Sunday, July 21, 2024

No. 1 Cards dropped: Lakers give birds first loss in instant classic

Plattsburgh junior defender Jack Ring trips over face-down Oswego first-year defender Travis Baker, who stood up, flipping Ring into the boards at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena Dec. 2.


By Collin Bolebruch

In rivalry games, anything can happen.

Everything happened. Scrums. Stress balls. Forty-seven minutes of penalties. Puke.

The then-unranked Oswego Lakers marched into Plattsburgh and beat the then-No. 1 Cardinals 5-3 on its home ice during Stress Ball Night.

The game attracted 2,160 attendees, the most for a home game since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The teams are bitter rivals, and fans were ready to see them battle. It was a rematch of last season’s SUNYAC Championship game, where Plattsburgh won in Oswego 2-1.

Stress Ball Night is a revival of Plattsburgh’s old tradition of launching tennis balls onto the ice when it scored on Oswego at home. The bad blood goes back decades.

Plattsburgh is now 2-7-1 against Oswego in their last 10 matchups, with both wins being their last two matchups of the 2022-23 season. 

The Lakers sit atop of the conference standings, tied with the Geneseo Knights with 12 points each. The Cardinals are tied for second with 10 points, tied with the Cortland Red Dragons.

The standings should shuffle again this weekend with scheduling in Plattsburgh’s favor. Oswego will face Cortland and Utica, two of the best teams in the country. Geneseo plays Skidmore and Morrisville, and Cortland plays Oswego and Neumann College. Plattsburgh is set to play Buffalo State and Fredonia, teams with four and three wins, respectively.

Regardless, this isn’t a loss the team should take lightly. At any given time, a SUNYAC team, even an unranked one, can unseat Plattsburgh. It’s still the first half of the season, and adjustments can be made before February.

“We’re going to have to sit and think about what we’re going to do,” Head Coach Steve Moffat said.

Plattsburgh started the game firing. It held an intense 26-11 shot advantage for the first 11 1/2 minutes of the game, with the help of a power play, hoping to set the tone for what was to come.

Then, defenseman Kevin Weaver-Vitale committed a holding penalty and was sent to the box. Oswego utilized the skater advantage, taking three shots and scoring on the third at 12:19. The Lakers led 1-0.

Oswego successfully killed a penalty for cross checking two minutes later, allowing zero Plattsburgh shots. It kept its poise, keeping possession of the puck for most of the rest of the period, winning shots six to four.

The second period defined the game. Just 5:50 were played with 10 men on the ice. It was physical, it was angry.

“We didn’t play disciplined hockey, with penalties. But we also work discipline in our systems,” Moffat said. “We got caught running around a little bit, and they capitalized. Every opportunity they had, they capitalized.”

Oswego scored 1:16 into the period, taking a 2-0 lead.

The Lakers were back in the box a minute later for tripping, at the 2:35 mark. The Cardinals got just one shot off for the duration of that power play.

A second Laker made a trip to the sin bin, giving the Cardinals a five-on-three advantage. The first Laker left the box as his time expired at 4:35, but before he could make it back to action, defenseman Lonan Bulger sunk the biscuit at 4:38.

“It was a great pass by Ben[net Stockdale],” Bulger said. “It felt pretty great to score that to get back into the game.”

A barrage of hundreds of red stress balls rained on both teams. Play stopped and the Cardinals helped clear the ice. Plattsburgh was catching up, at 1-2.

Since the first Laker out of the penalty box touched the ice, the second one also returned to the ice. By just a manner of seconds, it was back to five-on-five.

“We want to play five-on-five. We’re a pretty good team five-on-five,” Moffat said.

Plattsburgh took a major hit when Weaver-Vitale was issued contact to the head at 5:50. As a major penalty, Weaver-Vitale was sent off the ice for the match and junior forward Jagger Benson served five minutes in the box in his place.

A Laker entered the box for tripping at 7:10, neutralizing its power play for two minutes. Another served time for cross checking at 10:03, meaning 2:47 of Weaver’s penalty was spent at even-strength.

