Despite impressive play from sophomore goalie Brook Wheeler, who made her third start in the last four games, the Raiders were unable to come away from their first weekend of ECACHL play with a victory.
In a somewhat surprising move, head coach Scott Wiley went with “a gut feeling” and started Wheeler in net while leaving preseason all-ECACHL goalie Rebecca Lahar, a senior, on the bench.
“We needed to see what she is capable of doing in bigger games,” Wiley said of Wheeler. “I knew that Brook needed to have an opportunity and I felt that the time was right.”
Wheeler proved to be more than capable, as she resembled a veteran between the pipes in Friday’s game at Harvard. It wasn’t until 11 minutes in the second period that the Crimson, ranked third nationally, found the back of the net with a top-shelf goal on the power play. The Crimson tallied a second goal, also top-shelf, with only 1:32 left in the period. Junior Allison Paiano made the game interesting with about five minutes to play in the contest when she scored her second goal of the season on the power play. In an attempt to knot up the score, Wheeler was pulled near the end of the game, but Harvard put the puck in Colgate’s empty net with two seconds left to make the final score 3-1.
The Raiders were only able to muster 10 shots on net, with four of them coming from senior Amanda Barre. Wheeler, however, was pummeled with shots, finishing the game with 31 saves.
Penalties were abundant in the game – Colgate had 11 power play chances to Harvard’s eight. Both teams scored a power play goal, but Harvard managed 14 shots with the extra skater while the Raiders only mustered three.
“The amount of penalties being called right now is challenging,” Wiley noted. “There were times during the game against Harvard where we had eight players sitting on the bench for an extended period of time due to all the penalties. The penalties made it a difficult game to coach and I am sure it was frustrating to watch.”
After her strong showing against the Crimson, Wheeler found herself back in net again for the Raiders when they traveled to Providence to take on the Brown Bears.
The Bears took a one-goal lead after a power play goal 14:11 into the first period and never looked back. Although Wheeler kept the net free of black rubber for 30 minutes of play, Brown snuck one by the 5’10” netminder five minutes into the third period. Although Colgate had 20 shots, they team was unable to score and the game ended in a 2-0 loss. “I thought that we had some very good opportunities early in the game and that if we had scored, the game would have had a different outcome,” Wiley said. “I think now we are at a point where we need to realize that we can win that type of game and not just compete.”
Saturday marked Colgate’s fifth consecutive road game, with the Raiders traveling to Niagara this weekend to play two more.
“Being on the road so much this time of year is a challenge,” Wiley commented. “We will have some very big games on the road later this season and the hope is that the players can rely on the experiences on the road that we have had so far this year to get us through those games.”
Wheeler made 25 saves in net against Brown, but took the loss for the Raiders, who lost their third consecutive game. Colgate is now 3-4 on the season and 0-2 in the ECACHL, and also is winless in seven tries against the Bears. Wheeler gave up just four goals overall on the weekend and posted a .933 save percentage, statistics that impressed Wiley, if not others.
“I felt that Brook played extremely well in both games,” he said. “She has been working very hard and deserved to get the games that she saw. She proved that she is ready and I would expect to see her play in more games as the year goes on.”
Wiley now faces a difficult decision as he chooses the starting goalie for this weekend’s games against Niagara. Wheeler is on a hot streak, but Lahar is undoubtedly anxious to get back between the pipes and prove herself as the all-conference caliber player that she is.
As of Wednesday, Wiley was unsure who would be in net for the Raiders when the puck drops tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. One thing Wiley is sure of, however, is that either goalie is more than capable of stopping a puck.