After making its first back-to-back appearances at the NCAA Division III Frozen Four in program history, it is safe to say the standard of excellence for the Oswego State men's ice hockey program continues to climb. This season is no exception, as the 2011-12 Laker squad is driven to not only return to the NCAA Tournament, but to reclaim the SUNY Athletic Conference title.
The No. 2 nationally ranked team has posted a 3-1 record since the season opened Oct. 21. Tonight's contest versus SUNY Geneseo will be webcast by student-run WTOP-TV and supported in part to the Oswego Alumni Association.
Head Coach Ed Gosek '83, M '01 and the Lakers are coming off a season where they posted an overall record of 23-5 and a conference record of 15-1, but came up short playing in the Frozen Four in Minneapolis. If Oswego State expects to exceed last year's achievements, it will have to replace critical parts of its lineup, including defensemen Kevin Huinink '11 and Stephen Mallaro '11 and forwards Dan Bremner '11, Justin Fox '11, Joe Hall '11, Owen Kelly '11 and Chris Laganiere '11.
Team captain Andrew Mather '12 and assistant captains Jared Anderson '12, Ian Boots '12 and Jon Whitelaw '13 have been charged with leading a veteran group comprised of 20 juniors and seniors back to Lake Placid for the NCAA National Championship.
Mather, Boots, and Whitelaw command a forward unit that returns five of its six top scorers from last season despite the loss of five players. Mather had a breakout season a year ago with 28 points (8 goals, 20 assists), including a two-goal, one-assist performance in the national semifinal game, and proved to be effective on the penalty kill unit. Boots flourished in his first year as a Laker after pacing the team in every offensive category, including points (40), goals (15) and assists (25). He was named to the Second-Team East All-America and First-Team All-SUNYAC for his efforts. Whitelaw picked up right where he left off as a freshman with a 30-point campaign with 12 goals and 18 assists, and again will be asked to be a key component of the Oswego State power play along with Boots.
Following breakout seasons, Luke Moodie '13 and Paul Rodrigues '13 will likely join Boots and Whitelaw as the primary weapons.
Jared Anderson '12 leads an experienced defensive corps that has seen a great deal of playing time and is 100 percent healthy at the start of the season. Anderson proved he had recovered from a previous injury in 2010-11 by appearing in 21 games. Hank Van Boxmeer '12 returns to the lineup after posting 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in just 18 games last year, and will be called upon to pick up some of the offensive slack left due to the graduation of Mallaro.
For the first time in two seasons, Oswego State knows what to expect in goal. Paul Beckwith '12 showed the Laker faithful he was ready to be an everyday goaltender as he set a conference record for wins in a season with 15 before posting an overall record of 19-3. He paced the league in nearly every statistical category, but was selected Second-Team All-SUNYAC before being named First-Team East All-America.
Coach Gosek and his staff brought in several skilled players at both ends of the rink during the off-season with one easily recognizable feature: size. Four of the seven rookies are over six feet tall and the group averages 190 pounds to help compliment the speed at the top of the lineup.
Women's Ice Hockey
Coming off its most successful season in program history, the Oswego State women's ice hockey team has its sights set high on expanding upon last season's triumphs.
Last season, the Lakers posted a 13-10-3 overall record and finished fifth in the highly competitive Eastern College Athletic Conference West at 8-7-3 overall. Oswego State's season ended in double overtime of the ECAC West First Round, losing to Neumann College, 2-1.
This year's roster includes seven seniors, one junior, 10 sophomores and five freshmen. Defender Kathryn Sbrocchi '12 continues her role as team captain for the second consecutive season. Sbrocchi led a defense that finished 12th in Division III last season at 1.92 goals allowed per game.
"She's very comfortable in the role and really is the heart and soul of the team," Head Coach Diane Dillon said. Forwards Jillian Bergeron '12, Carly Henderson '14 and Olivia Boersen '14 will serve as assistant captains this season. Bergeron finished third on the team in scoring last season with 15 points (six goals, nine assists).
"With the four of them, they've picked up on things with their teammates more quickly than ever before," Dillon said. "They're more organized and focused. They've raised the bar higher. They worked harder in the preseason than they ever have and that's a testament to their desire to win."
"[The freshman class] are going to add a dimension that we have been somewhat missing," Dillon said. "We have a couple of returners that have some size and are pretty physical, but we got pushed around by the RITs and Plattsburghs. It's going to solidify us to be a little tougher in front of our own net and hopefully in front of theirs." Of the five seniors the team graduated last season, perhaps none bigger was goalie Emi Williams '11, who finished her career with more than 3,815 minutes played, allowing 2.56 goals per game and recording 1,967 saves in 65 games played. Goalie Catherine Cote '14 started this season in net.
Last year's leading scorer was Mackenzie Lee '12, who set the school record for most goals scored in a single season. Lee posted 23 points (14 goals, nine assists), scoring one game-winning goal, six power-play goals and two short-handed goals.
In a conference that features ranked opponents like RIT, Plattsburgh and Emira College, the Laker defense will need to have continued success from a year ago when they finished with 1.92 goals allowed per game. Of the seven defenders on the roster, five are underclassmen.
After accomplishing last year's goal of defeating a ranked opponent (defeated top-ranked RIT, 2-1), this year's team has the goal of taking points from every team in the ECAC West this season. The only team they have yet to take points from is Plattsburgh. Other goals include finishing in the top four of the conference and acquiring a home playoff game in hopes of achieving their largest goal."
"The team has set the mission to make it to the Frozen Four," Dillon said. "Nothing less, that's what we're fighting for."
The Lakers opened their season on Oct. 28 and dropped two straight to Adrian. The next game versus SUNY Cortland will be webcast by WTOP-TV 2:30 p.m. Saturday, brought to you in part by the Oswego Alumni Association.