Playoff preview: SUNYAC

Oswego Lakers
League: SUNYAC
Conference record: 14-0-2 (first)
Overall record: 22-3-2
NCAA history: 13th appearance, one national championship (2007)
Scoring offense: 4.67 g/gm
Scoring defense: 1.81 g/gm
Scoring margin: plus-77 (2.85 g/gm)
Power play: 26.8 percent
Penalty kill: 86.0 percent
Penalties: 16.7 pim/gm

Team Leaders
Goals: Jon Whitelaw (19)
Assists: Paul Rodrigues (23)
Points: Jon Whitelaw (40)
Power-play goals: Paul Rodrigues (8)
Short-handed goals: Five players (1)
Goals against average: Andrew Hare (1.77)
Save percentage: Andrew Hare (.929)

Conference Playoffs
Semifinals: defeated Fredonia, 8-3
Championship: lost to Plattsburgh, 3-2

Oswego enters the NCAA playoffs with a loss and without a conference championship. Not that it seems to matter with the Lakers. Whenever they were still able to get a Pool C bid into the big dance, they always made it to the final four.

In 2007, they lost in the SUNYAC semifinals and went on to win the national championship. Last year, they lost in the SUNYAC finals and made it to the national semifinals. Like this year, in each of those years, they hosted a quarterfinal round game.

“We get second life,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Next weekend, on the road or home, it really doesn’t make any difference to us. I think our guys know we’re a good club.”

The 3-2 loss to Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC finals does not bother Gosek as much as the other losses and ties this year.

“Tonight’s loss was not like the other four blemishes,” Gosek said. “The two losses to Utica and Neumann and the two ties to Platty and Morrisville, those were self-inflicted. I can’t say that tonight.”

In the three quarterfinal games the Lakers played in since 2007, they have played exceptionally well. In 2007, they dominated Norwich, 3-0, where the score was a lot closer than the action. Two years ago, they blew out Bowdoin, 9-2. Again against the Polar Bears, Oswego had a tougher time, but still won the offensive battle, 7-5.

This year, they will host again and play Elmira, who bypasses the play-in game. In the first two games of this season for both teams, Oswego easily swept the home-and-home series, 7-3 and 6-2. Even though the score indicates the way the games were played, the shots were relatively even, and both teams scored three power-play goals.

However, two games at the start of the season, especially nonconference games, mean absolutely nothing in March. Watching tapes of a contest which took place over 25 games ago won’t tell you much. Teams ebb and flow, both on and off the ice.

This year’s Oswego team is a bit more defensive minded, letting up 1.81 goals per game versus 2.07, while not allowing their offense to suffer, scoring 4.67 per game versus 4.18 last season. Six players scored double-digit goals, led by Jon Whitelaw’s 19. The Lakers scored nearly one-third of their goals on the power play.

Getting into a run-and-gun style with Oswego is suicidal. The Lakers are more than happy to comply. They have scored five or more goals in a game 14 times.

“Oswego is the most opportunistic team in the country,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said.

Plattsburgh is the only other tournament team Oswego has faced, where they went 1-1-1. That deadlock against its rival could be settled in Lake Placid in the semifinal round if both teams win this Saturday. That’s looking too far ahead for Oswego.

Instead, the Lakers expect to turn the emotional low of losing the conference title on home ice to their arch-rivals to motivate themselves in the NCAA playoffs.

“You take the emotion that you watch from them winning it in your building and hopefully you remember that and next time out you learn from it,” Gosek said. “I know it motivates me. I’m not hanging my head, and I hope it’s the same for our guys. There’s a burning desire to make good on it.”

They certainly have in the past in a big way in the quarterfinal round. Just ask Norwich and Bowdoin.

Plattsburgh Cardinals
League: SUNYAC
Conference record: 12-3-1 (second)
Overall record: 19-4-4
NCAA history: 22nd appearance, two national championships (1992, 2001)
Scoring offense: 3.37 g/gm
Scoring defense: 1.96 g/gm
Scoring margin: plus-37 (1.41 g/gm)
Power play: 18.3 percent
Penalty kill: 92.3 percent
Penalties: 7.9 pim/gm

Team Leaders
Goals: Kyle Kudroch and Nick Jensen (9)
Assists: Kyle Kudroch (14)
Points: Kyle Kudroch (23)
Power-play goals: Ryan Craig (4)
Short-handed goals: Four players (1)
Goals against average: Mathieu Cadieux (1.79)
Save percentage: Mathieu Cadieux (.929)

Conference Playoffs
Semifinals: defeated Buffalo State, 4-3 (3OT)
Championship: defeated Oswego, 3-2

High expectations can be stressful. Not so for Plattsburgh. The Cardinals thrive on it, as proven when they won their 21st SUNYAC title over Oswego. They did it without finishing in first place, and without beating Oswego in their previous seven meetings. Yet, when the pressure was on, they did it again, this time 3-2.

They did it by shutting down one of the most powerful offenses in the country, by outworking their opposition, and holding the Lakers to just 17 shots on goal.

It was a performance the Oswego coach Ed Gosek was impressed with.

“That’s the best I’ve seen their team play in quite some time. They did a good job of making it difficult in the offensive zone to create opportunities. I think they worked extremely hard. I can’t think of maybe a few odd-man rushes. This game, they did a good job of playing a good defensive game, which led to their transition offensively.”

Defense is something Plattsburgh has had to rely on this year, as it has had trouble finishing plays throughout the season.

“If I could look in a crystal ball and find some goal scorers, that’s the only thing I would change right now,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “It is what it is, and that’s what we got, and we have to make the best of it.”

They average 3.37 goals-a-game compared to 4.00 last year. Not a single player has double-digit goals, with Kyle Kudroch and Nick Jensen leading the pack with nine. They only could muster an 18.3 percent power play, which puts them in the lower half of the country.

Thus, it should be no surprise their success this year comes from lowering their goals against from 2.59 last season to 1.96, have the best penalty kill in the country (92.3 percent, letting up just seven power-play goals while scoring four short-handers), and have let up more than three goals-a-game only four times, and each time it was four goals. Mathieu Cadieux has four shutouts.

“We have no choice but to focus on defense first with the kind of team we have,” Emery said. “We got to play defense first because we are not opportunistic. That has to be our focus. We can’t have any mental lapses out there.”

The Cardinals are traveling for the quarterfinal round to Amherst, another defensive-minded team. In fact, they are number one, with Plattsburgh fourth. Offensively, they score about half a goal-per-game more than Plattsburgh.

Bearing all those stats in mind, the strategy is very simple for Emery.

“Our goal is always to get four, because we haven’t lost a game all year when we got four.”

They did tie a game, 4-4, against Norwich. They only lost one game when they got three. Their other losses were two shutouts (Norwich and Oswego), and a two-goal effort against Brockport.

Norwich and Oswego are the only teams in the tournament Plattsburgh has faced this year. The prospect of an Oswego-Plattsburgh matchup in the semifinals at Lake Placid, within an easy drive for the Cardinals’ faithful, is an enticing prospect.

However, getting by Amherst will be no easy task. The type of pressure Plattsburgh thrives on.

“I got a great staff,” Emery said. “Our coaches do a great job in preparing the guys.”

Power-play goals: Ryan Craig (4)
Short-handed goals:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here