Nonetheless, Plattsburgh didn’t shoot until 10:07, 4:17 after Weaver’s major, during four-on-four play.

A second Laker committed tripping at 10:47, the team’s fifth minor of the period, making play three-on-four in Plattsburgh’s favor.

Benson returned to the ice at 10:50, giving Plattsburgh its second five-on-three opportunity of the game.

The Cardinals shot the puck just twice before forward Jake Lanyi got into a scuffle with a Laker and was called for roughing, ending the two-skater advantage.

By Collin Bolebruch

Jake Lanyi catches himself, trying to keep the puck out of Laker grasp at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena Dec. 2.


“We can’t win games doing that. That’s going to bite us, and it did,” Moffat said. “It was just foolish hockey.”

Plattsburgh shot just twice more before the Laker completed his time and it was back to five-on-five.

Oswego immediately controlled the puck, pressuring goaltender Jacob Hearne, before scoring on its third shot of even strength play. The Lakers led 3-1 at 12:31.

Plattsburgh was back on the power play at 13:50 following a holding penalty, and seemed to get back into rhythm offensively. The Cards ripped five shots and kept the puck in the offensive zone.

From 15:33 to 18:12, neither team mustered a shot. Forward Bennett Stockdale broke the ice with a goal to bring the Cardinals within one at 2-3.

As Plattsburgh controlled in the O-zone, another scrum broke out. Players bumped chests and a Laker took forward Paul Bryer in a headlock, leading Bryer to swipe back. Both were sent to the box for roughing, disrupting the momentum, at 18:33.

“All season we’ve had to kill a lot of penalties, we’ve had a lot of power plays. It happens when you work as hard as we do,” Stockdale said.

Oswego scored what would be the game-winning goal at 18:42 during four-on-four play to make it 4-2.

Forward Luk Jirousek delivered a big hit and was called for cross checking at 19:48, giving the Lakers a four-on-three chance. Both Bryer and Jirousek returned to the ice without incident.

To start the third period, Oswego put too many men on the ice, and was penalized. Plattsburgh put pedal to the metal and shot four times before Stockdale scored again at 3:10 to bring it within one point at 3-4.

The Cardinals went on a tear, shooting eight times before the Lakers could get one off.

At 14:45, forward Adam Tretowicz fired a shot, and celebrated with a teammate. Oswego goaltender Cal Schell saved the puck, but the two didn’t realize.

The rivals seemingly signed a peace treaty, with neither committing a penalty until 18:33. It was the longest stretch of five-on-five all game.

Chaos struck when a Laker cross checked, giving the Cardinals the skater advantage for the rest of the game.

As Plattsburgh was dishing in the O-zone, a Laker hit Stockdale in the back, who fell face-first into the back of the goal. The crowd erupted. The Cardinals turned their attention to the perpetrator. Bryer got physical, and was sent to the box for roughing, ending the advantage at 19:26. Plattsburgh didn’t shoot for the rest of the game.

“It’s good sticking up for your teammate,” Stockdale said. “I have no problem with it. It’s nice knowing everyone has your back out there.”

During the stoppage, Schell vomited in the crease. The teams continued to play over the sick. Whether it was nerves, a big hit or otherwise, it represented the game.

With Hearne pulled for an extra skater, Oswego scored a buzzer beater to make the final score 5-3.

Plattsburgh finished the game with a significant shot advantage, with 42 to Oswego’s 26. Hearne, a junior, saved 21 shots in his second-ever Oswego game. Schell set a career high at 39 saves. Teams were even on faceoffs, but the Cardinals held a slight edge, taking 41 of 80.

The No. 2 Cardinals hit the road to play Buffalo State today, Dec. 8 and the Fredonia Blue Devils Dec. 9 in an attempt to retake the SUNYAC. The conference games initiate winter break, taking almost a month off the ice before hosting the Comfort Inn Winter Classic tournament the weekend of Jan. 5, 2024.


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