Lakers welcome break, look for strong second half

Oswego’s Josh Zizek looking for a fast start at the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Classic this weekend (Photo – Dori Gronich, Oswego Athletics)

For most teams, the holiday break represented a body of work that included lots of workout time, captains’ practices, formal practices and about 10-12 games on the schedule. For Oswego, that body of work began in earnest prior to a European trip to play Swiss and Italian competition while touring and enjoying the cultural experiences that were very much a focus of the trip. All in, the Lakers have played a few more games in earnest since August and the break has come at an opportune time for both players and staff.

“With the trip to Europe, the guys have been going since August 1,” said head coach Ed Gosek. “It has been a long haul since August with a few ups and downs in the season that I hope we learn from and become better as a result of in the second half. This break is timed well for us to regroup, figure out our identity moving forward and really get focused on the 15 games we have left in the second half against some very tough competition starting with our own tournament next weekend.”

After starting out 4-0-0, the Lakers ran into some difficulties suffering a three-game losing streak to Geneseo, Hobart and Salve Regina before getting back on track to close out the December schedule with three consecutive wins over Plymouth State, Buffalo State and Fredonia. The 7-3-0 mark isn’t exactly where the Lakers want to be, but their coach feels like this senior-laden team is figuring out their identity and that will help them get results in the second-half.

“Did we expect to be 10-0 with our schedule – absolutely not,” noted Gosek. ”That would have been nice, but we lost our way a bit in that three-game stretch where we lacked discipline, compete level and made mistakes that you can’t make against good hockey teams. Each of the three losses had an element or two whether it was the lack of discipline against Geneseo, or the tentative play against Hobart, or the late mistakes against Salve Regina. They cost us losses against teams we expect tough games from. I think we learned that we aren’t an offensive juggernaut and that our game starts with playing defense first and playing strong in all three zones. Our twelve seniors are a great bunch and very close so they need to own the identity we will show as a team in the second half. We saw what didn’t work in those three games but finished strong against three good opponents including two conference opponents on the road where we showed some character.”

On Saturday, December 7, the Lakers played at Fredonia in a game that had many lead changes. Oswego opened the scoring but fell behind to the Blue Devils 2-1 after the first period. A three-goal second period gave Oswego a 4-2 lead, but Fredonia came back to tie the game at 4-4 with just under three minutes remaining in regulation. Tyson Kirkby gave Oswego the big win with a power play goal in the final 41 seconds assisted by Max Novick and Anthony Passero.

“Both Buffalo State and Fredonia are tough places to play,” said Gosek. “I really liked our compete level and how we found a way to win that game on Saturday. We are going to need much more of that intensity in the second half as we have a very competitive field for our New Year’s tournament before facing Utica, Elmira and Nazareth before getting back to SUNYAC play. I think everyone needed and hopefully has enjoyed a nice holiday break. The team is back on Sunday, 12/29 and we will look to get back to it and ready for St. Mary’s from the west to open the second half. They are traveling a good distance, so we know they are coming to play their best hockey and then we get either Williams or University of New England who are ranked teams, so we need to find our game quickly to start the new year. We have no classes in the first month back so I think that will help our focus as the schedule will be all about playing hockey without a lot of distractions. We have 15 games to establish our identity and see if we can keep our small lead in the conference standings. It will be a fun ride.”