Coming off a dominating performance against Union during Silver Puck Weekend, the men’s hockey team was prepared to put its stellar record on the line versus Western Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend.
For a non-league game, this contest had the meaning and demeanor of playoff match, as both teams gave it their all only to end the game in a tie. The Raiders outshot the Broncos, 33-28, on Friday evening. Colgate opened up the scoring a mere 14 seconds into the game, by capitalizing on its first power-play advantage. Senior captain Jon Smyth netted his fourth goal of the season, assisted by sophomores Ben Camper and Jesse Winchester. With the successful conversion, Colgate remained atop the league in power-play goals with 22 goals in 85 opportunities.
Colgate relinquished the lead in the second period, and then fell behind early in the third. However, as they have done all season long, the Raiders battled back. They notched the game-tying goal on a give-and-go play between senior assistant captain Kyle Wilson and junior Marc Fulton. It was made easier when one of the two WMU defensemen fell during the play, creating an odd-man rush. Fulton easily put home his fourth marker of the seson on the one-timer, tying the game at two.
The Raiders special-teams played formidably Friday night; they finished one-for-four on the power play and a perfect six-for-six on the penalty kill.
The following evening Colgate pulled off a spectacular performance, displaying great team resolve and fortitude under pressure. The Raiders did not lead until Smyth scored a breakaway goal 20 seconds into overtime to lift the Raiders to a 4-3 win to cap off the weekend series against Western Michigan. Smyth’s goal marked Colgate’s first overtime win of the season and also improved the team’s record to 8-2-3 overall.
Colgate tied the game at one when junior Mike Campaner snuck in from the point and tapped the puck into an empty goal off a pass from Fulton.
The Raiders then knotted the score at two during a five-on-three power-play opportunity. Winchester beat WMU goaltender Daniel Bellissimo by banging home a rebound after a flurry of shots.
Colgate proceeded to tie the score a third time off a key slapshot goal from Fulton in the waning minutes that sent the game to overtime.
Sophomore Tyler Burton saw his eight-game point scoring streak come to an end Friday night, a streak during which he accumulated 10 goals and five assists, including a hat trick against Union. Burton, however, did notch an assist in Saturday night’s game. Meanwhile, sophomore goalie Mark Dekanich started both games, accumulating an astounding 51 saves, to improve his record to 7-1-1 on the season.
Smyth earned himself ECACHL Player of the Week accolades for his impressive performance of two goals, including the game-winner in overtime Saturday night. Smyth entered the top 50 on Colgate’s career scoring list; he is currently ranked 46th in Raider history with 96 points. Smyth is also riding a five-game point-scoring streak, during which time he has collected two goals and seven assists.
“He’s our leader and he led the way this weekend,” head coach Don Vaughan said about his team captain. “With junior Liam Huculak’s injury we had to shuffle our line’s a bit. Jon did a good job playing on a new line with senior Zac Tataryn and Ben Camper.
“At the end of the day we had to win, no matter who we’re playing.”
The weekend’s results stamped it a feel-good weekend after having turkey with the team at the Colgate Inn.
“Those were two great college hockey games and they show we can compete against those top teams,” Vaughan said.
When discussing the upcoming league match-ups, Vaughan did not want to sound over-confident.
“We’re home and we want to win at home – that doesn’t make it easy, though,” he said. “Quinnipiac is a new team to the league, so we don’t know much about them; but, from the tapes I’ve seen, they skate well with the puck and they have experience. I say we’ve got to take it one game at a time, but as a coach you have to look at Saturday’s game, too – I have a lot of respect for Princeton. We’ve got another tough ECAC weekend ahead of us.”
The Raiders return to conference play this weekend, hosting Quinnipiac tonight at 7:00 p.m., and Princeton tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.