Men’s D-III Playoff Preview: Oswego

League: SUNYAC
Record: 22-4-0
NCAA History: 12th appearance, one national championship (2007)

Scoring Offense: 4.02 g/gm
Scoring Defense: 1.85 g/gm
Scoring Margin: +59 (2.27 g/gm)
Power Play: 25.7 percent
Penalty Kill: 85.9 percent
Penalties: 14.2 pim/gm

Team Leaders
Ian Boots (14)
Assists: Ian Boots (23)
Points: Ian Boots (37)
Power-play Goals: Justin Fox (8)
Short-handed Goals: Owen Kelly (2)
GAA: Paul Beckwith (1.78)
Save Pct.: Paul Beckwith (.935)

Conference Playoffs: Semifinals — lost to Fredonia, 2-1 (OT)

We’ve seen this before. Oswego is ranked number one in the country most of the year, finishes first place in the standings, loses in the SUNYAC semifinals to Fredonia, and gets an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs. When this happened before, Oswego won their first and only national championship in 2007, the last time the national tournament was held in the west. The final four will congregate in the west this year.

“Coming off last year and the players we lost, it was a positive year,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “A lot of guys had different roles and responsibilities, and they stepped up. The new guys made contributions, and that was nice.

One of those new guys was Ohio State transfer Ian Boots. He was able to fill part of the hole left by Eric Selleck and Neil Musselwhite. Meanwhile, Justin Fox, Luke Moodie, and John Whitelaw, amongst many others, stepped up to also fill the void by committee, and Paul Beckwith continued to have a stellar yet unnoticed year in net.

The Lakers were not as prolific this year; scoring had to be spread out amongst the players, and the reliance on defense and goaltender was more prominent. It still translated to an outstanding season. Unfortunately, it also translated to an early exit in their conference tournament.

“You have goals at the beginning of each season,” Gosek said. “One is taking care of business, which we didn’t do, which was disappointing. We have a tendency to play to the level of the opponent we’re playing, unfortunately. They’re a resilient group. A mature group where there aren’t any excuses. They are honest and fair with their evaluations of how they played.”

Against teams in the NCAAs, Oswego is undefeated, beating Elmira twice (4-1, 4-2), Plattsburgh twice (5-3, 4-3), Geneseo twice, Utica, and Wis.-Stevens Point. They lost twice in a row in the middle of the season to Hobart and Hamilton when Paul Beckwith was injured. Then, down the stretch, they went 2-2, losing to Morrisville and Fredonia.

Looking at the glass half-full philosophy, Oswego did have two weeks to prepare for the national playoffs, and, like in 2007, they may be able to parlay a valuable lesson into the part of the season where there are no second chances.

“We gave them a few days off last week,” Gosek said. “Then, we had a heart-to-heart video session to clear the air and put it behind us, so we can move forward. You can sugarcoat and sweep it under the carpet, but this time of year, we didn’t want to do that.

“The two-week span has enabled us to do whatever it takes to have a better team. When you’re having a good season, as a coach, you have to guard against complacency. These two weeks have allowed us to get back to fundamentals, get back to basics.”

That is ultimately what it will come down to in March. Some say Oswego does not shoot enough. Some say the Lakers look for the perfect pass. Some say they are not tough enough, willing to crash the net. Some say they commit too many penalties especially at inopportune times.

For a team that went 22-4, those sure are a lot of complaints. One issue that is evident is Oswego does at times have trouble executing.

“Lack of execution isn’t acceptable this time of year,” Gosek said.

No, it isn’t. But if this season and history tells us anything, Oswego will play up to their competition, and they seem perfectly capable of rebounding from a conference semifinal loss and running the table. After all, the championship is in the west this year.