortland despite holding a 46-25 shot advantage. This past weekend, they faced their first road test ever and came away with a split against the Bengals.
It has not always been smooth sailing for the Lakers however. With a new rink being constructed, they ran into some delays, as expected.
“We didn’t even get into our locker room until two or three days before we played our first game,” said Dillon. “We didn’t even have our uniforms until the last minute.”
Despite the setbacks, at least on the ice, the team did not let it bother them. That is a result of solid leadership, said Dillon: “Our captains have done a good job of settling the team down.”
Entering the season, no one really knew what to expect of this young Laker squad.
“We didn’t want to focus on the wins and the losses,” said Dillon. “We want to focus on the effort of the players.”
That made it all the more surprising how many people have shown up and supported the first year team. In the program’s inaugural contest, 820 people showed up to watch the Lakers defeat Chatham 3-1. That was followed by a crowd of 318 the next night. Against Cortland, 413 people came to watch the Lakers compete.
“The support here in town, from the President of the University [Deborah Stanley], to the men’s team who has been extremely supportive, to the outside community has been absolutely fantastic,” said Dillon. “We are a brand new team, they didn’t really have high expectations for us, but we put out a good product for them.”
That good product is made up of quality players at every position. To this point, the Lakers have been led offensively by sophomore forward Stephanie Esposito and freshman Jessica O’Grady, who have combined for nine goals and six assists in five games.
While some players may stand out on the score sheet, Dillon is quick to point out that the success of the offense can be attributed to the hard work of everyone on the team: “Our forwards have gotten the job done when they have needed to, but everyone has been an important part of our success.”
In goal, the Lakers have two quality goaltenders that have split time so far, but Dillon admits she has a tendency to go with the hot glove. Freshmen Hilary Hitchman and Erin Robson have both performed well to date holding opponents to just eight goals over the five games combined.
Aside from the early season success, Dillon wants fans to keep in mind that they are still a first year program and a young team.
“Everyone is a rookie here at Oswego, including the coaching staff,” said Dillon.
With a new rink, solid support from both the college and the community, along with a coach who has a deep passion for the game, and the knowledge and skill it takes to run a program, the future of women’s hockey in Oswego looks promising.
“We just hope to follow in the tradition of Laker hockey that has been established here,” said Dillon.
Part of that tradition returns to campus this weekend as two former women’s hockey players will be inducted into the Oswego Athletic Alumni Hall of Fame. The two former student-athletes to be honored are Ann (Potter) Collins ’80 and ESPN Sportscenter anchor Linda Cohn ’81. The two will be inducted Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The Lakers will take the ice later in the day for the first game of a weekend series against the Neumann Knights.
“We have two transfer players from Neumann this year, and they are excited about seeing some of their old friends,” said Dillon. “It should be an exciting weekend for everyone.”
It should be an exciting year too.
A Weekend of Goalies
What was with the performances by goalies across the nation last weekend?
Friday night, Bethel defeated Wisconsin-Eau Claire behind the amazing performance of goaltender Beth Spurrier. Spurrier stopped 53 of 55 shots helping the Royals upset the Blugolds.
The same night, St. Mary’s was able to sneak up and tie Wisconsin-River Falls at two goals apiece. There were able to pull it off behind the strong efforts off Nikki Jung who turned away 52 of 54 shots from the Falcons.
On Saturday, Wisconsin-River Falls was a victim of another unbelievable performance. This time they were handled by USCHO Player of the Week Crystal Testolin. Testolin blocked 51 of 53 shots as Hamline tied the Falcons.
Of course with the good also comes the bad. Wisconsin-Eau Claire goalie Bri Lutz was pulled halfway through the game after allowing four goals on just nine shots against Bethel, the same game in which Beth Spurrier stood on her head.
Another night to forget came from Salve Regina goalie Michelle Chabot, who allowed 10 goals on just 49 shots against Holy Cross.
The bar has been set both high and low by these goalies, and I wouldn’t expect any of them to keep up those numbers. They could go out this weekend and have the exact opposite results. That is the nature of the game, and that is why they don’t play it on paper. Anything can happen on any given night, and that’s why we keep coming back for more.