Raiders Split Weekend Homestand Yet Remain In First Place

Entering the weekend with a two point lead in the ECACHL, the Raiders had a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the league competition with a pair of victories. Despite dominating the then second place Vermont Catamounts on Friday, however, Colgate found its conference lead trimmed to one after losing the back end of the weekend doubleheader. The Raiders looked forward to their match-up with Vermont as a chance to give themselves some breathing room at the top of the league. The game also represented a rematch from earlier this season when the Catamounts handed Colgate what had been up until last Friday its only ECACHL loss. The only surprise, then, came in just how decisively Colgate rebounded against a team which had shut the Raiders down 3-1 at Bennington two months before. Colgate lunged at the Catamounts early, laying strong checks along the boards and creating turnovers and confusion amongst the visitors. An early line change by two Vermont players left the Raiders with a brief numbers advantage midway through the first period, and senior Joey Mormina found enough open ice to rip a slap shot past goalie Joe Fallon and into the net. Sophomore Liam Huculak, who skated through his rookie season without ever recording a goal, buried his third of the season seven minutes into the second period on the power play. Fallon surrendered a long rebound off of a hard shot from first-year Jesse Winchester, and Huculak batted the loose puck past the netminder to give Colgate a 2-0 lead.The Raiders struck on the man advantage once again in period two. Mormina eclipsed a personal goal scoring mark of his own, tallying his fifth goal of the season late in the middle frame. The 6’5″ defender pinched in from his usual position on the offensive blue line and snapped home a one-timer set up by first-year Tyler Burton. “That’s one of our plays on the power play,” said Mormina. “We’ve been working on it all year, and it finally happened for us tonight. It was a great pass by Tyler Burton.”Despite Mormina’s obvious contributions offensively, the former Philadelphia Flyers draftee impressed head coach Don Vaughan more with his defensive work. Mormina and his fellow defensemen allowed the Catamounts only 15 shots through two periods.”Joey Mormina’s been our best player for most of the year,” said Vaughan, “and he was again tonight on the defensive end of the ice.”Vermont managed only one power play goal thanks to the stellar goaltending of senior Steve Silverthorn. The Owen Sound, Ont., native stopped 22 of 23 shots faced that night while recording his 48th victory of his career. He is now seven wins away from tying Dan Brenzavich’s Colgate record set in 1998.”He’s a great goaltender, and we don’t talk about him enough,” said Vaughan. “We’ve just come to expect that out of him every night. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about him, but we probably should, because he’s one of the best goalies in the country in my opinion.”Colgate goals and points leader Jon Smyth finished the scoring with an empty net goal, securing the home team a 4-1 victory. The Raiders entered the next night’s contest with a chance to record their eighth weekend sweep of the year.The Raiders, like the rest of Hamilton, were snowed under Saturday night. The fourteen inches of snow which landed in central New York felt like a dusting in comparison to the six goal dousing poured on Colgate by visiting Dartmouth. The Big Green arrived at Starr Rink at 7:55 p.m., 55 minutes after the expected puck drop. The poor weather conditions and a bus driver who initially believed that Hamilton lay west of Ithaca, where Dartmouth had played the night before, led to an eventual two hour delay. Despite sitting in a bus for over five hours (or perhaps because of it?), the Big Green began to fly the minute they touched the ice. Dartmouth compiled a quick 2-0 lead over the Raiders when Eric Przepiorka and Nick Johnson scored within 44 seconds of each other. Przepiorka’s hard slap shot would not be his only tally of the evening. He blasted one high past Silverthorn early in the second period as well, extending the visitors’ lead to three. “We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them,” said Vaughan. “Our focus just wasn’t there at the beginning of the game. Those two goals we gave up were a big factor in the end.”Senior tri-captain Adam Mitchell temporarily cut the Dartmouth lead to two with a skilled redirection of a long Mormina wrist shot. But the Big Green refused to yield, scoring once more late in the second period.Colgate responded in the final frame in a last effort to erase a three goal deficit. Senior tri-captain Darryl McKinnon flung a puck towards the front of the Big Green net. The rubber redirected off of a defenseman and through the legs of goalie Dan Yacey. Senior Dmitry Yashin then drew the Raiders to within one with a rebound goal of his own. Dartmouth pulled away, however, by taking advantage of Colgate miscues. A missed check at the Raider blue line allowed Dan Shribmen to enter the zone, and he found linemate J.T. Wyman for an easy one-timer tally. Przepiorka’s empty net goal with just ten seconds remaining gave him a hat trick and his team a 6-3 victory. With the weekend split, Colgate’s ECACHL lead fell to just a single point over rival Cornell. The two teams will meet for a home-and-home series in two weekends, which may determine the league’s best club. In the meantime, Colgate hosts St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.