The Oswego State women’s hockey team has passed the halfway part of their 2022-23 season as the Lakers only have nine games left. Oswego State turns to conference play in the NEWHL as Jan. 31 will be their last non-conference matchup on the road against William Smith College.
Over the past few months, there has been a turn around for the Lakers. The team started their season 0-3 before going on an eight-game win streak. Oswego State head coach Mark Digby was pleased with the team’s ability to learn some lessons and apply them in games.
“I do not think things started the way we hoped with the exhibition games and the Adrian weekend,” Digby said. “Going up to Potsdam for the league opener just with the wrong focus. Learning our lessons early on really allowed us to rebound the next night against SUNY Canton. Once we found our legs and found our identity, I was really excited about the way we played throughout the first semester.”
The Lakers are 1-2-1 in their last four matchups with two of those games being against nationally ranked teams. On Jan. 3, Oswego State fell to Amherst College 3-0 while the Mammoth were in the top five in Division III. In their latest matchup, the Lakers traveled to Utica University and fell 5-0 in more non-conference play.
“So far it has been game timing and having the ability to finish plays,” Digby said. “If we look back at Amhurst, we had a couple pretty good looks at the net…I did not think that we were so far out of it that we did not have a chance.”
However, Oswego State was still able to gain points in conference play as the Lakers got three points after a win and tie. The Lakers beat SUNY Potsdam 6-4 on Jan. 6 as forward Mack Hull scored a hat trick in the third period. The following day, SUNY Canton tied to break the Lakers win streak against the Roos as the game finished with a 0-0 result.
On the offensive side, there are four forwards that have hit the double-digit mark in the points column. Sophomore Ashlyn McGrath leads the team in goals with 11 tallies and in total points with 16. Ariella Haas has 9 assists this season which leads the Lakers.
“Everyone is contributing at their own time,” Digby said. “I do not think we have had anyone yet play above their potential. I think we have a lot of players approaching their potential which is exciting for us. We have not played anyone yet where we have not been in the game…the fact that we still have room for growth and the players are focused on that is rewarding to coach a team like that.”
Oswego State averages 2.6 goals per game while shooting on average 31.1 shots per game. Compared to their opponents, the offensive numbers are higher than their competition who has been held to 2.1 goals per game by the Lakers defensive core.
Transfer Lexi Levy has played most of the games over the course of the campaign with 13 games played. Levy has a 2.01 goals against average and a .922 save percentage and has broken the 300 save mark.
“[Levy] has been really consistent and for collegiate goaltenders that is very difficult to do,” Digby said. “The challenge with our schedule makes that extremely difficult. In every game, she has made the saves she should make and most games she makes the saves she should not make. It has really given us the opportunity when we are not playing well.
JoAnna Hiebert has also played well when she has seen action in between the pipes. Hiebert has played three games and has posted similar numbers to Levy in her smaller sample size.
Oswego State will turn their attention to the top team in the NEWHL as the Lakers travel to the North Country to take on Plattsburgh State. The Cardinals are 12-2-0 this season and lost their first game ever in conference play to SUNY Cortland back on Dec. 2.
However, the Cardinals are still 7-1 in conference play and hold first place in the conference with 14 points after eight games played in NEWHL action. The Lakers find themselves in third place with 13 points after nine conference games.
The last time these two teams played, Plattsburgh State ended Oswego State’s long win streak with a 3-2 final on Dec. 3. The Cardinals scored two goals in the third period and hung on for the win to get back in the win column. Oswego State is looking to end a 15-game losing streak against Plattsburgh State and look to get back into the win column in January.
“I thought when we played them here, it was a 3-2 hockey game and it was a 1-1 late,” Digby said. “They found a way to pop two in and we had to battle back and got the late one with the goalie pulled and had two minutes to get another look at it. We made it exciting, but I think we have more in the tank and I am sure they are better than they were then too. It will be fun to track our progress against the best teams.”
Simone Bednarik will be meeting the team in Plattsburgh as the forward has left Oswego to play with Team Slovakia in the FISU University Games that will take place in Lake Placid and the surrounding areas. Last year, Bednarik was named to the roster to represent Slovakia in the Olympic qualifiers in Sweden.
“It is really special for Simone and her family to get that opportunity to represent her country,” Digby said. “It is fun for us to get the chance to watch…it will be fun to be able to see the person that we joke around with, in the weight room with, and on the ice with and now we are watching her on that kind of stage.”
Bednarik and the rest of the Lakers will head to Plattsburgh for a two-game series and seek more conference points. Both puck drops on Jan. 13 and 14 are scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
Photo Provided by Jim Feeney