Special to Oswego County Today By Bill Foley
It was going to be a happy ending that would never be forgotten for one team while for the loser it will be an outcome that will linger for years.
Oswego and Amherst met on the ice at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid on Friday night and the winner moves on to the national championship game at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
It was a game of two gigantic heavyweights standing toe to toe and slugging it out for nearly three and a half periods before Laker Paul Rodrigues was on the receiving end of a Luke Moodie pass. Moodie battled along the boards for the puck and got it out of a crowd to Rodrigues who was breaking in on All-American, Division III Players of the year Jonathan LaRose.
The Laker junior raced in, beat the defense and LaRose committed. It appeared that Rodrigues would not have enough space to get the shot off, but he patiently put a back hand over the outstretched LaRose for a 2-1 Oswego victory.
Coach Ed Gosek said, “It was a heck of a hockey game. Both teams had Grade A chances”
Oswego fans were delirious with the goal and they thought possibly the trip to the finals might have been taken away from them when Eddie Effinger snapped Laker Andrew Hare’s shutout with 22.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
However, Gosek said, “I asked the players to play their style. We needed to control the controlables.”
The past two years the Lakers have reached the national semifinals only to lose to St. Norbert and Adrian.
Gosek noted, “The last two years I was disappointed with the way we played. I have no regrets tonight. There was no selfishness and everyone worked together. All week long we talked about earning it and we did tonight.”
Ian Boots had scored what many thought would be the gamer with 10:26 gone in the third. He noted, “I thought that they were going to call a penalty against us and the defenseman let up a little. I took the shot and scored.”
Amherst in its first trip to the Frozen Four was a solid representative as Boots exclaimed, “They were the best team we played this year.”
Losing coach Jack Arena was proud of the effort put forth by the Lord Jeffs. He said, “We played very well. We had chances, but it was a case where the other team makes one more play.”
Continuing he said, “It was a terrific effort to hold a team like Oswego to two goals and 25 shots. We thought we would let them cycle out there and keep them to the outside.They could cycle all they wanted to as long as they weren’t in front of the net.”
As far as overtime is concerned, Arena noted, “One play, one bounce and anything can happen.”
It was ‘oh so close’ in the first period as the Lakers attempted to move the puck around and just seconds into the game Luke Moodie took a feed from behind the net from Jon Whitelaw and shot it wide. Matt Singleton had another solid feed to Chris Ayotte, but LaRose got the save. Andrew Mather broke in received the puck, but was stopped. With 3:33 to go Whitelaw fanned on a shot from point blank range as Oswego took nine shots on goal.
Meanwhile, Amherst was chalking up 13 shots in the opening period with the majority straight on. The Lord Jeffs crowded the net and attempted to obstruct the vision of the Oswego goalie. With about a minute left a scramble around the Oswego net nearly resulted in the first goal of the game for Amherst. Hare, down and on his back, managed to get a piece of the puck and cleared it to the corner.
Momentum is a major part of any game and as the second period opened up Amherst carried the play to the Lakers.
With 13:40 remaining the second period a ringing puck off the goalpost stopped fans’ hearts for just a beat. Amherst forward triggered a shot from the middle of the right face off circle, beat Hare, but the glove side post saved the day for the Lakers.
Oswego came right back with 11:44 to go as Tyler Leimbrock broke in, but the goalie came out to cut down the angle and take away a solid scoring opportunity.
The first penalty of the game struck at 9:24 of the second period as what appeared to be knee to knee contact with an Amherst player sent Chris Brown to the box. Amherst pressured heavily.
Penalty expired and the Lakers popped the puck out of the zone and Brown raced on net, but couldn’t get off a solid shot at LaRose chalked up another save.
Amherst called for its first penalty at the 13:14 mark of the second period at Brandon Hew went off for hooking and the Lakers picked up their first power play of the night.
With 4:21 left in the period Amherst’s Nick Brunnette skated across the goal mouth, got Hare down, but couldn’t lift it over the pads as the Oswego netminder came up with a spectacular save.
The third period was like watching two heavyweight fighters on the ropes until Amherst took a Laker heavily into the board for a penalty at 8:46. With Zach Josepher played in the middle of the ice and powered the puck to the net three times as Ian Boots stole the puck and rifled it in from the right side at the 10:26 mark of the third for an unassisted goal and a 1-0 Laker lead.
The Lakers nearly made it 2-0 with just over six minutes remaining as Andrew Mather and Taylor Farris broke in with a two on one, but once again LaRose stood tall.
Luke Moodie stormed in on a breakaway with just over five minutes to go. He was hooked from behind, fell to the ice but the officials said “Play on.”
Drama hit a new high with about three minutes to go as Hare missed the puck, went down, and the bisquit sat just outside the goal line as defenseman Tm Carr cleared it to the boards.
Laker fans fingernails were getting shorter and shorter as Hare was forced to dive to cover a loose puck in a scramble with 1:27 to go in regulation.
LaRose raced for the bench with 1:37 to go as play continued in the Oswego end of the ice. With 37.8 seconds remaining the face off was outside of the Laker zone and Amherst called its time out.
Laker fans were on their feet as they nervously wished for the time to expire.
The face off was won by Amherst and they rushed the puck into the zone, attacking and firing it into the net after a mad scramble for a 1-1 tie with 22.1 seconds remaining as Eddie Effinger scored with Aaron Deutsch and Mark Colp assisting.
Time for regulation expired, but it wasn’t the ending that Oswego fans hoped for as they were going into overtime.
As overtime commenced Mather was hit heavily in front of the Oswego net and was assisted off the ice after a two-minute delay.
With nearly over with 3:40 gone in OT as Amherst crashed the net knocking the stick from Hares hands.
It’s over at 7:20 of overtime as the Lakers clear the puck; Paul Rodigues gets behind the defender, skates in, LaRose commits, goes down, Rodrigues waits and backhands the puck over the fallen all-american for the Lakers first trip to the NCAA title game since the championship year in 2007.
Special Olympians dropped the ceremonial puck….huge vocal Oswego section dominated the Amherst rooting section…familiar officials joel Dupree ref, chris woodworth and will O’malley lines…Knee to knee contact left Amherst defenseman Jake Turrin sprawled on the ice and he was assisted off to the locker room while Chris Brown went to the penalty box. He returned later…The Zamboni’s were on hand to sing the National Anthem for both games and perform between plays. Even brought the hockey monkey along…Shots at the end of regulation Amherst 41 Oswego 26…there were just three penalties in regulation…Amherst reached the Frozen Four with a 3-1 over SUNYAC champion Plattsburgh…In OT Mather was checked heavily and had to be assisted from the ice.