Rivalry Weekend

Facing off against the sixth best team in the nation and archrival Cornell, Colgate played solid hockey, forcing two excellent games between the ECACHL’s top two teams. Unfortunately, the Raiders earned only one point against the Big Red, managingone tiein the hard-fought contests. Last season, Colgate rode a sweep of Cornell all the way to a regular season league title. This year, the Raiders will have to play catch up, as a home 1-0 loss on Friday night and a tough 2-2 tie on the road on Saturday left Colgate three points behind the first-place Big Red.The teams entered the weekend separated by a single point, and Colgate got first crack at Cornell at home on Friday. In a series expected to be dominated by physical play and strong defense, neither team disappointed. Through nearly three periods neither team made a major defensive mistake, and errors that were made were corrected by the stellar goaltending of Colgate senior Steve Silverthorn and Cornell sophomore David McKee.

“The defensive coaching that’s going on in this league is unprecedented,” Colgate head coach Don Vaughan said. “When I was playing, I don’t recall working extensively on blocking shots. Now teams are spending20 minutes in practices on how to lay down or get in the lane of a shot. It’s really difficult to get a shot through to the net, and then when you do you have to face the likes of Silverthorn or McKee.”The Raiders controlled much of the late action, out-shooting the Big Red, 7-4, in the final period and creating several prime chances. McKee’s acrobatics kept Colgate off of the board, however, stopping wonderful opportunities such as a post-to-post one-timer from the Raider points leader, junior Jon Smyth.

“You may have seen the two best goaltenders in the league go head-to-head,” Vaughan added. “Both goalies played great hockey. Friday night, McKee made two saves that still have me shaking my head. Steve did the same thing at Cornell on the road. If your goalie is your best player, you’ve got a chance to win every game.”McKee’s stone wall impersonation gave his team a chance to capitalize on a rare Colgate error, and that’s just what Cornell did. With Colgate forwards caught deep in the offensive zone, the Big Red exploded for a two-on-one and buried a shot past Silverthorn with just 93 seconds remaining in regulation. The Raiders fell 1-0 and dropped three points behind Cornell for the league lead.

“We always evaluate our team based on how we play,” Vaughan said. “You’re going to be judged based on your wins and losses, but from a coaching perspective, we were very pleased with the effort. Were we disappointed with coming out of Friday without a point? Sure we were. But we weren’t disappointed with the effort.”

Although disheartened, Colgate arrived in Ithaca with purpose. After falling behind early in the first period, the Raiders fought back to tie the game later in the first frame. First-year Jesse Winchester positioned himself in the slot on a Raider power play and buried a feed from classmate Tyler Burton to knot the score at 1-1.Once again, Colgate fell behind the Big Red, and once again the Raiders responded. Down 2-1 entering the third period, Burton banged home a power-play rebound inside the first minute of the final frame for his second point on the night. The ECACHL named Burton its Rookie of the Week for his fine play.

The Raiders held on despite a late rush from the Big Red, and left Lynah Rink with a 2-2 tie. Cornell had won every home game prior to its confrontation with Colgate, making the Raiders the first team to leave Lynah this season with a point. Most who watched the games felt the match-up lived up to expectations as one between two equal elements.”It was a war,” Vaughan said. “Clearly both games were very physical and very clean. If you look back on the last couple of years, there was a little bit of mischief. But these two games were played very hard and very clean.”

As with any war, unfortunately, Colgate suffered some casualties. First-year Ben Camper suffered a broken ankle and will likely be done for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile,senior defender Eamon DelGiacco seemed to injure his shoulder during a collision in game two against Cornell, and while he continued to play for a few shifts, he may be slowed in practice this week. Added to that the still injured foot of junior Kyle Wilson and a flu bugthat has begun circulating through the team, and the Raiders find themselves shorthanded come this weekend’s matches at Yale and Princeton.

Vaughan hopes to prepare his men for the final three weeks of the regular season, however, and intends to begin with a strong effort on the road this weekend. Colgate stands tied for second in the league with Harvard, and would like to further solidify a top-four finish with a sweep this weekend against two teams that the Raiders knocked off earlier in the year.”I knew we’d be ready to play Cornell,” the coach said.”It’s when you get beyond a big weekend like that that you need to psychologically prepare for what is obviously the most important part of your schedule. This is the part of the season where every game has meaning for where you’re going to be in the standings.”