The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Men’s Hockey Ready to Defend ECAC Title

Instagram / @colgate_mih

In March 2023, up in Lake Placid, on the same ice that the Miracle on Ice took place, the Colgate University men’s hockey team upset the heavily favored Quinnipiac Bobcats in double overtime. They then went on to upset Harvard to win the ECAC championship, Colgate’s first since 1990.

“We knew we had the opportunity to do something special with the team we had,” junior defenseman Nic Belpidio said about the championship run last year.

With the conference title, Colgate qualified for the NCAA men’s hockey tournament for the first time since 2014, but were defeated by a future NHL star-stacked Michigan Wolverines. With a new coach and a lot of returning players, the Raiders are preparing for their title defense. 

Following the historical season for Colgate, longtime head coach Don Vaughn retired. Under his leadership, Colgate qualified for the NCAA tournament four times, and he holds the Colgate record in wins for hockey. His successor is one of his former players, the all-time leading scorer in Colgate men’s hockey history and a member of the Class of 1997, Mike Harder. Returning to Colgate after a four-year absence from a six-year tenure as assistant coach under Don Vaughn, the newly named Donald F. Vaughn head men’s hockey coach has gotten to work quickly, as senior forward Ross Mitton described it.

“He’s building on what we did last year,” Mitton said. “[We are] improving every day and working hard every day.”

Belpidio also spoke highly of the new coaching staff.

“On and off the ice, they have been super supportive with all the guys,” Belpidio said.

Joining Head Coach Harder this season are Assistant Coaches Zach Badalamenti, Anthony Walsh and Liam Conway, who is also the director of hockey operations. Badalamenti, a Wisconsin alumnus, previously coached at his alma mater and was also an assistant for the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL), where he worked with the forwards and the power play. Walsh was an assistant with the U.S. national team development program, where the U-18 squad won gold at the world championships last year; he is also a Yale alumnus. Conway previously worked with Colgate as director of hockey operations in the 2021-22 season, and last year he was an assistant at Bowling Green. The bar is set high, but Harder and his staff can hope to improve on what the Raiders achieved last year.

“[We’ve got] unfinished business in the national championship,” Mitton said on where last season ended.

The team doesn’t want their story to end with an 11-1 loss to Michigan, and their goal is to get back to the NCAA tournament and try to make the Frozen Four. Last year, they were a younger group and this year they are comprised of mostly returning players along with four first-years and two transfer players. A key player for Colgate in clutch and in-tournament play was Mitton, tied for fourth-most game winning goals last year. He also scored the game winning goal against Quinnipiac in the ECAC semifinals. Between the pipes is goaltender Carter Gylander, who started 39 games last year and had the second most minutes in program history. Gylander had a dominant year, with a 2.46 goals against average and a 0.916 save percentage, topping it off with a 36-save performance against Harvard in the ECAC championship game. The captain for the Raiders this year is senior defenseman Pierson Brandon, the ECAC leader in blocked shots with 84.

When the puck drops this season, the team will strive to defend their ECAC title, and they are ready to successfully do so and make a potential Frozen Four run. Over the course of the past three seasons, Colgate’s performance can be characterized as climbing a ladder — in 2022, they went to Lake Placid but lost to Harvard; last season, they made it to Lake Placid and won the ECAC. So, if the team continues on this progression, they are certain to win a tournament game this time around the block.

Senior defenseman Nick Anderson agrees that the team has potential under new management.

“Obviously last year was a tremendous year for our program and we can’t thank Coach Vaughan, Coach Borges and Coach Azzano enough for everything they did, and we wish them nothing but the best going forward,” Anderson said. “As far as our new staff, we couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to play under Coach Harder, Coach Walsh and Coach Badalamenti. They are three great hockey minds who will no doubt continue to build on the year we had last year.”

However, the road ahead will not be easy — the ECAC is one of the tougher conferences in college hockey, and Colgate will be competing with Quinnipiac, Cornell and Harvard, who are usually the favorites to win it all. Nevertheless, Colgate beat Harvard and Quinnipiac in the ECAC tournament last season, and they beat Cornell in a shootout during the regular season, so there’s nothing to be afraid of. Colgate’s ability to play well against tough opponents last season is what propelled them to the NCAA tournament, and they will have to have that same performance against those aforementioned schools this year.

On Oct. 7, the defending ECAC champs begin their defense at the Class of 1965 Arena with a weekend home series against the UConn Huskies.

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About the Contributor
Mary Grygier
Mary Grygier, Photo Editor
Mary Grygier is a senior from Ridgewood, NJ concentrating in psychology and film & media studies. She has previously served as a contributing photographer. On campus, Mary is involved in the Athletics Department, Club Soccer, and is a member of a Greek letter organization.

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