Veteran skaters reminisce over historic win against perennial power Oswego

Men’s hockey beat the nationally-ranked Lakers for the first time ever in January on senior night

Kevin Carr and Buffalo State mens hockeys nine seniors finally managed to beat Oswego last month for the first time in program history.

The Record File Photo, 2012

Kevin Carr and Buffalo State men’s hockey’s nine seniors finally managed to beat Oswego last month for the first time in program history.

It was 2010 when the crowd chanted his name for the first time.

Not quite the warm-and-fuzzy carols of applause he has grown accustomed to back home at the Buffalo State Ice Arena. These were the jeers of 3,000 rabid road fans anticipating a freshman goalie to crumble under the weight of his first-ever start inside Division III hockey’s most daunting venue.

So when the first goal slipped by his pads, the crowd was quick to offer its warmest of welcomes.

“Kev-in Ca-rr.”

“Kev-in Ca-rr.”

Oswegians are sure to memorize the name of the opposing goalie before a game.

It’s the sort of noise that seldom fails to put a smile on the face of Kevin Carr, now a senior on the Buffalo State men’s hockey team. That is especially true when he plays at Oswego’s Campus Center Ice Arena, perennially the site for some of the nation’s premier collegiate hockey.

Carr made eye contact with his parents sitting 12 rows up behind the visiting bench. The grin grew wider across his face.

Even in defeat, his smirk carried a sense of accomplishment that day, the kind only a kid from a small Canadian town about 30 minutes north of Toronto could understand. He arrived, so to speak. And he did it on the most revered stage in Division III, no less.

Carr’s mother and father have made the two-hour (and sometimes longer) drive from Unionville, Ontario, to attend all but a handful of his games during the past four seasons.

So, on Jan. 25, when they saw the look on their son’s face from their familiar perch behind the Bengals’ bench following the team’s 4-0 win over the then-12th-ranked Lakers, they could tell by the size of Carr’s smile that he had achieved his greatest accomplishment yet.

For the first time in the program’s 21-year history, Buffalo State defeated Oswego. Carr made 33 saves in the shutout, consistently turning away attempts from the nation’s fourth-highest scoring offense.

The Bengals had been 0-38-4 all-time against the Lakers.

“To get the win was the most important thing,” Carr said Monday. “But I’m not going to lie, getting the shutout, that was pretty cool. Having a chance to beat them, especially here in our own rink, is something the program can use to build off of. … It’s something I’ll never forget.”

The Bengals’ victory that day was especially gratifying for the eight other seniors on the roster who had endured four long years of being on the wrong end of beatdowns and nail-biters.

Seventeen freshmen populated the Bengals’ roster when they opened the 2010-11 season with an Oct. 29 loss to Oswego.

Nine players remain from the recruiting class that made its wide-eyed debut that night, including Carr and captain Mike Zannella. They have helped Buffalo State hockey accomplish unprecedented feats, including the program’s first-ever SUNYAC postseason win in 2012.

But success was ever elusive against Oswego, as the Bengals had been outscored 35-15 in seven losses to the Lakers spanning four seasons. For the seniors left standing, they had one last goal to check off their list.

It made it all the more fitting that they accomplished the feat on Senior Night. Zannella, Taylor McGraw and Kyle Whipple — all seniors — each scored a goal.

“It was almost a fairy tale written,” Zannella said.

Brett Hope, a sophomore assistant captain, now knows how tough playing Oswego can be. He fondly remembers his first experience, when he netted his first career goal on a 5-on-3 against the Lakers last season, a game Buffalo State lost, 5-4, after leading by two goals.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh, they’re really not as good as people say they are,’” Hope recalled. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

Zannella and the seniors did, though.

They know all too well how dominating and unrelenting those Lakers teams can be. And although Oswego — currently only ranked ninth in the country — is undergoing a transitional period of adding 17 freshmen to the roster, it doesn’t take away from the precedent they’ve set.

“When I think of the best players I’ve played against, they usually play for Oswego,” Zannella said. “They get the best of the best. … They’re the model for Division III programs.”

Oswego was the only SUNYAC team head coach Nick Carriere had left to beat in his ninth season on the job, so he reveled in the victory as much as his players.

“I think everyone was euphoric, almost, with just finally beating them after being so close for so long,” Carriere said last week. “I think we knew in the back of our minds it’s not the Oswego of last year. But they’re a beatable team as long as we do what we needed to do.”

The Bengals are holding down fourth place in the SUNYAC, which puts them in line to host a playoff game for the second straight season if they play well in their remaining three games.

They travel to Fredonia on Friday before finishing up on the road next weekend, spelling the end of the road for Carr, Zannella and the freshmen of 2010 that have come so far.=

When asked what the senior class with a knack for exceeding expectations has planned for its parting tribute, Carr again cracked that familiar smile.

“The only thing left is a SUNYAC title,” he said.

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