In their final regular season home games, the Colgate seniors assured themselves a hard earned break, as a pair of victories last weekend against Union and Rensselaer secured for the Raiders a bye week in the first round of the ECACHL playoffs. With a 3-1 win over Union on Friday night and a 1-0 blanking of Rensselaer the following evening, Colgate matched its league points total from last year. In 2004, a 14-6-2 ECACHL record proved good enough to top all other league members. This season, despite boasting a 14-4-2 conference mark with games remaining against eighth-place Clarkson tonight and seventh-place St. Lawrence tomorrow, the Raiders can hope to finish no better than second behind Cornell.However, Colgate can finish no worse than third in the league, which means the team will host a three-game playoff series in three weeks, beginning on March 11 and extending until March 13, if necessary.In securing their playoff schedule in the pair of victories against Union and Rensselaer, Colgate players and coaches alike set many new records. By skating in last Friday night’s contest against the Dutchmen, senior tri-captain Adam Mitchell set the all-time games played mark for a Raider. He has currently competed in 145 games, and has never missed a contest in four years.The senior Mitchell watched as one of Colgate’s rising stars, first-year Tyler Burton, kick-started Friday night with a flourish. Despite being tripped upon entering the Union zone and falling to the ice, Burton showed the presence of mind to locate a rebound of a shot sent on Dutchmen goalie Kris Mayotte by junior Kyle Wilson. Still on his knees, Burton then fired a snap shot past Mayotte’s left pad, giving his team an early 1-0 lead.The ECACHL named Burton its co-Rookie of the Week following the Langley, B.C. native’s three-point weekend.”The puck seems to follow him around,” head coach Don Vaughan said of Burton, who ranks second on the team in points and first in goals. “The way that play developed, he left the puck, got spun around and ended up on his knees, but the puck came right back to him. You can call that luck, but when it happens as much as it does with Tyler, I think you have to take luck out of the equation.”To have the presence of mind to finish that play from his knees is very impressive. It’s a top 10 goal in my time here for sure. A lot of guys would have given up on that play, and clearly he didn’t do that.”Sophomore Dustin Gillanders made the score 2-0 with a power-forward-type goal. The 6’2″ forward took a shot from a poor angle, drove to the net for his own rebound, and lifted the rubber just under the crossbar for his second goal of the season.Union sliced the lead to 2-1 late in the first period following a giveaway by first-year defenseman Matt Torti. Although the Raiders outplayed the Dutchmen for much of the second and third periods, the game remained close until its waning moments thanks to missed opportunities for the Raiders and the solid goaltending of Mayotte.”I’d like to see a few more of our grade-A opportunities end up in the back of the net,” Vaughan said. “We had an opportunity to build on that lead and their goaltender made a couple of great saves. That kept the game close, and when you keep games tight like that anything can happen.”It took an unconventional goal to break the game open. Wilson nearly fanned on a one-timer during a Colgate power-play late in the third period, sending the puck 15 feet into the air. As though drawn by a magnet, the puck then drifted over the head of Mayotte, who had come out to challenge Wilson’s shot, and dropped into the net for the Raiders’ third goal.”I’ve had a few fluky goals in my years here, but the difference with that one is that you could sort of see it developing,” Vaughan said. “[Assistant coach] Andrew Dickson on the bench had enough time to look right at me and say ‘That puck’s going in.’ It seemed to take forever to get to the net.”With the 3-1 victory over Union, Vaughan picked up his 200th career win, all coming behind the Raider bench. Vaughan has coached Colgate for 12 seasons and now ranks second all-time for coaching wins behind Terry Slater.Breaks such as Wilson’s were few and far between the following night. Neither Colgate nor Rensselaer generated many quality chances, as both teams looked tired.”We played in spurts in that game,” Vaughan explained. “When you don’t capitalize when you’re really coming at a team, it takes a lot out of you. So there was the tendency to pull back a little bit more than I would have liked. That’s a dangerous game to play.”Junior Jon Smyth broke a scoreless tie in the second period with a power-play goal. Colgate’s points leader took a drop pass from Burton and fired a wrist shot through the pads of Engineer goalie Andrew Martin.The star of Senior Night at Starr Rink proved to be senior goalie Steve Silverthorn, however. The Owen Sound, Ontario native stopped all 21 shots he faced, collecting his fourth shutout of the year and seventh overall, setting a new school record.Colgate currently stands in third place in the league, one point behind Harvard. The Raiders can overtake the Crimson by picking up just one point, as Colgate holds the tiebreaker between the two clubs. The difference between second or third place in the league is hardly important to the Raiders, however.”I’ll say it point blank,” Vaughan stated. “You have a tendency to match up better against some teams than you do others. If it meant us finishing third and having a better match up, then finishing third would be better. We’re not hung up on finishing second or third. We want to win out.”Were Colgate to finish in third place, they would most likely host Brown in the second round of the playoffs, a team which hasn’t won in Starr Rink in 12 seasons. Meanwhile, a second-place finish opens the door to a host of possible opponents, including Clarkson, which has not lost in Starr Rink in five years, and St. Lawrence, which has given the Raiders problems during playoff matches during the last two seasons.