Men’s Hockey Opens Season With Consequtive Wins



Alex Clark

There will be a hockey season this year. The Colgate men’s hockey team kicked off the 2004-05 season last weekend, swallowing up two road victories as it attempts to repeat as ECAC Champions.The Raiders traveled to Big Rapids, MI last Friday and Saturday to take on Ferris State. The Bulldogs captured second place in the CCHA just two years ago and looked to be a formidable opponent to start Colgate’s season. The Raiders, however, gathered up their first non-conference road sweep since 1999, winning 5-4 and 4-2. On Friday night, the Raiders actually found themselves behind after two periods. Senior co-captain Darryl McKinnon’s first period shorthanded goal and junior Kyle Wilson’s second period tally still fell short of the three spot placed on the board by the Bulldogs. A string of three goals in just two minutes and six seconds by senior co-captain Adam Mitchell, Wilson and sophomore Marc Fulton sprung Colgate into the lead, however, securing the team its first victory of the year. The hot Raiders sticks burst into game two on Saturday, as the team jumped out to a 4-1 lead. First-team all-ECAC member junior Jon Smyth began the night with an unassisted shorthanded goal. The second period belonged to two first-years, as Tyler Burton and Jesse Winchester each notched their first career goals. Mitchell went on to add yet another Colgate goal while playing a man down, the Raiders’ third such tally on the weekend. Last year’s squad scored a total of four shorthanded goals during the entire season. The Raiders impressive 2-0-0 start to the new season offered no surprises, which is a happy surprise to the followers of the Maroon and Grey. Each of the team’s five top returning scorers recorded multiple points on the weekend, senior goalie Steve Silverthorn, the ECAC coaches’ preseason pick as the league’s top netminder, posted a .910 save percentage and 3.00 goals against average in a hostile environment, and sophomore defenseman Mike Campaner, a member of last year’s all-rookie ECAC team, garnered ECAC Player of the Week honors for his five-assist weekend. Colgate’s nine goal output in two games proved that the team’s offensive explosion last year was not the result of a fortunate combination of career years.”I don’t anticipate that guys like Jon Smyth and Kyle Wilson were flash-in-the-pans,” said head coach Don Vaughan, who returns behind the Raider bench after serving one season as the school’s interim Athletic Director. “These are guys that were developing. Those guys are back, and I’m sure they’re going to have great years this year too.”Despite potting a remarkable 111 goals last season in 39 games, Colgate expects to find the net even more this year. A batch of maturing forwards along with a strong recruiting class composed of the team’s first-ever scholarship athletes make the Raider scoring threat downright scary.”We feel very good with our forwards,” Vaughan said. “It’s probably the most depth I’ve had since I’ve been here. That’s a good problem to have, but it’s going to be challenging as a coach to get guys the time that they need in game situations to develop.””I think some guys that will have an impact on this year are the younger players,” he added. “I don’t think we saw anywhere near what we’re going to get from players like [sophomores] Dustin Gillanders and Liam Hucalak. Those are two big guys that are going to play a powerful game. You don’t want to put pressure on anybody, but two of our first-year guys up front are Jesse Winchester and Tyler Burton. Both are prepared to see some minutes and special teams play. They’re two scholarship players who are ready to come in and make a difference right away.”The high-scoring victories over Ferris State mean more to Colgate than just disproving doubters, however. Non-conference wins may prove important at the end of the season when the league decides which teams it will invite to the NCAA Tournament in spring.”These games that you play in October are equally as important as the ones you play in February,” Vaughan said. “They all have an impact on your overall rating. At the end of last year, looking back, after winning 22 games and not making the tournament, a win somewhere at the beginning of the season may have given the guys a chance to play in the NCAA tournament. You see it often in football, when an early loss keeps a team from a chance at a bowl game or a national championship.”Having risen from a predicted eighth place team last season to the top of the ECAC, and after graduating only five players, the Raiders look to be a strong favorite to challenge for the league title once again. ECAC coaches picked Colgate to finish second in the league, behind only rival Cornell, who the Raiders knocked off each time the two teams met last year. “The challenge is to stay focused and not rely on preseason polls, what might be, and what we did last year,” emphasized Vaughan. “We have to focus on this year. I think the guys know it won’t be easy. This league will be as tight as always, and it will be the team that can string together four or five wins in February and March that will win this thing. That’s why the ECAC is the most exciting conference in college hockey.”Experience in such a tight league plays a key role, and Colgate corners that market as well. The Raiders’ senior class tops all others in the conference, and the fourth-year veterans have advanced further into the playoffs in each of their seasons with the club.”The fact that we have nine seniors on this experienced club, we feel we’re a little ahead of where we have been in previous years,” Vaughan said.”The biggest difference this year as opposed to last year is that we’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” he continued. “Every team is going to play its best game against us this year. We have to be ready for that.”The next challenge for Colgate comes this weekend at Starr Rink, as the Raiders welcome CCHA member Lake Superior State at 7:00 p.m. tonight and tomorrow night. The weekend games are the first in a streak of seven consecutive home contests for the Raiders, who hope to further pad their win column before ECAC competition begins.