Women’s Hockey Splits Series With Niagara

It is good to be home. This is the mindset of the Colgate women’s hockey team as it gets ready for this weekend’s games, the team’s first at Starr Rink since its victory over nationally-ranked Providence on October 17. The Raiders took on Niagara last weekend in their sixth and seventh consecutive road games. In the first game, senior goaltender Rebecca Lahar started in net for the Raiders after sitting for two games in a row. Lahar and the Raiders held the Purple Eagles scoreless until 15:35 of the first period when Ashley Riggs slipped one past Lahar for a power play goal. Riggs added her second goal of the game, this time a shorthanded tally, just 2:29 into the second period. The Eagles would score two more goals to bust open a four-goal lead before Colgate managed to get on the board. Junior Becky Irvine scored her team-leading fifth goal of the season at 10:20 into the third period, with assists from senior Amanda Barre and junior Hilary Foord. Irvine followed up that goal with another tally less than three minutes later after receiving passes from Barre and senior co-captain Chelsey Rhodes to cut the lead to 4-2, but that was as close as the Raiders would get as they dropped their fourth game in a row. “I think we played well at times on Saturday,” head coach Scott Wiley said. “We started well and were dictating play for a while, but we were forced to play catch-up after giving up the first goal.”Colgate continued to struggle on special teams, as it only converted one of 11 power play chances, despite recording 13 shots on net with the man advantage. Niagara was 2-for-7 on the power play. Wiley noted that Lahar, who finished with 27 saves, played well in net despite not getting much support. Sophomore goalie Brook Wheeler got the start on Sunday, her third start in four games. With about a minute left to play in the first period, junior Allison Paiano put the puck in the back of the net after passes from linemates Irvine and Barre. The goal, Paiano’s third of the season, was all Wheeler and the Raider defense needed as Colgate went on to a one-goal victory, snapping the losing streak. In making 20 saves, Wheeler recorded her first career shutout.”We played 60 minutes of hockey on Sunday,” Wiley said. “We dominated play from the start of the game.”Without the line of Paiano, Irvine and Barre, however, the weekend’s games would have most certainly had different outcomes. The team’s top line has combined for 24 of the Raiders’ 38 points this season, a knee-slapping 68 percent. The trio has also netted seven power play goals and has accounted for three of four game winning goals. “We saw productivity from our key players since our last home games,” Wiley noted about the trio, which accumulated three goals, four assists and 20 shots last weekend. “Constant performances go a long way.” Wiley mentioned that the three were also challenging other members of the team to be more offensive-minded in their play. Tonight at 7:00 p.m., the Raiders play host to Dartmouth, a team ranked second in the nation. Tomorrow, Colgate faces off with Vermont. The main question for the weekend is who will start in net for the Raiders. Wiley said that he does not make the decision until the Thursday before a game and that it is based on play in practice, among other intangibles. “We have goalies with two different styles,” Wiley explained. “Rebecca is more athletic and plays with lots of energy, while Brook is more of a steady, ‘stay at home’ goalie. They complement each other very well.”With a victory on the weekend, Wheeler improved her season record to 2-2. She has posted an impressive save percentage of .938 while giving up a mere 1.50 goals a game. Lahar is 2-3 on the year with a 2.81 goals against average and a .892 save percentage, but has faced 34 more shots than her sophomore teammate.Whichever goalie starts against Dartmouth will have her hands full with the Big Green, who are undefeated on the year, including a 4-0 record in the ECACHL. Last weekend, Dartmouth took two games from Vermont, winning by a combined score of 9-2. The Big Green has outscored their opponents, 28-4, in five games this season, scoring an astounding 5.60 goals per game while allowing only 0.80. Wiley does not seem worried about the goalie situation, however. Rightfully so, as it seems that Colgate can win with either goalie in net. Goodbye, goalie “controversy”; hello, two-headed monster.