Last weekend, the Colgate men’s hockey 2008-2009 season culminated in electrifying fashion in the first round of the ECAC Tournament. The Raiders traveled to Hamden, Connecticut to face the Quinnipiac Bobcats in a best-of-three series to decide who would advance to the ECAC Tournament quarterfinals. Colgate was defeated 2 games to 1, all of which went to overtime. The Raiders broke a record by playing 19 overtimes throughout the season.
On Friday night, Colgate and Quinnipiac faced off for game one of the series. It was the third time the two teams had faced each other in the season, with the Raiders having defeated the Bobcats in the regular season by scores of 1-0 and 3-2. In the first period of the game, it seemed as if the Raiders once again were en route to defeat their opponent. At the 5:09 mark of the period, senior assistant captain Tom Riley drew first blood on an unassisted goal. Throughout the rest of the period, the game was back and forth, with both teams having several opportunities, but unable to get past the opposing goaltenders. The Raiders increased their lead at the 18:00 mark on the power play, when senior forward Pietro Bogdanich scored his third goal of the year against the Bobcats, assisted by junior forward David McIntyre and senior defenseman Jason Fredricks.
In the second period, the tide swung in the Bobcats favor. At the 6:37 mark, Q-Pac cut the lead in half on a Jean-Marc Beaudoin snap shot. The game was still back and forth, but the Bobcats seemed to have the better chances, and junior goaltender Charles Long came up with several spectacular saves. The third stanza arrived with Colgate holding a fragile 2-1 lead.
In the final period, Quinnipiac seemed determined to tie the game, while the Raiders tried to protect their lead. The Bobcats finally obtained what they desired at the 3:54 mark of the period to tie the game on a David Marshall power play goal off a tip-in. Both teams increased their energy level, hoping to finish the game in regulation, but neither was successful and the game went to overtime.
At the 5:12 mark of the overtime period, sophomore forward Brian Day took the puck from a Quinnipiac defender in the slot. The puck quickly skittered to Bogdanich, who shot the puck past Q-Pac goalie Bud Fisher. At first, it seemed like Bogdanich had scored his third career overtime goal against the Bobcats to win the game for the Raiders. However, one of the referees called a slashing penalty on sophomore forward Brian Day, and the goal was called right back. The call was fishy to begin with, but video replays show that the penalty decision was made after the goal was scored, seconds after the penalty occurred. A little over five minutes later, the Bobcats’ Brandon Wong scored to win the game and steal one from Colgate.
The following night, the Raiders came out with their backs against the wall and the season on the line. A victory meant one more night of hockey, while a defeat meant the end of the season. For the second night in a row, Colgate opened the scoring. This time it was first-year forward Austin Smith with his 14th goal of the season off a rebound, assisted by junior forward Ethan Cox and sophomore forward Fran?cois Brisebois at the 13:22 mark. A little over four minutes later, Bobcat forward Greg Holt tied the game at one on a slapper.
In the second period, the game’s intensity picked up. The Raiders were being severely outplayed in a game they needed to win. At the 2:40 mark, the Bobcats grabbed their first lead of the night when the NCAA’s leading point scorer Bryan Leitch scored a goal from the right side of the crease into a wide-open net. Six minutes later, however, the Raiders tied the game when McIntyre scored on a two-on-one break, assisted by first-year defenseman Corbin McPherson and Brian Day. The second period ended with the game tied at two, but Colgate having been outshot 13-3 in the period.
In the final stanza, it did not look well for the boys from Hamilton. They were still being outplayed by their hosts, and did not seem to be creating many scoring opportunities. At the 12:37 mark, Scott Zurivinski scored off a defensive zone giveaway, a thorn in Colgate’s side this season, to put Q-Pac ahead 3-2. Two minutes later, the Raiders’ hopes of living to see another day took a deep plunge. The Bobcats’ Eric Lampe added a short-handed goal to take a 4-2 lead with less than five minutes left in the game.
With two and a half minutes left in regulation, the Raiders began mounting their most unbelievable comeback of the year. At the 17:33 mark, senior captain Nick St. Pierre scored off a rebound, assisted by Smith, to put the game within reach at 4-3. A little over one minute later, Q-Pac’s Mike Atkinson took a penalty, putting ‘Gate on the power play. Long then went to the bench to give Colgate a 6-on-4 advantage. With 19 seconds left in the game and season, Smith scored his second extra-attacker goal of the year whilst in a scrum in front of the net to send the game into overtime for the 18th of the year. The game would go to OT.
The Raiders’ comeback was almost complete. Less than a minute into the overtime frame, Smith became the hero once again, as he put in a rebound to complete a hat trick and send the series to game three. Smith showed his grit and knack for being at the right place at the right time in this series.
In the first period of the final series game, the Raiders came out fired up. The first period was all Colgate, with the boys from Hamilton vastly outplaying their opponents, yet it was Quinnipiac who got the first goal of the game at the 3:34 mark off a Greg Holt wrist shot. Less than a minute later, however, the good guys tied things up off the stick of Day on a tip-in, assisted by Bogdanich and Fredricks. Five minutes later, the Raiders scored again. This time it was junior forward Jason Williams with a great deke, going forehand and then beating Fisher with the backhand. He was assisted by Riley and Day on the power play.
The Raiders went scoreless in the second stanza. The Bobcats, on the other hand, took advantage of two opportunities in front of the net to put themselves ahead 3-2 at the end of the period, with goals scored by Atkinson and Lampe. They scored at the 3:08 and 9:58 marks of the period and outshot the Raiders 14-11.
The final period was an intense, tightly-played and gritty period in which neither team gave each other much space. Both sides had good opportunities to score, but did not seem able to decipher the goaltenders. It was not until the 16:13 mark of the final period that Colgate was able to tie the game off the stick of Austin Smith from a shot in the slot to send both teams to their third overtime game of the weekend. In the overtime period, both teams had several chances to take the series, yet it was the Bobcats who eventually prevailed when Wong scored his second overtime winner of the year. Off a defensive zone giveaway, Q-Pac went on a three-on-one break, with Wong netting the goal by faking a shot and then going for the equalizer at the 13:39 mark of the period.
Colgate closed the season with a 12-18-7 record, having played nineteen overtime games. The season may not have ended the way the team expected, but the Raiders can be proud of multiple moments this season. As a team who had lost a lot to graduation the previous year, they gave many teams a run for their money, playing in 27 games decided by a goal or less. They tied No. 12 Cornell twice, gave a huge scare to the No. 13 Colorado College Tigers, when they were ranked third in the nation and sent the No. 11 Princeton Tigers to their only two overtime games of the past two seasons. Last but not least, they defeated No. 10 Yale and previously ranked No. 19 Dartmouth on the road.
Next year, the team is returning all of its top-scoring forwards, its goaltender and two defensemen that sat out most or all of the season with injuries, so things may be looking up for ‘Gate next season.