GENEVA, N.Y. – Oswego came into the NCAA Division III hockey playoffs only having won once in its previous four games.
There was no sign of a slump, as Oswego came out with an immediate jump in its play-in game at Hobart. The Lakers scored early and never looked back en route to a 6-1 victory.
Matt Galati scored twice while Matt Zawadzki made 33 saves for the win.
“The turnaround tonight started with them in practice,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “We were going to earn it. We were going to go down swinging. We were going to play our game. I would have been very disappointed had the effort and the attitude not been there tonight.”
“They had a good night,” Hobart coach Mark Taylor said. “They played very well.”
It didn’t take long for Oswego to score — 1:17 into the game. Mike Montagna scooped up a rebound in front of the net, went to his left, and backhanded it in.
“The first goal, they did a great job challenging us,” Taylor said. “They beat us to a loose puck and were able to put it in the back of the net.”
“First goal early in helped us a lot,” Gosek said. “Gave us a lot of confidence and got us skating, which is what we wanted to do here tonight.”
Once again Oswego scored quickly to start a period, this time 41 seconds into the second. Galati, sitting at the backdoor, received a cross-ice pass from Sean Federow and easily backhanded it into the open near side.
Three minutes later, it was 3-0. On a power play, Kenny Neil shot a loose puck in off a goalmouth scramble.
In less than two minutes, Oswego’s quickness once again caught Hobart flat-footed. On a fast rush, Mitchell Herlihey on the right side passed it across to Bobby Gertsakis, who one-timed it past Frank Oplinger, who never had time to move across.
“I give all the credit to Mitch,” Gertsakis said. “How he got the puck there, I don’t know.”
Hobart stymied the momentum halfway through the game when Brad Robbins put a backhander over Zawadzki’s outstretched leg to cut the lead to 4-1.
“We kept the forecheck going, which caused a turnover,” Robbins said. “My first response was just go to the net and try to get some momentum for our team. Found a spot, fortunately, and it went in on not even the best shot.”
Tempers flared after the period ended, and with the teams having already emptied their benches to head into the locker room, players came together jawing at each other. The officials, along with cooler heads, kept the situation from boiling over.
Oswego put the nail in the coffin at 4:03 of the final period. Alex Botten won a faceoff deep in Hobart’s zone back to Galati on the right side, who rifled a one-timer.
Galati had been in a scoring draught, getting only one assist in the last eight games. Not only did he score twice, he also got the assist on his linemate, Neil’s, goal.
“It’s been awhile,” Galati said. “It was a good outbreak for our whole line.”
Shawn Hulshof finished off the scoring with a floating wrist shot from the middle of the blue line through a crowd.
The loss ends Hobart’s 10-game winning streak, as well as its season at 21-7-0.
“We had a good year going there,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, tonight we didn’t do what we needed to do to keep it going.”
“It’s been a great four years here,” Hobart senior captain Bronson Kovacs said. “We’re leaving the program in great hands.”
Oswego (19-4-4) moves on to the quarterfinal round at Adrian next Saturday.
“Extremely talented team,” Gosek said of his next opponent. “They get after it. They’re aggressive. They finish checks.”
“It’s do or die,” senior captain Gertsakis said. “It’s a strange feeling knowing your days are numbered here. We talked to a lot of seniors that it’s now or never.”