Oswego, New York. Sports Capital Of The Universe.

Okay, maybe you can make a contention that a few more intriguing events may be going on this weekend in the sports world, and some even in the same city.

You could make an argument for Las Vegas, which will feature a big Devils-Knights hockey game tonight, a Jon Jones-led MMA PPV card tomorrow night and a NASCAR race on Sunday.  I’d allow that Los Angeles, where UCLA and USC will host the Arizona schools in big Pac-12 regular season finales back-to-back tomorrow night, as well as season openers for their competitive MLS teams, the Galaxy and defending champion LAFC, and a couple of regular season Crypto.com games,  could be worthy of a few votes.

But please allow me to justify why the little frozen hamlet that houses my alma mater, SUNY Oswego, should at least be in your consideration set.

Both its men’s hockey and men’s basketball teams will be hosting post-season competitions, and to the best of our knowledge it’s the first time in the school’s history that both sports will be hosting playoff games simultaneously.

Tonight the #6 Division III men’s basketball team in the nation will host Marymount College of Virginia in the second of two first round games for the “Little Dance”.  Unlike its big brother, first round games are played on the home court of the highest-seeded team in the pod, and this year the Lakers are that.  They won the SUNYAC conference title on their home court last Saturday with a win over Brockport State, raising their record to 25-2, and avenging one of those two losses (and their only conference loss) in the process.

Should Oswego win tonight, they’ll face the winner of the first game of tonight’s doubleheader, #10 John Carroll of Ohio and perhaps the Cinderella team of the quarter, Albertus Magnus College, fresh off an upset of previously undefeated St. Joseph College to capture the Great Northeast Athletic Conference title and the automatic bid.  If you never heard of them, consider they play in the same city (New Haven, CT) that houses two Division I schools, Yale and Quinnipiac, and probably have to wait in line for clam pizza at The Town behind those schools’ athletes.  The pizza’s not as good in Oswego, but the clams are quite decent, and I’m sure the town will gladly take their fans’ money.

Basketball hasn’t always been a competitive sport for Oswego; though of late they’ve qualified for several post-season tournaments.  In my era, the school lost 45 consecutive NCAA games, a record we thought had ended after 22 but we later learned that as that win came in an early season tournament against a school based in Canada, the NCAA didn’t recognize the win.  They then lost the last 21 games of that season against U.S. schools (including a four-overtime home loss during a blizzard against Oneonta State that I served as PA announcer for, before a crowd I hand-counted to be SIX),  and the first two games of the following season.

They were within one of the all-time NCAA Division III record, and national media were in contact with us hoping we’d lose.  But the school had recently changed coaches, hiring an eventual Division I stalwart named Mike Deane for his first collegiate head coaching job, and Deane was determined to change the culture.  After they snapped the streak, they were a reasonably competitive 8-16, and the following year qualified for the conference post-season playoffs.  So I’m exceptionally proud of perhaps the only team named Lakers that may qualify for a post-season in basketball.

All that said, hockey reigns supreme in the Port City.  And regardless of whether the Oswego hoopsters win tonight or not, that game will precede the start of the SUNYAC Conference hockey championship game.  And as Ben Grieco of the hometown Palladium-Times (a paper yours truly once wrote for) notes, this is no mere championship game:

This Saturday brings just another installment into what most call the greatest Division III men’s hockey rivalry: Oswego State takes on Plattsburgh for the SUNYAC championship for the 17th time since 1985, when the SUNYAC championships first began.

The last time the two teams met in the league championship was in 2017, when the Cardinals won 3-2 in the title game. That’s the last time Plattsburgh took home the league championship. Oswego State is vying for its first league crown since the 2014 season, when the Lakers topped SUNY Geneseo 7-6.

The rivalry between the two New York State colleges is known as “The Whiteout Game”, where Oswego fans dress in the same color as the snow that usually covers the city from roughly Halloween to Mother’s Day (actually, thanks to bleach, they their shade of white is usually a lot brighter).  And this year, they’ve already met three previous times.  As Grieco continued:

The Lakers won on Nov. 4, 5-1, when the Cardinals came to the Deborah F. Stanley Arena for Oswego State’s annual Whiteout game. Oswego State also won over the Cardinals on Jan. 7 in the championship game of the Plattsburgh State Winter Classic, 2-1.

But, thus far, Plattsburgh had the final laugh — a 6-1 win over the Lakers on Jan. 20 in Plattsburgh for the second league game.

After that loss, just prior to when students returned to campus for the winter/spring semester, Oswego kick-started their season, and have now rattled off five consecutive wins.  So they believe they’re more than ready for the Cardinals, and Grieco eminds that not only will they will be ready, but so will their fans:

Tennis balls and bagels were the hallmarks of the Oswego State-Plattsburgh State men’s hockey rivalry.

The bagels were “bird food” thrown by Laker fans when Plattsburgh came to Oswego. The tennis balls were thrown by Cardinal fans in Plattsburgh after former head coach Don Unger — who also coached tennis at Oswego State — took over for the Lakers.

And when that got boring, then came in the fruit — apples, oranges, lemons, limes, or “anything that was round that resembled a tennis ball,” Oswego State head coach Ed Gosek said — were thrown on the ice by Cardinal fans.

I’ve had Oswego bagels, and let me assure you, the tennis balls are tastier.

The winner will get an automatic bid to the Elite Eight of NCAA Division III hockey, the three-round sprint to a title that Oswego, for all of its success, has still only won once in its history, in 2007.  But since the Lakers, in what was supposed to be more of a rebuilding year, only has has earned roughly two-thirds of the points they could qualify for, nearly a full 100 percentage points behind Plattsburgh, a win tomorrow night will likely be the only way they could qualify for another title shot.

So, yeah, there’s a lot of emotion in play this wintry weekend in Oswego, New York.  So much so, in fact, that there’s already been a controversy regarding how tickets can be obtained.  As Ryan Ravenell of the student newspaper, THE OSWEGONIAN (yep, I wrote for them, too) reported earlier this week:

A security breach was discovered at a third-party vendor that SUNY Oswego utilizes for various campus events, including the Lakers ice hockey games.

An email sent Feb 24. to the campus community informed that ticketing vendor AudienceView experienced a nationwide security breach. The breach affected those who used the platform to make purchases throughout February.

You think Swifties are pissed at TicketMaster?  You’ve likely never met a Laker hockey fan.

Now you tell me–with that kind of emotion, and such an arch-rival, coupled with a basketball team still looking to carve out its own share of deserved popularity–both playing in front of their home fans–can you think of any place that has more raw emotion going for it for the sporting events they will host?

You think about it.  Like I’ve already written , I’m open to suggestions.  But for this Laker fan, you’ve got your work cut out for you.



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