Men’s Hockey Moves Out of ECACHL Cellar

Ruben Leavitt

It is debatable as to whether the Raiders last four games can be considered positive despite their 2-1-1 record because the team could have easily won all four contests. At the very least, the men’s hockey team showed improvement within the ECACHL by tying Dartmouth, 3-3, and beating Harvard, 2-1. In spite of the incremental progress, Colgate continues to show signs of inconsistency. The Raiders were able to follow up their victory against Harvard by thumping Connecticut, 7-1, but they squandered the next evening’s rematch with a 2-1 overtime loss.

Colgate arrived in Hanover, New Hampshire on Friday, November 16 to play a Dartmouth team that had split its first four league games. Although the Raiders led the Big Green for virtually the entire game, they had to settle for a 3-3 tie. Colgate led 1-0 midway through the first after senior Tyler Burton one-timed a pass from classmate Jesse Winchester past goalie Mike Devine. Dartmouth’s Rob Pritchard answered 10 minutes later to tie the game at one. The Raiders retook the lead early in the second period after Winchester followed up his own rebound and scored his fourth goal of the season. The score remained 2-1 in Colgate’s favor heading into the second intermission. Seven minutes into the third period, Dartmouth’s J.T. Wyman scored an unassisted goal to even things up. However, Colgate took a 3-2 lead with 7:22 left when junior David Sloane slapped home his first goal of the season off assists from junior Tom Riley and first-year Brian Day. Even though senior goalie Mark Dekanich was facing a barrage of shots at this point, it looked as though Colgate would win the game. Unfortunately, Connor Shields found the net with 1:35 left, tying the game at three. In overtime, Dekanich made five of his remarkable 42 saves to help Colgate secure a point in the league standings. Although Dekanich’s astounding number of saves would seem to be the stat of the night, one can look no further than the penalty summary to notice something truly amazing. Only two penalties were called (one on each team), a miniscule number for an NHL contest, let alone an ECACHL game.

The following night, things looked bleak for Colgate against 15th-ranked Harvard, who had won four-of-its-first-five ECACHL games. Harvard led 1-0 midway through the third period thanks to a Paul Dufault goal midway through the second. But Burton cleaned up the garbage in front of the net at the 9:36 mark, tying the game. With just a few minutes remaining in regulation, Colgate found itself on a four-on-three power play. Desperately needing to take advantage of the situation, Colgate sealed the win when the clutch Burton scored with 35 seconds left to give the Raiders a 2-1 victory. Winchester assisted on both goals. The win snapped a six-game winless streak for Colgate, and gave the team its first ECACHL victory of the season.

The following week saw a Colgate blowout and an overtime squeaker in back-to-back games against UConn. On the first night, sophomores Jason Williams, David McIntyre, and Ethan Cox, juniors Peter Bogdanich (two goals) and Tom Riley, and senior Tyler Burton scored Colgate’s seven goals. Six of them came in the first two periods as Colgate outshot Connecticut 45-27, and went 2-7 on the power play. Sean Erickson scored the lone Huskies’ goal. Head Coach Don Vaughan called the game a “coming out party” offensively for the team.

The next night’s game, however, was a completely different story. Riley opened the scoring during a four-on-four play with a goal courtesy of a McIntyre assist midway through the second period, but that score was the only goal throughout the first 51 minutes. At the 11:23 mark of the third period, disaster struck when UConn’s B.J. Bayers scored an unassisted goal to tie the game. Neither team found the net until the overtime period, when UConn’s Andrew Olsen put a rebound past Dekanich’s glove to seal the upset win.

“UConn really responded the next night,” Vaughan said. “They played physical. It was a game we needed and should’ve had.”

He also felt that his team did a good job generating opportunities throughout the four-game stand by taking more shots and executing the aggressive strategy the staff has been emphasizing this season. This result can be seen through Colgate’s representation atop the ECACHL offensive statistical leaderboard. Winchester leads all conference members with 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists), and Burton is in second place with 15 points (six goals, nine assists). But the mental lapses in the defensive zone, he felt, have been the team’s major weakness thus far and one that it must overcome to compete for a league title. Colgate’s record now stands at 5-7-2 overall and 1-3-2 in the ECACHL.

“It’s a dogfight,” Coach Vaughan responded to the status of the ECACHL standings. “No one is so far ahead that their position is safe, and no one is so far behind that they can’t catch up. This year the league is up for grabs more than any other year.” As to what this means for the Raiders, Vaughan said, “We can’t take a shift off. Every game is going to be tight.”

The Raiders return home next weekend for a pair of games against Robert Morris. The first game will be Saturday at 7 p.m., and the second will be played on Sunday at 4 p.m. At both games, Colgate will be collecting toys to benefit the Interfaith Council Holiday Project.