Women’s Hockey Victorious Over Nationally-Ranked Providence

It would be an understatement to say that the opening period did not go as planned for head coach Scott Wiley and the Colgate women’s hockey team in their season-opening game against eighth-ranked Providence last Saturday. Less than three minutes into the game, the Raiders found themselves down 2-0, shocked by early goals from the Friars’ talented top line. Providence increased the lead to three when Karen Thatcher’s slap shot from the blue line sailed over the shoulder of senior goalie Rebecca Lahar at 11:02 of the first period. The Raiders, who were wearing “M. LeFebre” in lieu of their names on the backs of their jerseys (for Marian LeFebre, an avid supporter of the team for the past 30 years who recently passed away), came out strong in the second period. First-year Courtney Sekevitch tallied her first collegiate goal four minutes into the period, with an assist from classmate Cassie Reid. Junior Becky Irvine also lifted a shot under the blocker of Providence’s goalie after a nifty pass from behind the net by junior Allison Paiano to make the score 6-2, but the Raiders never got any closer. The first period of Sunday’s game was more like the type of play that Wiley hoped for from his squad, which was ranked seventh in the ECAC preseason poll. The Raiders got off to a much better start, applying pressure to the Friars and killing a few early penalties. Lahar, who was named to the preseason all-ECAC first team, made some great saves and finished the period with nine. The Raiders took advantage of power plays in the second and third periods, which was something they were unable to do on Saturday, when they went 0-for-8 with the man advantage. At 2:06 of the second period, senior Amanda Barre put a slapshot under the stick of the Providence goalie, with Paiano and Irvine recording the assists on the power play goal. The Raiders played especially well in the second period, as they successfully killed five penalties and Lahar made 16 saves. The Raiders carried this momentum into the third, as Barre netted her second power play goal of the game 3:17 into the period, with Paiano and senior co-captain Chelsey Rhodes notching the assists. The Raiders held on for a 2-1 victory, surviving a late six-on-four advantage after Providence pulled its goalie when on the power play. Wiley knows that Lahar, who finished with 33 saves, has the ability to change the game. “She couldn’t really get into rhythm on Saturday,” Wiley said. “In the second game, she played a lot better. I believe she is the best goalie in the country.” Lahar, who played on the Under-22 United States National Team in August, said that “having everyone on the team really believe that we could upset [Providence] turned our team around to win the game.” The Raiders showed much improvement over the course of the weekend, as the team scored two power play goals in the second game and held Providence to only one such goal, after the Friars scored three on Saturday. Colgate also played a more physical game on Sunday, beating up on the taller Providence bunch, which has four skaters listed at 5’9″ or above to Colgate’s one. Sunday’s impressive victory showed the depth that the Raider teams have been missing in the past, especially the first-year class. In addition to Sekevitch and Reid, Wiley was impressed by defensemen Kate Wolgemuth, Mallory Johnston and forward Kara Leene, who all contributed in their first collegiate action. “The [first-years] seemed to be nervous at first, but I knew they would all be okay because they all were very experienced when they first showed up for practice,” Wiley said. “They were showing poise with the puck and showed that we are a better-skating defensive team with them on the ice.” Depth and experience seem to be the strengths of this year’s squad. Sporting 16 juniors and seniors, this is as deep and talented as the Raiders have ever been, said Wiley, who is in his third year as head coach. The eight seniors were recruited as the school’s first-ever Division I recruiting class four years ago and are splitting at the seams with experience. Colgate’s victory over Providence on Sunday was its first-ever win over a ranked opponent in the regular season. Last year’s team beat nationally-ranked St. Lawrence in the ECAC playoffs, a game in which Lahar turned away 50 shots in a 1-0 victory. Providence, which was ranked eighth going into the weekend, fell to tenth in the latest USCHO.com poll. Colgate, for the first time in team history, received a vote in the poll and was one of three teams that received votes but was not included in the top 10. Even with Saturday’s loss, the opening weekend was a success for Colgate, which is trying to put the school on the map nationally. “Now that we have had our first upset, especially in the first weekend of the season, we have raised our expectations,” Lahar stated. If the first weekend was any indication of the season to come, there is no reason that this Colgate team cannot challenge perennial ECAC powers Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown and St. Lawrence for the top spots in the conference. However, with six opponents ranked in the top 10 nationally, the Raiders have plenty of traffic on their highway to success this season.