By Ray Biggs
D3hockey.com Managing Editor
OSWEGO, NY - Utica led three different times in regulation, but No. 5 Oswego answered all three Pioneer goals and neither team scored in overtime as the Pioneers and Lakers skated to a 3-3 tie at the Marano Campus Center Ice Arena in Oswego.
The Pioneers record moves to 9-5-1 on the season, and they remain unbeaten in their last six games after tying the Lakers(11-3-1), ranked No. 5 in the latest D3hockey.com Poll. Oswego remains undefeated in their last five games.
The penalty kill units were among the top performers in the high profile matchup. Oswego kept Utica off the board in two appearances, Utica remained perfect in 2019 by shutting off Oswego's top-ranked 31 percent power play unit to an 0-for-4 clip on the night. Offensively, Derek Brown led Oswego with the tying goal in the third period and also added an assist. For Utica, seven different players had one point apiece, and Gregg Burmaster with an assist now has a point in eight straight games. Gianluca Baggetta made 26 saves in Utica's first tie of the year, while counterpart David Richer also tied for the first time this season with 18 saves.
The matchup featured a high energy start with both teams pressing hard on the opening shift. With the Pioneers on the road in a building they have not played in since the 2016-17 season, they turned to a man familiar with the territory to get them on the board. Junior defenseman Joey Rutkowski, who formerly played at Oswego, scored his second goal in as many games when he banged in an even strength rebound just 1:14 into the matchup to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead. Gregg Burmaster and Vaden McManus assisted on the play.
The Lakers tried furiously to counter, and were initially thwarted as a strong opportunity from Colton Fletcher was guided wide. The hosts would continue to push and would eventually use their transition game to convert. After carrying into the zone, Oswego's Josh Nenadal fed the puck off the left wing to a trailing Tyler Currie, who zipped a wrist shot from the high slot past Baggetta to pull the Lakers even.
A momentary lull bottled up the middle portion of the period after the raucous start, with neither team able to find paydirt immediately to break the tie. Baggetta responded brilliantly to his first goal allowed, shutting down a high quality chance by Oswego's Josh Leblanc, and a late first period breakaway by Travis Broughman as he jammed out the pad to make a key stop.
With Baggetta taking control in his own end, Utica capitalized at the other end from point blank range at 13:01 of the first period. As with Rutkowski, sophomore forward Conor Landrigan cashed in with his second goal of 2019 as he flipped a twirling backhander behind Oswego goaltender David Richer and past the left wing post to put Utica up 2-1.
The Pioneers had a chance to grab an even greater advantage on the heels of a successful first penalty kill effort. After serving his minor for hooking, defenseman Dan Fritz was hit cleanly in stride with a pass as he stepped out of the box, but was stuffed by Richer and the Pioneers took a 2-1 lead into the locker room.
Oswego did not take long to formulate a quick answer to re-tie the score early in the second period. An in-zone turnover came back to hurt Utica as a breakout pass up the left wing boards caromed out to the circle where it was collected by Oswego's Tanner Spink. Spink landed multiple shots off the pads of Baggetta, who came out to challenge, and the second rebound landed right on the tape of Oswego's Josh Leblanc. Leblanc tapped it in from the right wing to tie the game at two goals apiece.
The remainder of the period was scoreless, but it was not without challenges as the Pioneers faced multiple penalty kill efforts in a period largely carried by the Lakers. Just past five minutes into the period, Utica got through an early 5-on-3 sequence where Baggetta again excelled, shutting down multiple top quality opportunities for the Lakers, and killed off a late period roughing minor to get back to the locker room in a 2-2 tie. Oswego out-shot Utica 9-4 in the second period.
The start of the third period saw another jump start in the scoring in a similar pattern to the first period. Sophomore forward Josh Haskin grabbed the lead back for the Pioneers at 4:47 when he tipped a puck into the back of the net assisted by Dan Fritz and Tyler Pietrowski. The Lakers would answer right back when Derek Brown netted an unassisted goal just 1:11 later, and the game would remain scoreless through the end of regulation.
Oswego controlled much of the overtime period with a 3-0 shot advantage, but neither team capitalized on the opportunity to avoid their first tie of the season as the teams settled for the 3-3 stalemate.
The Lakers head to Elmira on Saturday for their final non-conference game of the year before conference play resumes next week. Utica takes to the road to polish off a three game road trip next Friday and Saturday as they visit Neumann and Manhattanville for a UCHC Weekend set. Utica beat both teams by a combined 13-2 margin on their opening conference weekend.
Pioneers, Lakers Tie in CNY Clash
By Ray Biggs