LAKE PLACID - Oswego's men's hockey team is back in the NCAA Division III championship game for the second straight year after the Lakers toppled Norwich 6-3 in Friday's first semifinal played at the Olympic Center.
The game was tied 2-2 heading into the third period, before the Lakers pulled away by scoring three unanswered goals to punch its ticket into today's final. Senior Chris Muise started the third-period scoring with a goal 6:14 into the stanza. Oswego then got goals from Tyler Leimbrock and Matt Singleton in a span of less than two minutes midway through the period to build a 5-2 advantage.
The Cadets, who entered the final four as the top seed, cut the deficit to 5-3 when Corey Hale buried a puck with 2:11 left in the game, but the Lakers clinched the win when Muise notched his second of the game, flipping a puck into an empty net with 51 seconds left on the clock.
Oswego’s Jesse McConney (28) goes to the ice to defend against Norwich attackers Chris Duszynksi (44) and Blake Forkey (12) during Friday’s NCAA Division III national semifinal game at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid. Oswego goaltender Andrew Hare and teammate Paul Rodrigues are also pictured. The Lakers won the game 6-3 to advance to today’s championship game.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
"In order to be the best, you have to beat the best," Muise said. "We wouldn't want to have it any other way than facing the first seed."
Norwich came into the national semifinals as the No. 2-ranked team in the latest USCHO.com poll, behind St. Norbert, which was eliminated. Oswego was No. 3, Wisconsin-Eau Claire was No. 4 and Utica was No. 7.
"We knew Norwich outshot and outscored their opponents in the third period, and knew we needed to come up big in the third period," Oswego head coach Ed Gosek said. "We created some turnovers and we were opportunistic. In the third period, we did a lot of simple things well."
The Cadets, who finished their season with a 24-4-1 record, got off to a quick start, taking a 1-0 lead on a goal just 20 seconds into the game by senior Pier-Oliver Cotnoir. Oswego responded in a hurry as Paul Rodrigues scored at the 3:18 mark to tie the game 1-1.
A similar scenario played out in the second period, with Norwich jumping back in front 2-1 when Kyle Thomas tallied at the 8:06 mark. Oswego again wasted little time, pulling even with a goal by Tim Carr 1:23 later.
The tables turned in the final period as Oswego grabbed its first lead of the game when Muise notched his first of the night at the 6:14 mark. It proved to be a goal the Cadets were unable to recover from, especially because they couldn't convert on a man-advantage situation just after the Lakers took the lead.
Leimbrock pushed the Lakers' edge to 4-2 at the 12:04 mark. Singleton then picked up a loose puck in front of the Norwich goalie and beat netminder Chris Czarnota at the 13:47 mark to put the game out of reach.
Hale's goal at the 17:49 mark enabled the Cadets to close the gap to two goals, and Norwich then pulled Czarnota with just over two minutes left on the clock. Muise, however, put an end to any Cadets' rally hopes by clinching the win with his empty-net goal.
"They took advantage of their chances and buried the puck," Norwich head coach Mike McShane said. "Killing the penalty when they were up 3-2, that gave them the momentum. I think it was a great game for 50 minutes. They were perseverant and a very good team. They were the better team tonight."
The Lakers now have the opportunity to achieve a feat they were unable to obtain a year ago when they fell 4-1 to St. Norbert in the championship game on the same Olympic Center ice sheet.
Oswego 6, Norwich 3
1. N, Cotnoir (Thomas, Currier), :20; 2. O, Rodrigues (Josepher), 3:18.
3. N, Thomas (Hale, Niezgoda), 8:08; 4. O, T. Carr (Badham, C. Carr), 9:29.
5. O, Muise (Brown), 6:14; 6. O, Leimbrock (Titanic, Muise), 12:04; 7. O, Singleton, 13:47; 8. N, Hale (Mulvey), 17:49; 9. Muise (Brown, Ayotte), 19:09, eng.
Shots on goal: Oswego 34, Norwich 27.
Saves: O, Hare 24; N, Czarnota 28