Oswego hosted Bowdoin in the NCAA quarterfinal round for the second year in a row. Once again, the red light got a workout. This time, however, the game was much closer than last year’s blowout. The result though, was the same.
Oswego advances to Minneapolis with a 7-5 win over Bowdoin. David Titanic and Jon Whitelaw each scored twice, as the Lakers did not put the game away until 3:30 left in regulation.
“They took advantage of the opportunities we gave them,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “They were opportunistic. Fortunately, our average was four and we score seven. To find a way to gut it out and grit it out was the big difference. They [Bowdoin] learned a lot from the game last year. They’re a better team for it.”
“It’s what got the team to this point,” Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher said. “Resilient. Never give up. Quiet, calm, collective. I thought we were going to make a good run with three minutes to go. They’re [Oswego] a skilled team, but what separates them from most teams is their ability to score, their ability to finish. That was evident tonight. When they had chances, they closed the deal.”
The game started out in similar style to last year’s match up — a wide-open skating affair. This favored Oswego and enabled them to score the initial goal on a two-on-one at 7:04. Luke Moodie carried the puck down the left side with the Bowdoin defender cutting off the passing angle. Moodie was very patient, waiting till the last second before finding a lane to feed Paul Rodrigues. Rodrigues one-timed a redirect between Steve Messina’s legs as the goalie overplayed the pass, leaving a huge five-hole.
After the goal, Bowdoin picked up their intensity and it paid off at 10:44. Timothy McGarry carried the puck around the net and then fed it back in front to Brendan Reich. Reich placed his shot inside the near post.
Oswego retook the lead on the power play exactly five minutes later. Andrew Mather passed it across the middle from the right side. Jon Whitelaw from the left circle wound and fired a one-time blast that blew by Messina.
However, Bowdoin was not going to allow this game to get out of hand. After withstanding a few more Oswego rushes, the Polar Bears tied it up with 59 seconds left in the period. Bryan Rosata fired a seemingly harmless turnaround shot from the right point. The shot wound up going to Reich standing unmarked at the top of the crease. Reich pulled a fancy between-the-legs backhanded deflection to surprise Paul Beckwith.
“The first two goals were huge,” Reich said. “It was a reflection of our team. We never give up. Last year, we kind of came into this game happy to be here to come this far. This year we came in all business. We wanted to win. We just tried to claw back into the game any way we could.”
Once again, the Lakers took the lead. Hank Van Boxmeer’s shot from the point through a crowd was deflected in front of the net by Moodie at 7:30 of the second period.
And, once again, Bowdoin came right back to tie it up at three apiece. On the power play, Jeff Fanning was left wide open in front of the net for the easy one-timer past a hopeless Beckwith.
For the fourth time, Oswego grabbed the lead with 1:24 left in the period. Titanic shot from the left side with just one defender in front of him. Messina made the save, but Titanic never slowed down, skating past the defender to pick up his own rebound and bury it on the short side.
No surprise, Bowdoin came right back to tie the game at 1:50 of the third period. Harry Matheson placed a seemingly benign shot on net. However, somehow Beckwith did not handle the puck, and it deflected off him and ever so slowly trickled across the goal line.
“In the third, it comes down to this could be the last game of the year,” Oswego captain Kevin Huinink said. “Just the flow of the game, guys realized the chances were there.”
And, no surprise again, Oswego retook the lead at 5:38. Jared Anderson went in down the middle with a teammate to his right. Just as Messina started to play the pass, Anderson put it through the wide open five-hole.
Matheson cut the lead to one at 15:55 when once again Beckwith misplayed the puck on what should have been a routine save.
“Paul has won us an awful lot of games this year, but by his own admittance, he would say he did not have a good game,” Gosek said. “That’s not to blame him because we certainly made a lot of defensive mistakes.”
Thirty-five seconds later, Jon Whitelaw gave Oswego the two-goal lead back with a deflection in front which sailed over Messina’s glove.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Whitelaw said. “I was lucky to get a little piece of my stick on it. It was a great shot by Hank [Van Boxmeer]. We were trying to play a simple game at that part of the game, and it paid off for us.”
Kyle Shearer-Hard effectively ended the game when he committed a slashing major with less than two minutes to go in the game to put the Polar Bears down a man the rest of the way.
Oswego outshot Bowdoin, 48-22, requiring Messina to make 41 saves.
“It was a real hard game for him this evening,” Meagher said. “There were shots coming from different angles. There was a lot of traffic.”
Beckwith stopped 17 in the win.
Bowdoin ends their season at 19-8-1 with their first NESCAC championship and first NCAA playoff win (against Neumann on Wednesday).
“It’s been an exciting run, a joyous run. It’s been a great year,” Meagher said.
Oswego (23-4-0) has two weeks to prepare for their national semifinal game against Adrian.