At the end of last season, when it was fait accompli that the Salem State Vikings would be leaving their long and venerable association with the ECAC East and joining the new MASCAC conference, the challenge to keep some of their most talented players began in earnest.
Having played in one of the best conferences in D-III hockey, which also included the interlock with the NESCAC conference, the move to a new conference that would be largely made up of state schools departing the ECAC Northeast was not the road several of the Vikings’ players wanted to travel.
Forward Justin Fox and defenseman Kevin Huinink, who both hail from Whitby, Ontario had bigger aspirations for their college hockey careers and in the process, found an opportunity to play for a perennial D-III power with a chance for a national championship.
Trading in their Salem State colors for the green, yellow and white of the Oswego State Lakers was not a difficult decision to make.
“I really transferred for one reason,” stated Fox. “The goal was to come to a school that has a great program and Coach (Ed) Gosek has brought in players that all have the same goal. This is a great bunch of guys with great team chemistry. I am not even sure that I can describe the chemistry. These guys really gelled together and the season has been everything that I expected coming here.”
The combination has clearly benefited both the players and their new team, as Oswego has been ranked nationally at one or two all season. Moreover, both players have fit right in with a Lakers program looking to regain the national title they won last in 2007.
Fox, a former ECAC East league all-star, has been matched with junior Chris Laganiere and first team All-American Eric Selleck. The line has been very productive, with all three players having point totals greater than 40. The three are the top three point-getters for the Lakers and have combined for 17 power-play goals and nine game-winning goals this season.
For his career, Fox passed the 100 point plateau as a junior this season. In only 79 games played, he has already amassed 119 points, including 45 in his first season as a Laker.
When asked about his linemates and his move to Oswego, Fox noted, “It really has been a lot of fun this season and this weekend is something you dream about as a player — our goal is to win a national championship.”
For Kevin Huinink, the transfer has also been a good one, as the junior has been a fixture on the blue line for coach Ed Gosek’s team. Regularly paired with fellow Ontario native Tyler Lyon, the sturdy backliner has been a solid player for Oswego in the defensive end of the ice.
“All of the new guys have fit right in here,” stated Gosek. “The seniors have done a great job making everyone feel welcome and like a big part of the team. With as many new players and a goaltending change, if you told me we would be playing this weekend back at the beginning of year, I would have given you a hug.
“Everyone likes to talk about Foxie, Eric [Selleck] and Laganiere because they get the points and deserve a lot of the credit for our success. I am very proud of this team and all of the contributions they have made. While losing tonight to St. Norbert is not the outcome we had hoped for, it doesn’t take away from the terrific season they had.”
This weekend concluded a great season with the Frozen Four in Lake Placid, which is not that far away from Ontario. This is definitely a case of a change benefiting both the school and the student-athletes. Winning the SUNYAC championship was one big step for the Lakers, but their visions of more than one game this weekend were dashed by the Green Knights by a 4-3 score.
Justin Fox was a big part of the game with a goal and an assist for Oswego, and had several good chances in the third period to put the Lakers up on the scoreboard. It wasn’t to be for the Lakers this time around, but at least two of the new Lakers wouldn’t transfer this season for any other experience.