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GENESEO, N.Y. — In arguably the craziest, wildest, wackiest, most cardiac arresting game in SUNYAC championship history, the Oswego Lakers outlasted the Geneseo Ice Knights in a 7-6 victory to claim their second consecutive SUNYAC title and 10th overall.
Oswego scored early and often to open up a 5-1 lead. Then Geneseo scored in spurts to eventually tie the game at five apiece. This was followed by the teams trading goals to the eventual game-winner on a power play with 28.7 seconds to go by Shawn Hulshof in his only point for the game.
By the time the game was over, the crowd, perhaps the largest in Geneseo history, seemed more exhausted than the players.
“No, I don’t think so,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said to the question whether he has ever been involved in a game like this. “I have to really think back. I don’t think so. I’m trying to remember my years with [Don] Unger and with George [Roll] and myself the last 10, 11 years. No. Nothing like that. Exciting for the fans. The fans could not ask for anything more.”
“No; No,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz echoed his counterpart’s sentiments. “There certainly were a lot of ebbs and flows to the game. We didn’t do ourselves any favors by the way we came out of the gate. I think our own crowd intimidated our players. It looks they were skating in quicksand in the first period. But in the second period, we started to move around and got better and better and better.”
It took just 36 seconds for the scoring to start when Chris Carr pounced on a fat rebound left by Nick Horrigan to put it into a wide-open net. Matt Galati made it 2-0 at 11:17 on a power play with a quick slap shot off a quick faceoff win.
There were no indications at this point to the game that would turn out, especially after Geneseo got one back at 16:29 when David Ripple’s power-play shot knuckleballed its way past Matt Zawadzki glancing off his glove on the way past. A 2-1 score heading into the second seemed like a normal game.
Oswego continued to apply pressure in the second period, scoring three unanswered goals. Bobby Gertsakis’ slap shot from the middle of the blue line was deflected in at 4:40 by Josh Timpano, who was skating through the slot area with his back to the net.
Carr scored again on a breakaway going to his backhand at 9:52. Galati got his second of the night at 13:05, putting in a rebound to make it 5-1.
Geneseo then changed its goalie, putting in Bryan Haude.
At this point, the only question seemed to be how many fans would stick around after the second intermission. Before they had an opportunity to decide, Geneseo scored twice within 57 seconds in the final 1:10 of the period.
Maintaining good control on a power play enabled Tyler Brickler to fire a high-slot wrister through a crowd past Zawadzki. With 13 seconds left in the period, Zachary Vit scored off a faceoff win. Suddenly, it was a new game and no one was thinking of leaving.
Five-plus minutes into the third period, the game was tied. Jack Ceglarski scored on a power play at 3:47 by jamming in the goal. Zawadzki went after the ref, claiming the net had been knocked off.
At 5:23, Ripple turned and fired a shot into the net.
“To come back after being down like that shows a lot of character on their part,” Gosek said of his opponents.
“We got some really opportunistic forwards and we got some defensemen that can move the puck to the right place at the right time,” Schultz explained of his team’s tendency to come back in games all season. “We are able to score in spurts, and when you can score in spurts, you can get a lot of momentum.”
Oswego called a timeout.
“We were in a situation last week at Plattsburgh being down 2-1 going into the third,” Gosek explained what he told his team. “Just have that perseverance. Even if we have to play 10 overtimes, that’s okay. Our mentality is we’re willing to grit it out. We don’t have to take unnecessary chances. Take care of our own end.”
Four minutes later, Alex Botten, who was named the tournament MVP, put Oswego back on top on what looked like an innocent rush. His shot from the top of the right circle snuck past Haude on the far side.
To no one’s surprise, Geneseo tied the game again at 14:22 when Jack Caradonna’s shot through a crowd sailed into the net untouched.
Then came two tight calls late in the game. Oswego’s Chris Waterstreet was called for charging at 15:22. Geneseo could not take advantage of it. This was followed by a roughing call on Geneseo’s Cam Hampson at 17:57. Oswego did take advantage.
Hulshof deflected the puck from out in front for the game-winner.
Geneseo pulled its goalie, but despite getting the puck into Oswego’s zone, could not muster any scoring opportunity.
“Our guys found a way,” Gosek said. “We had every opportunity to come more unraveled than we did.”
“I’m more proud of our team now than I’ve been all year,” Schultz said. “Just the never-quit attitude they have. Being down 5-1 [and come back] says a lot about our character.”
Geneseo potentially finishes the season at 21-6, because despite its high NCAA ranking, with so many upsets in the conference playoffs, the Ice Knights may be on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday.
Oswego (20-6-2) gets the automatic bid into the NCAA playoffs and awaits its opponent and site. The Lakers have made it to the D-III championship weekend the past two years.