Oswego should challenge for title

It’s always risky to pick Oswego second instead of first. Last year it seemed safe — Oswego had 12 new players and an unknown goaltending situation. Instead, they lost just one league game en route to first place and beat Plattsburgh all three times to take the SUNYAC championship. Then, they got to Lake Placid before losing in the semis on a last-minute goal.

“It was like a split season,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “At the beginning of the year, there weren’t a lot of expectations, because we had 12 new players. We didn’t know what was going to happen. Once those expectations grew with a 22-game winning streak, you knew you had something.”

This year, Oswego will do without some outstanding players, and the goaltending situation is once again unknown.

Empty Lockers: How do you replace the likes of Neil Musselwhite and conference MVP Eric Selleck (who left early to sign with the Florida Panthers)? Quite frankly, you don’t.

“The truth of the matter is, you usually don’t lose a player who is playing in the AHL and another one doing very well in Europe,” Gosek admitted. “It wasn’t just Selleck and Musselwhite. (Brad) Dormiedy and (Tyler) Lyon were great leaders. And we lost our number one goalie (Kyle Gunn-Taylor).”

The Core: With Oswego, there’s always plenty of talent on the roster. The key returnee will be Paul Beckwith, who was penciled in as last year’s starting goaltender, only to lose that spot when he came down with H1N1.

“Most impact obviously starts with goaltending,” Gosek said. “We have utmost confidence Beckwith can step up. It’s unfortunate what happened to him last year, but he has worked hard during the summer and is ready.

“We like our core group of defense that returns. (As for forwards) there’s a lot of guys who with additional ice time can step up and have more of an impact.”

Expect some of those guys to be Andrew Mather, Tyler Leimbrock, and Owen Kelly.

New Gear: Oswego is one of those teams that doesn’t rebuild; they reload, and they don’t just rely on recruiting freshmen. Two Division I transfers will be putting on the Oswego uniform this year — senior Dan Bremner (Mercyhurst) and junior Ian Boots (Ohio State).

“Both have come in with a willingness to prove themselves and not with a sense of entitlement just because they are coming from a Division I program,” Gosek said. “That says a lot about them as people, not just hockey players.”

There are only three freshmen coming in, all forwards, Kyle Badham, Corey Domenico, and David Titanic, but expect them to be able to crack the lineup.

Key Question: Replacing the speed of Musselwhite and the play-making of Selleck are certainly key concerns. However, the biggest question is going to be with Beckwith. Even if he hadn’t become ill, Beckwith didn’t play enough games to even determine whether he is number one goaltender material. And that is the key question, because quite frankly, there isn’t much depth behind him.

Mark Your Calendar Game: November 6 vs. Plattsburgh.

Not just because this is one of the great rivalries in Division III, but because it will be the first real test for Beckwith. Not just against a formidable foe, but with all the pressure a game like this entails. How he performs and reacts will go a long way towards determining the type of season Oswego has.