By Matt Noonan
BABSON PARK, Mass. – The Babson College men’s ice hockey team saw its quest toward a national championship conclude this afternoon, as the Beavers fell to Oswego State, 3-0, in the NCAA Division 3 quarterfinals.
The Lakers received two first period goals, including a power play strike by Shawn Hulshof, as well as shorthanded tally in the second period by Brandon Adams, which provided the visitors with the lead for good.
Matt Galati recorded his team’s second tally at 15:11 in the opening session, roughly two minutes after Hulshof’s ninth marker of the season, which provided the Lakers with a 2-0 lead.
“I am extremely proud of our guys and how they played, how they represented our program (and) how hard they compete,” said Babson head coach Jamie Rice, who guided the Beavers to a 22-5-2 overall mark, as well as the program’s fourth ECAC East crown.”
“(Oswego is) a really good team, they’re experienced – even though they have a number of freshmen, (but) they’re experienced in this environment.”
Babson, which finished with 27 shots, only registered one shot in the opening period. They recorded 11 shots in the second period and 15 in the third, but none of their attempts were able to sneak past Matt Zawadzki, who finished the contest with 27 stops.
Oswego also recorded 27 shots, but saw 24 attempts turned away by Babson’s netminder, Jamie Murray.
“I think collectively we started playing much better (in the second and third periods),” said Babson senior co-captain Troy Starrett, who registered two shots.
“We started putting some stuff together (and were able to put) shots on net.”
Despite being unable to locate the back of the Lakers’ cage, Babson’s defense, which is ranked third in the nation, did its best to jumpstart its offense. However, their efforts were focused on stopping the Oswego State skaters, which have compiled 122 goals in 28 contests this season.
“Our game plan was kind of just to front the guys, sticks in the lane, active sticks and block as many shots as we could,” said Babson senior co-captain Matt Furey. “They moved it around the perimeter pretty well and they have some pretty talented players upfront.”
Rice referred to the loss as a ‘car crash,’ but also expressed his sadness for no more practices.
“The hard part now for us to put into words is just we don’t have anymore practices and that’s where we’re at a loss for things because you just keep going along and you want to have practice on Monday and we don’t have any more,” said the head coach.
“There’s 12 (seniors) in the locker room and (they) meant an awful lot to this program. They came in their first year together and we kind of have an average year, but make it to the league finals. Sophomore year for them we have a horrible out of the league record, we were 0-7 and 0-8 counting the playoffs, but we’re 9-5-4 in the league I think, so we get a pretty good run and get a pretty good seed, (but) we lose in the quarterfinals and last year we win our league championship and (were) kind of the outside horse looking in behind Norwich and UMass Boston, (and) both (teams) had great years.
“Going in this year, we wind up as conference co-champs and then we win our league tournament, (but) there’s so much time invested beyond just the hour and a half of practice. It’s the time away from the rink and the relationship you build up over four years. We tell their parents when they come here we’ll give you back a better young man then you dropped off and it’s just hard to say bye, it’s hard. I think whatever it is it’s a challenge, but I really love these guys and they mean a lot to me and they mean a lot to each other.”
Babson will indeed miss its senior class, which helped the Beavers win back-to-back conference championships, as well as secure spots in 2013 and 2014 NCAA Tournament. And while the Beavers season concluded for the second straight year in the NCAA quarterfinals, Rice is confident that today’s setback will provided the Green and White with the necessary motivation needed for next season and beyond.
“(Oswego State) is what we want to be,” said Rice. “We want to be that type of team, so there’s a lot that we can learn from how they played today and we will and the guys will pay it forward.”
As for the Lakers, they’ll look to capture their first championship since 2007. Oswego State will face-off against Wisconsin Stevens-Point on Friday, March 21 in the semifinals. A win for the Lakers would pit them against St. Norbert or Geneseo State in the championship on Saturday, March 22. The semifinals and championship (Frozen Four) will be held in Lewiston, Maine.
“It’s been a fun ride,” said Oswego State head coach Ed Gosek. “It’s been a tough stretch with being on the road, winning at Plattsburgh (State) two weekends in a row, which is not an easy test and then up in Geneseo and then we were home on Thursday (against Bowdoin College in the first-round of the tournament), but it’s been a grind. It’s been a credit to (my team for finding) a way (to win these games).”