With Four Seconds Left, Men’s Hockey Lets One Slip Away

Off to a quick start, the Colgate men’s hockey team failed to make it five in a row to start the 2004-05 season, as the Raiders dropped a Saturday evening affair with Northeastern, 4-3 in overtime. Colgate sent a packed Starr Rink, filled with parents who had arrived for Family Weekend, home disappointed, allowing Northeastern to score with only four seconds remaining in the extra period. The loss, the team’s first of the season, kept the Raiders from reaching its first 5-0-0 record since 1986. Meanwhile, the Huskies boosted their record against the Raiders to 2-0-1 over the last two years. “It’s probably unrealistic to think that you’re going to go undefeated,” head coach Don Vaughan said, “but at the same time, it’s how you lose them. I think the loss on Saturday night was very disappointing in that we failed in a lot of what we had practiced that week. Obviously we didn’t pay attention to detail right until the end of the game.” Under pressure for most of the night, Colgate was never able to hold a lead against the visiting Huskies. Northeastern jumped out to an early lead by scoring the only goal of the first period on the power play. All three of the visitor’s tallies came on the man advantage. “Our penalty killing was not what it needs to be,” Vaughan said. “We knew exactly what they were going to do on their power play, but we just didn’t execute. Some of that was a result of mental laziness more than anything.” Sophomore Marc Fulton knotted the score at 1-1 just two minutes into the second period, redirecting home a power-play goal of his own. Fulton, Colgate’s first-ever scholarship athlete, continued his strong play to begin this season, recording his fourth point in five games. Northeastern jumped back on top less than two minutes later, however, sucking the energy from the home crowd. Midway through the second period, junior Jon Smyth took advantage of a puck-handling mistake by Huskie goalie Keni Gibson and roofed his third goal of the season to tie the score at two. Colgate’s most improved player and leading point scorer would add another goal off a deflection later in the period. Each time the Raiders came back, however, Northeastern responded with a goal of its own. Colgate never strung two goals together and generated few chances, firing only 18 shots on the Huskies’ net. “It’s tough to play catch-up hockey,” Vaughan said. “You’re trying to gain some momentum, but it seemed like just when we did that, we lost it. When we scored to tie it, 1-1, 27 seconds later we take a penalty. Now we have to claw our way back to tie it up at two, and 26 seconds later we take another penalty. With a full crowd, you want to try to get some momentum and we just weren’t able to do that.” As the clock wound down in the overtime period, it appeared to everyone that each team would settle for a tie. A poor line change and transition by Colgate put them on their heels with under 10 seconds remaining, however, and Northeastern’s Brian Cirullo buried a rebound opportunity with just four ticks left on the scoreboard. The visitors celebrated while the home crowd stood silent and stunned. “We should have been out of there with the tie,” Vaughan lamented. “I think that’s what we deserved. I’m not sure we deserved to win that game. If we want to reach some of the goals we set for ourselves, we have to be better than we were on Saturday. The message is consistent, and that is that you can’t take any shift off. You can’t let your guard down.” This weekend Colgate gets a final look at non-conference opponents before beginning its ECAC schedule. Sacred Heart and Army arrive to Starr Rink at 7:00 p.m. tonight and tomorrow night, and while neither comes from a typically tough conference, they both provide the Raiders with an opportunity to tune up for its first league games with Harvard and Brown the following weekend. “Our energy level has to be high,” Vaughan concluded. “I think our special teams play has to improve. Our penalty killing units need to be finely tuned. We have to guard against being complacent. This weekend gives us the opportunity to get our level of play up to where it needs to be.”