Hockey Season Ends On A Sour Note

By Ruben Leavitt

Maroon-News Staff

After capturing a share of the 2005-2006 regular season ECACHL title, the Colgate men’s hockey team had high expectations heading into the ECACHL Tournament. Despite a second seed, however, the team failed to reach the conference final after being upended by rival Cornell in the ECACHL semifinals.

After enjoying a first-round bye, the team met seventh-seeded Quinnipiac in the conference quarterfinals. After being shutout, 3-0, in game one of the best-of-three-series, the Raiders responded with decisive 5-3 and 4-0 victories in games two and three, respectively. In the second contest, Colgate came from behind to avoid elimination. First-year Peter Bogdanich and sophomore Tyler Burton scored the equalizers, while first-years Marc Anderson, junior Mark Fulton and sophomore Jesse Winchester kept the Raiders ahead. In the deciding game, four different Raiders posted goals. Led by senior captain Jon Smyth and senior assistant captain Kyle Wilson in the third and final game, Colgate prevailed in a tough and enduring series against a feisty Bobcats team.

With the victory, the Raiders made the trip to Albany to play top-ranked Cornell last weekend in the ECACHL semifinals. In addition to vying for a chance at the title, the Raiders went into the decisive matchup seeking to avenge their two regular season losses to the Big Red.

Unfortunately, Colgate could solve the Big Red once again. Cornell struck first, as Byron Bitz snapped sophomore goaltender Mark Dekanich’s shutout streak at 123:42 with a power-play goal early in the second period. Cornell’s Daniel Pegoraro then added an empty-netter to seal the 2-0 win and knock the Raiders out of the playoffs.

“At this point in the season, you’re going to get two very evenly matched teams and the outcome of the game will come down to a bounce of the puck,” Raider head coach Don Vaughan said. “Cornell executed on their power-play and that turned out to be the difference.”

Vaughan felt that the only time during the game when the Raiders put themselves in a bad position was during the end of the first period and the beginning of the second, where the team was shorthanded thanks to three consecutive penalties. “It takes a toll on the bench – penalty-killing requires shortening the bench, which results in the players getting tired and more time being spent in our end later on,” Vaughan said.

Down, but not out, Dekanich, went on to break Colgate’s single-season saves record with a 39-save performance on Saturday night against Dartmouth in the consolation game of the tournament. The North Vancouver, B.C., native recorded 988 saves for the season, which bested Jeff Cooper’s 972-save total from the 1984-85 season. Colgate rallied to cut a three-goal deficit to one, but could not capitalize in the end. The Raiders lost the third-place game to the Big Green, 3-2, ending their season on a sour note.

“This may have been a disappointing weekend, but it certainly wasn’t a disappointing season,” Vaughan said. “We were a young team that overcame graduating nine seniors from last year. Our young guys gained a lot of valuable experience this season, and we’ll be returning a great nucleus up front and a great goaltender.”

Colgate finished the 2005-06 season with a 20-13-6 overall record, including a 14-6-2 mark in the ECACHL. This marked the first time in school history that the Raiders have posted three consecutive 20-win seasons.

When asked about who will lead the team next year, Vaughan said that he expected Burton, Winchester and Fulton, among others, to keep performing at the level of this season, and added that the young defenseman should come together to create a solid anchor on the back line. The captaincy will be decided by a vote amongst the players sometime in the near future.