Plattsburgh extended their unbeaten streak against their archrivals, Oswego, to nine games (8-0-1) by defeating the Lakers, 2-1. The win clinches the regular season SUNYAC title for the Cardinals, and home ice throughout the conference playoffs.
“I thought it was a good game to watch,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “We wanted to shut them down on the rush. Even though at times we didn’t play well with the puck, I thought we played good defensive hockey.”
A few minutes into the game, Oswego’s Peter Magagna gave a crushing open ice check sending Ward Smith collapsing to the ice as the standing room only crowd roared. Smith took a few seconds to get up and slowly skated to the bench. That set the scene in one of the great rivalries in Division III hockey.
The teams played to their first scoreless opening period since February 25, 2005. However, the action was anything but quiet. Both teams had strong scoring opportunities including two power plays each, but the goaltenders, Tim Potter (Oswego) and Bryan Hince (Plattsburgh), stood tall.
“I thought they were the better team the first six to seven minutes,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “The second half of the first period, I thought we had some good quality chances. Hince is a very good goalie.”
“Oswego caused a lot of turnovers in our own end in the first period,” Emery said.
Plattsburgh finally broke the ice at 11:39 of the second period. Joey Wilson started the play by carrying it into the zone down the right side, dipsy doodling around the defender. His centering pass was deflected away, but Dan Sliasis chased it down. Sliasis eventually was able to get the puck back to the middle where Wilson was waiting in the slot. Wilson’s one-timer went over Potter’s shoulder for the first score of the night.
“Joey Wilson is one of the top two or three hardest workers I’ve coached in the last 20 years,” Emery said. “He had a few chances tonight. Very opportunistic kid.”
“I thought they controlled the second period,” Gosek said. “We got running around in our end.”
“I thought we played really well in the second period,” Emery said.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead 2:03 into the third. Kyle Kudroch down low on the left side from a, if not impossible angle, a difficult angle, perfectly picked the upper near corner just over the shoulder of Potter and just under the crossbar.
“From day one, we knew he could shoot the puck,” Emery said. “I think the puck had eyes, but he can really shoot the puck.”
Shortly after the goal, Potter came out of the game with an injury, replaced by Paul Beckwith.
Oswego finally got on the scoreboard at 5:28, though it took awhile for the referees to rule it a goal. Brendan McLaughlin led Magagna who had split the two defenders. Magagna couldn’t quite get a good shot off, but Hince was unable to cover it. Magagna continued to crash the net, knocking the puck in milliseconds before knocking the net off.
Initially, the refs ruled it no goal. But, after conferring with each other and the goal judge, they reversed that decision, and Oswego was now down by just one goal.
“Our goal in the third period was to get time off the clock as quick as we can,” Emery said. “I thought we did a good job getting the pucks in deep.”
The Lakers applied the pressure to try and get the tying goal, but with 2:18 left, Matt Whitehead committed the type of penalty that drives coaches and fans crazy. Unprovoked, he gave a two-handed slash to Hince behind the net.
“Honestly, I don’t even have words for that, I am so disappointed,” Gosek said. “I’m not disappointed that we lost. I’m disappointed in the way that we lost. I don’t know if we are going to score a goal late to tie it. But the odds are against you when you have guys like that taking penalties and being that selfish. If we get beat by a better team, so be it. But, let’s not beat ourselves.”
Though Oswego did produce some excellent chances while shorthanded, including Rich Zalewski hitting the post, they were unable to get the tying goal.
Hince finished with 26 saves,
“It’s a great place to play in and a great place to win,” Emery said. “It’s just one game here. We can’t get too caught up in it. We reached our primary goal to win the SUNYAC regular season championship. We did that. We want to enjoy the win and tomorrow we have to put the hard hats back on.”
Tomorrow night will be at Cortland to wrap up the regular season for Plattsburgh (21-1-2, 14-0-1).
Oswego (17-6-1, 11-3-1) which already has second place locked up, finishes their season at home against Potsdam.