Color the 2012 NCAA Division III national championship St. Patrick’s Day green. The green and gold Oswego Lakers will play the green and gold St. Norbert Green Knights on the Irish’s big day for all the shamrocks, thanks to a thrilling, 2-1, overtime victory for Oswego over Amherst.
“It was a heck of a hockey game,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Credit to Amherst, they are a heck of a hockey team. They certainly had their Grade A chances. I give our guys credit. We’ve been preaching all year, adversity makes you stronger. Instead of dwelling on giving up the goal late, we focused on moving ahead. Andrew [Hare] makes a big save in overtime, then Paul [Rodrigues] makes a nice play. That’s why you play the game. I’m proud of the guys’ effort.”
“To hold them to two goals and 27 shots in that time, that’s a terrific effort by our guys,” Amherst coach Jack Arena said. “We had to be conscious every shift of them trying to get that long pass. They came close a lot of times, and got it on that last one. I thought our kids did a great job. We came back hard. Our defense did a good job keeping them to the outside, and when we did make some mistakes, Jonathan [La Rose] was there to take care of it for us.”
As expected, the number one defense in the country made it very tough for the explosive Oswego Lakers. It was a tough, hard-checking affair with very few second chances, defenders blocking many shots, and goaltenders coming up with big saves.
“It was a tough game,” Amherst captain Mike Baran said. “It was a battle. They are a good team. Very strong. They play hard.”
Oswego finally got its break when Ian Boots forced a turnover at the blue line. The sudden transition resulted in an odd man rush. Boots took it upon himself to fire a shot past La Rose at 10:26.
“I thought we were going to get a penalty, so I delayed for a second,” Boots said. “I was waiting for him to blow the whistle, and he didn’t. The d-man dropped down and he had that side open, and I just took the corner.”
Amherst had a faceoff outside the zone with 37 seconds left in regulation and an extra attacker.
“Aaron Deutsch did a good job bringing the puck in,” Eddie Effinger said. “We drew up that play in the time out. He brought it in, and I stood on the back post waiting for a loose puck to come my way. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and poked it home.”
Deutsch shot from the left point, and Andrew Hare could not cover up the rebound. Effinger poked at it as players on both teams swung their sticks at the puck as it slowly sailed into the net with 22.1 seconds left in regulation.
“When it gets to overtime, anything can happen,” Arena said. “I thought we had our best opportunities to score in overtime. We felt good coming out in overtime. But, all it takes is one play.”
Indeed, Amherst did have their best opportunities in overtime, dominating the period. Erik Hansen went around Hare, but the puck slid off his stick when he attempted to backhand it into the open net.
Mark Colp took a point-blank shot, but it went right into Hare’s chest. Ryan Edwards twice had tip-in opportunities which appeared to be sure goals, only to miss them.
Then, Oswego scored on its only shot in overtime.
“I saw Moodie get the puck and the defender was pinching a little bit toward him, so I kind of followed him,” Rodrigues said. “I took it from there, I faked the goalie, kind of lost the angle. Lucky I got the goal.”
“He hit the long pass,” La Rose said of Luke Moodie’s long pass to Paul Rodrigues at the blue line. “He was pretty patient.”
Rodrigues fought off a defender, going in alone against La Rose. Rodrigues cut left, waited, waited, waited, and just when it looked hopeless, flicked a backhander from the goal line. La Rose threw his stick, and the puck bounced off the flying stick into the net at 7:20.
Amherst (24-4-1) made huge strides this year.
“The program over the last four to five years we have begun to believe that we belong at this level,” Arena said. “I think this year, this being our first year here, playing a team like Oswego, playing them like we did tonight, if there was any doubt that we belong at this level, I don’t think there is now.”
Oswego (24-3-2) will now attempt to win its second national championship on a green day for green teams.
“It’s exciting,” said Gosek. “We ask the players to be who we are. Play our style. Be who you are. Accept your role. We try to focus on ourselves.”