The Geneseo men's ice hockey team closed out their season with two wins last weekend, defeating SUNY Cortland 7-3 Friday night and then beating previously top-ranked Oswego 3-1 Saturday on Senior Night.
"We set a goal for ourselves after we got eliminated from playoffs, and that was to run the table on the way out and beat the best team in the country," senior co-captain Jeff MacPhee said after Saturday night's win. "In some regards it feels like we did win a championship."
Geneseo came out on fire to beat the Red Dragons Friday night to set up the game with Oswego Saturday. The Ice Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
"We were not overlooking them. We had to get through them to get to Oswego," sophomore forward David Arduin said. "Beating Oswego wouldn't have been as sweet." Arduin cited the palpable excitement from the crowd as a reason for Geneseo's hot start.
After Cortland scored later in the first period to cut the lead to two, sophomore Jonathan Redlick came through early in the second period on the power play to regain a three-goal lead. After another Red Dragon goal to make it 4-2, Arduin tried to set up fellow sophomore Stefan Decosse but Cortland's goalie was able to make a nice save. Decosse, however, refused to be denied and was able to get the puck back and flicked a pass to Arduin who finished for the goal. Decosse assisted all three of Arduin's goals over the weekend.
"Usually Decosse does the passing to me," Arduin said. "It's kind of funny how it worked out."
Cortland got within two points at the end of the second period but Geneseo pulled away in the third. Senior Dan Brown scored his conference-leading sixth power-play goal of the season to give Geneseo a comfortable 6-3 lead. Arduin then added another goal to make the final score 7-3. Freshman Adrian Rubeniuk made 38 saves for the win, including 16 in the first period, which helped Geneseo maintain at least a two-goal lead almost the entire game.
On Saturday, after a scoreless first period in which Geneseo was outshot by the Lakers 17-7, Oswego tallied the first goal of the game early in the second period when an Oswego forward screened sophomore goalie Cory Gershon and the shot went over his shoulder into the back of the net. After Geneseo head coach Chris Schultz called a timeout, the Ice Knights regained their focus and Redlick scored his sixth goal of the season to tie the game.
"It was definitely a good time to call a timeout so we could refocus," senior co-captain Sebastian Panetta said. "He told us there was no reason to save any energy and to go out there and empty the tanks before it was too late."
Geneseo took advantage of the momentum and took the lead late in the second period on the power play when sophomore Jake Yard took a shot from the point that found its way past Oswego's goalie. The Ice Knights seemed to have all the momentum and energy the rest of the second period after the timeout, outshooting Oswego 13-8 in the second period.
Geneseo added an insurance goal with just less than five minutes left in the game when Arduin took his usual spot in front of the net and tipped in a shot from the point.
The Ice Knights were able to hold off Oswego's dynamic offensive attacked in the third period thanks to some great saves between the pipes from Gershon. Gershon finished the game with 33 saves.
"He never quit on any play even when it appeared he was going to be beat," Panetta said. "He is so focused and prepares well for every game." MacPhee added, "Gersh was amazing. He made some huge saves for us." Gershon was 4-0 in his last four games and only allowed one goal in each of the last three.
Gershon was helped out by some impressive defense, most notably from senior Trevor Foster who blocked numerous shots. Freshman Blake O'Connor also helped out with some key poke checks and junior Allan Charbonneau was a big part of keeping Oswego's top line, which has three of the top four scorers in the SUNYAC, off the scoreboard.
"The defense helped me as much as they could," Gershon said. MacPhee added, "It wasn't just the defense, the forwards were coming back and helping us get the pucks out."
The win over top-ranked Oswego was the highlight of the year for the team. Gershon called the win "one of the top five moments of my life," while MacPhee added, "It feels great for all the seniors to go out with a big win like this."
"Winning that game was very special. We showed a lot of character in the way we finished the season," Panetta said. "There was no possible way we could have ended our season on a better note," Arduin said. "You couldn't have written a better script."
The Ice Knights ended their season on a seven-game unbeaten streak, going 6-0-1 over the final stretch to finish 9-6-1 in SUNYAC play and 13-10-2 overall.