Women’s Hockey Clinches Playoff Berth

Andy McPartland

In its most important home series of the season, the Colgate women’s hockey team rose to the challenge, snatching three points from ECACHL adversaries Yale and Princeton in two games played at Starr Rink. Last Friday the Yale Bulldogs, owners of fourth place in the ECACHL, battled the Raiders for 13 scoreless minutes until first-year forward Cassie Reid beat Yale goalie Sarah Love on the power-play. The goal, Reid’s third of the season, was assisted by senior co-captain Cheryl Setchell. However, Colgate’s lead did not last long, as Yale beat sophomore goalie Brook Wheeler 30 seconds later to make it a 1-1 game. But another Colgate first-year found the net on the power-play, as defender Mallory Johnston netted her second goal of the season halfway through the second period. Carrying a 2-1 lead into the final period, it was a senior that secured the victory for the Raiders. Forward Amanda Barre tallied two power-play goals, one with a two-man advantage and one empty-netter, giving the Raiders a 4-1 victory. Wheeler finished with 19 saves and, surprisingly, only her first league win of the season. “The key to our victory was definitely our special teams,” head coach Scott Wiley explained about his team, which was 4-for-8 with the man advantage and killed off all four of its own penalties. “We did good things both with man up and man down. Yale was a challenging team to play against, but we moved the puck well when we had to.” Wiley could only hope that his team carried the momentum into Saturday’s game, a contest in which his Raiders hosted the Princeton Tigers. Princeton came out firing early, peppering Wheeler with 11 shots in the first period. The Raider defense held strong, however, keeping the ninth-ranked Tigers out of the net for the first 30 minutes before allowing a goal at 10:38 of the second period. Down 1-0, the Raiders again turned to superb play on the power-play to tie the game at one. At 12:19 of the second session, junior forward Allison Paiano lit the lamp for the fifth time on the power-play this year, off passes from Barre and sophomore Tara French. Both teams headed to the locker room deadlocked at 1-1. After being out-shot, 11-8, in the first period, the Raiders stormed back in the second, firing 16 shots to Princeton’s six. Although the Tigers came out firing again in the third, it was Colgate that broke the tie at 7:41 of the final period. Senior Maura Kehoe beat the Princeton goalie for her fourth goal of the season, with assists going to Reid and classmate Kara Leene. The Raiders were unable to hold their 2-1 lead, however, and gave up a goal with almost six minutes left in the game. The rest of the period was Wheeler-time, as the sophomore turned aside every remaining shot she faced, keeping the game tied at two until the end of regulation. Both teams were unable to muster a goal in the overtime period, ending the game in a 2-2 tie. Wheeler, who finished with 32 saves on the afternoon, faced 15 shots in the third period while Colgate was only able to fire three on net. The Raiders, seventh in the ECACHL with 15 points, picked up a precious point after the tie with the Tigers, who are tied for fifth with Brown with 17 points. The Raiders improved to 13-13-3 overall with the victory, which also assured them a spot in the ECACHL playoffs. “I didn’t really think that making the playoffs would be a problem,” Wiley said. “Right now, we are focused on getting up into sixth place. If we can win three of our last four games, if not all of them…well, you never know what could happen.”The Raiders seem to be gaining momentum at the right time. Their special teams last weekend were outstanding, as the Raiders went 5-for-10 on the power-play and were 7-for-7 on the penalty kill. “This biggest thing with special teams is keeping things simple,” Wiley noted. “We were scoring on both direct shots and on rebounds. Defensively, we realized we needed to take more pride in killing penalties. Penalty killing is a very important part of the game.”In their 11 games since losing to New Hampshire on January 11, the Raiders are 6-3-2 and have outscored opponents, 34-23. They have gone 13-for-59 on the power-play (22 percent) and a surprising 50-for-55 on the penalty kill (91 percent). After their recent surge, the Raiders are now ranked fourth in the ECACHL in each category. Earlier this season, after an upset of nationally-ranked Providence, the Raiders received one vote in the USCHO.com online poll. After its three-point weekend, the team received three. “That was really great,” Wiley said. “If we win our last four games, it would be difficult for them to keep us out of the top 10.”Today the Raiders face off against Union, the basement-dwellers of the ECACHL. It seems that everyone and their kid sister are trouncing Union this season: the Dutchwomen are 5-23-1 overall this season and 0-16-0 in the conference. They allow a whopping 6.25 goals per game, while only mustering 0.81 goals themselves; in their 16 conference games this year, they have scored only 13 goals. “Union is a hard working team,” Wiley stated. “We can’t come out and develop bad habits this weekend. If you give a team a chance, regardless of their record, you never know what can happen.”Bad habits or not, the Raider women need a weekend sweep in Schenectady.