It took awhile, but after two periods, Oswego’s offense finally clicked.
The Lakers scored four third period goals to defeat Elmira, 5-0, in the NCAA quarterfinal round.
“We set our goals for the year back in August,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said to his team before the third period. “They worked extremely hard to get themselves into this position. Let’s not let it slip away. Find a way to gut it out and grit it out.”
“We had a game plan in hand prior to the game tonight and I thought for the most part we stuck to it,” Elmira coach Aaron Saul said. “Oswego is such a gifted offensive team. If you give them opportunities they are going to score. I thought we got away from our game plan a little bit in the third and they took full advantage. They are a very opportunistic team and that’s what they do well.”
Andrew Hare made 23 saves for the shutout. Ian Boots scored twice, including a shorthander.
“I can’t ask for much more [from my teammates],” Hare said. “They were blocking a lot of shots for me and the ones they weren’t blocking they got out of the way and let me see them. They made it really easy for me.”
“We had some opportunities,” Saul said. “Hare played great. He was there and made some big saves that gave Oswego some momentum. He definitely was the difference-maker.”
Despite all the offensive talent on Oswego, the only goal of the first two periods was scored as ugly as they come. From behind the net, Boots whacked at a loose puck by the post multiple times. Somehow, Darren McDonald was unable to cover it, and it slid underneath him into the net at 11:31 of the first.
“The rebound came behind the net,” Boots said. “I kicked it to myself. I tried to wrap it around. I must have had four or five whacks. It’s just one of those playoff goals.”
“You’ve got to be engaged and be gritty,” Gosek said.
The second period was dominated by Oswego with nearly all the play taking place in the Elmira zone.
However, despite the many shots and many tip-in attempts, very few pucks were actually sent on net. Oswego only got five official shots in the period, while Elmira somehow also got credited for five official shots – a classic example of how statistics do not always tell the story.
“This time of year in the playoffs, getting scoring opportunities are fewer and fewer,” Gosek said.
Oswego finally got things going at 3:07 of the final period thanks to two mistakes by Elmira. As the Soaring Eagles were exiting their zone, Singleton lifted the player’s stick, stole the puck, and headed the other way. At that point, the last defender fell giving Singleton a breakaway. He cut across the net and backhanded it past McDonald.
“It was a good change,” Singleton said. “The line before us, they peppered their defense down. They didn’t get a chance to change. The guy was really tired coming to the blue line and I just lifted his stick and turned. One of their guys lost an edge. Thankfully, I scored.”
Shortly afterward, Oswego committed two penalties in a row. On the first, they had a breakaway, but McDonald stopped it this time.
On the second, the Elmira defense lost track of Boots who was sprung for a breakaway at center ice. He went straight in and rifled it past McDonald at 6:19 for the 3-0 lead.
“I was going into the zone,” Boots said. “I think [Taylor] Farris got a shot block, and he got it up to me, and I was all alone. I think the goalie misjudged the speed I was coming in and I got it in the back of the net.”
Then, the Lakers started pouring it on. Zach Josepher scored from the top of the right circle on a four-on-three power play at 11:53. Two minutes later, Chris Ayote finished off a two-on-one down low sliding it under McDonald.
“We just started making some mistakes and some breakdowns,” Saul said. “We started to do some things individually. We stress a five-man unit and some of our players got away from doing that and it gave them opportunities, some odd-man rushes. And when you do that, Oswego is going to bury those chances.”
“Until we got a two goal lead and they opened it up, that was the first time in the game where we got two-on-ones,” Gosek said. “Those weren’t there in tight checking games when they got four guys back. Trying to get an odd man rush which is the strength of ours, is very difficult.”
Elmira ends their season at 15-9-3.
“We have 10 seniors on our team and they didn’t want it to be their last game,” Saul said. “Those seniors have been in the NCAA tournament four straight years. Not too many student-athletes have had that opportunity to do that. They are very fortunate. They’re a group we’re definitely going to miss.”
Oswego (23-3-2) moves onto Lake Placid to face Amherst in the NCAA semifinals on Friday.
“It’s a privilege to represent your school, to be surrounded by players that are passionate,” Gosek said. “It’s about the program, the players, our fans, the loyalty, the community.”