Facing off with some of the best teams in the country, the Colgate women’s hockey team had been experiencing some tough times in the New Year. Heading into last weekend, the Raiders had lost their last four games against nationally-ranked opponents by a combined score of 20-4, including a 7-0 loss at second-ranked New Hampshire.
In games against Princeton, UNH and Harvard – all ranked in the top nine in the country – sophomore goaltender Brook Wheeler gave up a combined 18 goals. After the Harvard game, head coach Scott Wiley decided to sit Wheeler for a few games to allow the Brussels, Ontario, native to regain her confidence. After watching first-year goalie Elayna Hamashuk go 1-2-1 in four games as the Raider starter, Wheeler got back in the starting lineup on Saturday and proved why she is Colgate’s top netminder.
Against third-ranked St. Lawrence, Wheeler turned away all 51 shots in Colgate’s historic 3-0 victory over the Saints. Wheeler’s 51 saves gained her entry into the school’s 50-save club, which only had two members before Saturday. The performance also garnered her some prominent national recognition, as she was named the Defensive Player of the Week by U.S. College Hockey Online – the first time a Colgate women’s hockey player has received a national Player of the Week honor.
Besides the stellar play of Wheeler, St. Lawrence was surprisingly done in by its potent power play. The Raiders held the Saint power play, which was ranked fourth in the nation, scoreless on eight power plays chances. But more importantly, the Raiders converted three of those opportunities into shorthanded tallies, making a little more history for the nine-year program in the North Country.
First-year Sam Hunt got the Raiders on the board first at the 8:31 mark of the opening period, taking a pass from classmate Elin Brown and notching her second career short-handed tally. Wheeler fended off all 17 Saint shots in the opening 20 minutes, while St. Lawrence goaltender Jess Moffat faced only four shots and could not stop them all.
Senior tri-captain Becky Irvine gave the Raiders a two-goal edge with under five minutes by skating in alone on Moffat and getting the puck past the Saint keeper.
The third period saw a more desperate St. Lawrence team, but also saw a more determined Raider squad. Just before sophomore Kara Leene left the penalty box, Brown gave the Raiders an insurance goal at the 8:26 mark of the final period. Despite the desperation on the Saints’ part, which resulted in 20 third period shots – more than Colgate amassed in 60 minutes – Wheeler and the Raider defense buckled down to preserve the shutout.
For the Raiders, who currently sit in sixth place in the ECACHL with a 6-4-2 conference mark, Saturday’s landmark win will hopefully be used as a stepping stone for the remainder of the season. This weekend, Colgate travels to take on Yale and Brown, two teams that the Raiders defeated earlier in the season, for a Friday evening game and a Saturday afternoon contest.