Coming into the season, the Raider men’s hockey team had plenty of reasons to believe that the 2005-2006 season-opener would not turn out as well as hoped for.
Colgate had not defeated the UMass-Lowell River Hawks since the 1996-1997 season. The Raiders held an ominous 2-5 record when opening the season at home under head coach Don Vaughan. Sophomore goaltender Mark Dekanich, replacing only one of nine graduated seniors, was appearing in only his sixth collegiate game.
And yet, despite all these negatives, the Raiders reminded their fans that one thing remains constant from last season: the team’s ability to score goals.
Junior Mark Fulton tallied a career-high four points and four other Raiders recorded at least two points as Colgate began its season with a 6-2 thrashing of UMass-Lowell at Starr Rink on Friday night.
The Raiders, who came into the game ranked 18th in the country by USCHO.com, began the scoring late in the first period and never looked back. Fulton got the Raiders on the board with 1:52 left in the opening period by one-timing a pass from senior Ryan Smyth past River Hawk netminder Peter Vetri.
After the first intermission, Fulton and Smyth again teamed up for the Raiders’ second goal at the 6:58 mark. This time, Fulton parked himself in the slot and, after receiving a pass from Smyth, slipped the puck between Vetri’s pads to give the Raiders a two-goal advantage. Sophomore Jesse Winchester notched a power-play tally nearly two minutes later after retrieving his own rebound, and senior assistant captain Kyle Wilson notched the Raiders’ third goal of the period and fourth of the game with three minutes left in the second period.
From that point, the Raiders coasted through the final 20 minutes on the way to a well played first win of the season.
Fulton was obviously the offensive star of the game for the Raiders, registering two goals and adding two helpers. Wilson added two goals and an assist, Winchester contributed a goal and an assist, while Smyth and junior Mike Campaner each recorded two assists to lead a balanced Raider attack.
The Raiders dominated the then-16th-ranked River Hawks in all aspects of the game. Colgate out-drew Lowell 46 to 28 in the face-off circle, thanks in large part to sophomore Tyler Burton, who won 17 of his 23 draws, and first-year Tom Riley, who won eight of nine draws.
In the pivotal second period, in which Colgate outscored Lowell 3-0, the Raiders peppered Vetri with 14 shots, while Dekanich faced only six River Hawk attempts in the same time frame. The home team also took advantage of its power play opportunities, scoring two goals with the man advantage, while Lowell went 0-for-5 with the extra skater.
Dekanich performed well for the Raiders in his first starting assignment, stopping all 20 shots he faced in the first two periods. Dekanich finished the evening with 32 saves in all, compared to 29 saves on 35 shots for Lowell’s Vetri.
After beginning the season at home, the Raiders will play seven of their next eight games away from the confines of Starr Rink. This weekend, the team travels to Michigan for two games against Lake Superior State, out of the CCHA.