Collision created opportunity for championship-winning goal

The puck slides through the slot to SUNY Plattsburgh junior forward Connor Gorman on the play that led to the game-winning goal in the SUNYAC finals on March 7 at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena in Plattsburgh, N.Y. (Photo provided by Justin Dobrow)

A new chapter in the storied men’s ice hockey rivalry of Oswego State and SUNY Plattsburgh was 22 and a half minutes from the finish when one play changed not only the game, but two team’s seasons.

Sophomore Shawn Hulshof and freshman Mitchell Herlihey collided as the team crashed the Cardinals’ net, and the hosts were back the other way on an odd-man rush for the eventual game-winner. Connor Toomey to Connor Gorman, and that was it.

Listen: Hulshof and Herlihey share their memories of the shift when the collision occurred with some light-hearted words from the rookie.

Oswego State head coach Ed Gosek is of the opinion that his current team plays better on the road than at home because it plays a simpler game But, that was not the case in the finals.

“It really was the way we played the whole game,” Gosek said. “Instead of sticking to our systems and a blue-collar mentality, we took shortcuts and the two guys run into one another on that play and they come back and score the game-winning goal.”

Check out: See what media members had to say on Twitter about the play and it’s impact as the night unfolded.

Gorman, gave much of the credit for the goal to the tournament’s eventual MVP.

“Toomey has unbelievable speed and took the puck up the ice along the boards,” Gorman said via email. “I beat the Oswego guys up the ice and Tooms made an unreal, almost no look, pass to me in the slot and I one timed it in over Zawadzki’s glove.”

Watch: This video shows how the play unfolded.

Video provided by WTOP-10 Oswego and audio provided by WNYO 88.9 FM Oswego, N.Y.

Hulshof, who went on to be named league MVP and an All-American, and Herlihey, who finished fourth in the league among freshmen scorers, were members of the Lakers’ strongest line during the spring semester, along with senior Mike Montagna. The trio had totaled 48 points and accounted for 20 of the team’s 43 goals in 10 games.

The underclassmen-heavy Oswego State squad had plenty of confidence heading on the road for the SUNYAC finals. The Lakers were 3–1 in road or neutral site postseason games over the last two seasons and were undefeated at their rivals, including a 2–1 win in the SUNYAC semifinals one season ago. But, on March 7 at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena in Plattsburgh, it was the Cardinals’ night.

“I didn’t think we were that bad, but they were just much better than us,” Herlihey said. “They wanted it a lot more than we did. They got bounces, we didn’t and that’s hockey.”

The final 2:33 of the second played out and then the two sides had 20 minutes to decide the conference title and the league’s automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. For the Lakers, a loss put them into a logjam of teams vying for the three at-large bids, while a loss for the Cardinals may have knocked them out of contention entirely.

“I remember [Gosek] saying, ‘That 40 minutes is behind us. Some guys aren’t playing as well as they can. Some guys are,’” Herlihey said. “I remember him saying, ‘Everyone’s got two shifts to show me what they got and then I’m going to have to shorten the bench and play whoever’s going.’”

“In between periods [head coach Bob Emery] told us we needed to be prepared to win 1–0,” Gorman said via email. “We sacrificed that third period and got pucks out, blocked shots and did what needed to be done to win the game 2–1, basically 1–0.”

The SUNYAC final was the Lakers’ 10th game that ended in as a one-goal game or tie.

“You learn from your experiences and we had been in that situation in the Elmira where we had come back and tied it late,” Gosek said. “That’s our mentality. You don’t change your mindset. You don’t try to do it as individuals. Remain in a team atmosphere, a team attitude and I thought our guys did. We didn’t generate the chances that we would have like, but we had a few there in the third to tie it up.”

The loss took the Cardinals from the bubble and into their first NCAA Tournament since 2012. The Lakers were put in the position of waiting to see their fate.

“I remember on Monday there was four of us in our accounting class just with the bids up just looking to see if we were in and once we got in we were like, ‘Yeah. We’ve got a second chance here,’” Hulshof said.

The Cardinals went to get a first round bye and home game in the quarterfinals when the bracket came out. But, once the SUNY Plattsburgh women advanced to host their Frozen Four on the same weekend as the men’s team was set to play Trinity College, so plans changed.

“Unfortunately we got the home game taken away from us and we had a bye so I think we came out at Trinity a little off,” Gorman said via email. “We outshot and outplayed them big time but couldn’t find the back of the net. Playing a talented and hard working Oswego team in the SUNYAC championship helped prepare us in knowing how hard it is to win the further you go. The margin for error is so small.”

The Lakers ended on the road in the first round at Hobart. After defeating the Statesmen, they headed to Michigan for a quarterfinals match up with Adrian College, the overall No. 1 seed. The Bulldogs won 5–4 and advanced to the Frozen Four.

“You get a draw with Hobart and then Adrian, two very good teams, and our attitude is that time of year you have to be the best and it doesn’t matter where you play them. But, [being home] certainly would have been helpful to get to the Final Four.”