Men’s Hockey Creeps Up ECAC Standings

Ruben Leavitt

While most Colgate students were home for Winter Break, the men’s ice hockey was hard at work against some tough opponents. By the end of the vacation, the Raiders had put up a record of 3-2-1 (1-1-1 against nationally-ranked opponents) and raised their overall winning percentage to .500. Furthermore, Colgate now sits in ninth place after hitting rock bottom following its January loss to Union. The Raiders’ string of success was made possible in large part to the team’s leaders taking charge. Senior assistant captain Tyler Burton notched five goals over the six games and fellow classmate and captain Jesse Winchester had three scores of his own. Senior goaltender Mark Dekanich also played strong throughout the break, earning praise not only from his own coaches and teammates, but from opposing teams’ coaches and players as well.

After winning a weekend series at Starr Rink in the team’s inaugural meeting against the Robert Morris University Colonials on December 1st and 2nd, Colgate rested for almost one month before facing No. 13 Wisconsin in the Badger Showdown tournament on December 28th. Colgate Head Coach Don Vaughan admitted that he wished he had been able to schedule a game or two during that 26-day period, but he also felt that the break would be good for the team’s morale, and that his players’ studies and success on final exams were more important.

The Raiders showed no signs of rust, however, upon getting back on the ice. Though the game was officially recorded as a 2-2 tie, Burton scored on his second breakaway attempt in the eighth round of the shootout, and Dekanich stopped all eight shots he faced to boost the Raiders into the championship game against No. 11 Northeastern.

In that game, Northeastern’s Ryan Ginand scored with only 1:22 left in the third period to lift the Huskies to a 2-1 win over the Raiders. The teams battled for control of the scoreboard throughout the third period with both teams getting quality chances, but it was Northeastern that was finally able to get the go-ahead goal prior to the end of regulation. Colgate outshot the Huskies in the game, 27-19. Burton and Winchester had the Raider goals in game one of the tournament, while junior Tom Riley had the lone Colgate goal in the championship game.

The Raiders had to wait out another sizeable off-period before their match-ups against ECAC rivals Union and RPI. Two weeks after barely losing to No. 11 Northeastern, the Raiders dropped another close game to the Dutchmen of Union, 5-4 in Schenectady despite Burton’s hat trick on Friday, January 11th. The win was the first for the Dutchmen over the Raiders in five years. Colgate found itself in a big hole early in the game – Union scored three times in the opening eight minutes – that the team could not climb out of by the end of regulation. The Raiders fought hard to even the score in the final period, outshooting Union 17-3, but they just ran out of time.

The following night in Troy, N.Y.’s Houston Field House, Dekanich accumulated 28 saves to earn his second shutout of the season, and the seventh of his career, while lifting the Raiders to a 4-0 win over RPI. Dekanich’s steady play kept the game scoreless through the first period although the Engineers outshot the Raiders, 12-3. Colgate recovered from its fairly stagnant first period with two second period goals: a short-handed score from junior Mark Anderson and a two-on-one odd-man rush goal from senior Dustin Gillanders. Anderson scored again 7:09 into the third period to give the Raiders a 3-0 lead and sophomore Ethan Cox netted the nail in the coffin on a whacky play where he shot the puck from behind the net off an Engineer defender and into the goal. With the shutout, Dekanich took over sole possession of second place on Colgate’s career list. He needs just one more to tie former teammate Steve Silverthorn ’05 for the school record.

Meanwhile, last week, the Raiders posted two impressive efforts, tying No. 12 Clarkson, 1-1 and defeating St. Lawrence, 4-1 at Starr Rink. The offense in Friday night’s game against the Golden Knights of Clarkson was slow to materialize as both teams appeared to be feeling each other out. Colgate was thoroughly outshot through the first two periods, 8-5 and 17-8 respectively, but came alive in the third frame when the Raiders outshot the Golden Knights 12-11. One of those 12 shots materialized into a power play goal courtesy of Winchester at the 3:59 mark. Winchester’s goal was his sixth of the season and the 100th point in his collegiate career. He is also the 47th player in Colgate history to hit the “century mark.”

Coach Vaughan was pleased with his team’s display of “desperation” in the third period, adding that it seemed that his team found its legs as the game’s physical play began to increase midway through the second. Another important factor in the game’s outcome was goaltending. Squaring off on Friday night were the past two Ken Dryden award winners, Clarkson’s David Leggio, who won the award last year, and Dekanich, who won it two years ago.

“These were two of the finest goaltenders in the country, not just the league, and they played big,” Coach Vaughan commented.

Last Saturday night, the St. Lawrence Saints took the initial lead 4:35 into the first period just after a Raider penalty expired, giving the 2006-07 ECAC regular season champions a one-goal lead. Although SLU kept the game close throughout the majority of the game, the team appeared to fizzle out down the stretch. Conversely, Colgate got better as the game went along.

“We had a sluggish start,” Coach Vaughan noted after the game, “but Jesse and Burton got us going on the bench.”

Sophomore David McIntyre, first-year Kevin McNamara, Burton and Winchester tallied Colgate’s goals for the game. Saints Head Coach Joe Marsh thought his team put on one of its best performances of the season despite the loss to star-studded Colgate.

“[The Raiders’] big gunners did a terrific job. They have one of the best goaltenders in the nation, they’re a good transition team and I think the difference-maker was that they showed better ice management,” Marsh said.

Winchester, who won the ECAC Hockey Player of the Week award for his efforts against the two North Country teams, took note of his increase in offensive output during the break. The Ontario native said that he has been trying to shoot the puck more in recent games, and that he has more confidence in his shot as a result of working with his coaches on extra shooting drills before and after practice.

“It’s paid its dividends,”

Winchester chuckled.

Regarding the Raiders’ overall performance in the last month and their chances to take the league title, Winchester proclaimed that “We started off slow, but we’ll be there in the end. We have the best goalie in the league and we’re on the upswing now. No team will want to play us.”

Colgate will look for revenge on Friday and Saturday night at Starr Rink when they welcome in ECAC opponents Yale and Brown. The Raiders lost to Yale, 6-4, and Brown, 5-2 earlier in the season.