The last time Oswego forward Ian Boots played in an NCAA Championship tournament, in 2009, he was part of an Ohio State team that was clearly overmatched, and was steamrolled by the eventual NCAA Champion, Boston University.

Tim Carr was a member of the Oswego team that advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals last season, but he watched from the stands when the Lakers fell to St. Norbert, 4-3, on an unassisted goal by Cody Keefer. After transferring from Division I UMass-Lowell, Carr didn’t arrive at Oswego in shape to compete, and found himself on the outside looking in for most of his sophomore year.

“It was tough watching,” Carr said, “but I knew I didn’t come in ready like I should have.”

Saturday, Boots and Carr are set to get their first shot at the NCAA Division III Championship tournament, as the No. 3 Lakers host No. 7 Bowdoin in a quarterfinal game at the Campus Center Hockey Arena.

“Guys are excited about the opportunity,” head coach Ed Gosek said. “There’s no guarantee of success, but we know we’re capable of playing better than we did.”

As Gosek hints, while Boots and Carr are excited for their first NCAA run as Lakers, the primary concern for the team is getting off to a strong start and washing away the disappointment of an overtime loss to Fredonia in the SUNYAC semifinals.

“The Fredonia loss was a pretty big shot to everyone’s confidence around here,” Boots said. “I think everyone’s going to have a little more jump in their step on Saturday. I think everyone realizes that it’s ‘one loss and you’re out’ from here on out. I think, come Saturday, you’re going to see a different team.”

And, for Boots, it will certainly be a different experience, playing at home in Oswego rather than at a neutral site in Manchester, N.H., where the majority of the fans came from Boston.

“I think the hometown fans here really give us a seventh guy out there,” Boots said. “It’s really a pretty big boost for us to be at home.”

Of course, the experience of playing in front of the Oswego fans is one of the things Boots enjoys most about having transferred from Ohio State. Not only is it much easier for friends and family to come see him play – “It’s only three hours away from here,” Boots said of his hometown of Aweskane – but they’re much harder to pick out in an arena where it’s standing-room only most nights.

“In Ohio, we had the big 17,000-seat arena,” Boots said, “and we’d only put four or five thousand in there on average. Here, maybe it’s not as big as the Value City Arena, but it’s always a packed house and the fans here know hockey. It’s definitely something that I’ve enjoyed here.”

And Boots has certainly given Lakers fans something to cheer about. In 26 games this season, the Akwesane native has 14 goals and 23 assists, leading Oswego in both categories.

“He’s a mature kid,” Gosek said. “He’s earned the right to get extra ice time, special teams. He’s very humble. He didn’t come in here thinking he was God’s gift. He didn’t come in thinking he should be put on the first line or have all the extra ice time. He earned it, he earned the respect of his teammates, and we’re happy to have him.”

Carr, meanwhile, has shaken off his conditioning issues to become a steady presence on the Lakers blueline, contributing a shorthanded goal and four assists, all in conference play, where the Lakers finished 15-1-0.

“He’s been a great story,” Gosek said. “From last year, coming in from Lowell and not being in game shape, it was a difficult scenario for him. It wasn’t like it was all rosy, but I think it speaks volumes about his character. He wasn’t a complainer. He didn’t make excuses. We gave him things that he needed to work on, and his resiliency to stick to it all summer and improve his skating and conditioning…he went from a kid that played one game all second semester and playoffs to playing every game but one for us.”

For Gosek, the success of transfers like Boots and Carr comes from his program’s policy on transfer students, only bringing in players whom he knows to be a good fit for the program.

“Very rarely will we take a transfer,” Gosek said. “Basically, my philosophy has been that if they’re student-athletes that we were involved with in the recruiting process before they went Division I, or they were kids that we watched play and had a good feel about as a player and as a person, we never burn any bridges. If it’s not working out, when they contact us about coming back here, if we have room and if it’s the right fit, then we’re happy to have them.”

The presence of senior forward Owen Kelly, who transferred from the Air Force Academy after his freshman season, has also been a beneficial factor for helping players adjust to life on Lake Erie.

“Owen’s a kid that gets it,” Gosek said. “He gets the whole picture. He understands the balance, what it means to live a good lifestyle. He knows what it means to balance your academics, your hockey, the release that athletics can provide, and so he has been a positive influence, especially on our younger players.”

Now, for Kelly (and classmate Dan Bremner, who transferred from Mercyhurst), the final run at an NCAA Championship begins. For Boots and Carr, they’re preparing to take a run at the best chance they’ve had. For all the Lakers, they’re ready to relegate any disappointments to the history book and make some new history.

The kind that has a happy ending.