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 Battles Towards the Finish Line

AP Photo / Olivia Hokanson

The Colgate University men’s hockey team set an incredibly high bar for themselves after their triumphs from last season. An ECAC championship and a trip to the national championship tournament is a hard act to follow. But there was a fair share of ups and downs throughout the regular season last year, prior to the ECAC championship in Lake Placid, N.Y., that left fans in for a wild ride from start to finish. As the current hockey season reaches its apex, it would be fair to say that the Raiders’ regular season performance told something of a similar tale to the last.

Just like last year, Colgate has shown flashes of brilliance on the biggest of stages — with wins over top-ranked opponents like #16 ranked Cornell University and #3 ranked Quinnipiac University. But they have also, at times, underperformed. As a fan, the feeling is analogous to being jostled around on a rickety see-saw at a park — one with no shock absorbers or safety stops. The lows have hurt, but the highs been electric. This year’s squad has proven that it can hang with the best competition in the nation.

Junior defenseman Reid Irwin unpacked one of the key factors that propelled the team to a win over defending national champions Quinnipiac.

“I’d say that the key for us to be successful is sticking to our style of hockey. Playing fast and direct, north-south hockey and not east-west,” Irwin said. “When we outwork teams all over the ice, our skill comes out, and it’s a mindset we have to have for every game no matter who we’re competing against.”

A trademark of Raider hockey this year has been their tenacity on the breakaway, with some especially phenomenal ones coming in overtime against Harvard University early in the season and in their recent game against Dartmouth College. Goaltending is another department where the Raiders have a massive edge over their opponents. Senior Carter Gylander has already established himself as not only one of best goalies in the ECAC, but as one of the best players in the nation. He is within the top 50 goaltenders in Division I hockey when it comes to goals against and goalie win percentage, according to NCAA rankings.

One of the looming questions that hung over the Raiders during the offseason was that of the man who would replace the legendary Don Vaughan as head coach. Vaughan had been the captain of the ship for the Raiders for over 30 years, and was the winningest head coach in Colgate men’s hockey history with 453 wins during his time with the team.

Regardless of who was named his successor, stepping into a new role after the previous person had held the position for three decades is daunting. But new Head Coach Mike Harder ’97 has, so far, shown that he is more than competent when leading the team from between the boards. Irwin spoke about the process of adjusting to the new coach and praised his teammates for taking the change in stride.

“I’d say it hasn’t been too tough of a transition. All of us have had so many coaches throughout our careers that adapting to a new coach is something that becomes easier to do over time. In saying that, Coach Harder expects us to compete hard for each other every night, and that’s no different than the years prior. To be successful, we have to play selflessly and honestly, and after that, everything usually falls into place,” Irwin said.

Despite the caliber of coaching and innate level of talent that a team may possess, now is the time in a season when player fitness can make or break a team’s playoff chances. Staying healthy in hockey is almost an oxymoron — injuries are so common in the sport that playing through them has become ingrained in its cultural fabric.

Senior assistant captain Ross Mitton, one of the star attackmen for the Raiders, overviewed some of the various practices that players on the team use to keep themselves in shape during the most physically demanding weeks of competition. 

“Taking care of our bodies the right way on a daily basis is crucial in maintaining physical health and preventing injuries. A lot of guys on the team will utilize the hot and cold tubs, ride the bikes after practice and will stretch and roll out after games. Coach Harder just implemented team yoga on Sundays earlier in the year, and it has been fantastic for our recovery after a tough weekend of games,” Mitton said.

Following a weekend sweep at home, the Raiders are currently sitting on a record of 11-12-3, with an 8-5-1 record in conference. To sum this up in a word: tentative. With eight games left to play in the season, the team’s direction is completely up in the air. Recent signs indicate that the Raiders are trending in the right direction, despite dropping a 6-3 loss to Harvard on Jan. 27. The previous three games were all well-battled wins over Quinnipiac, Princeton and Dartmouth. The Raiders have won five of their last six ECAC contests.

Senior defenseman Nick Anderson was optimistic about the team’s postseason chances, but underscored the importance of the moment in terms of their play. 

“In terms of gearing up for the postseason, I think everyone’s mindset is that every game from here on out is a playoff game. We need to bring playoff energy every night and if we play the right way — how we know we’re capable of playing, I think we’ll end the regular season with a top-four spot in the ECAC,” Anderson said. 

Anderson also spoke on perhaps the most important element to the team’s success: their unbreakable spirit.

“We’re playing some good hockey right now, and the belief we can not only get back to Lake Placid but also defend our title is stronger than ever,” Anderson said. 

Irwin also commented on the team’s postseason aspirations.

“We know that we have a fast and tenacious team that can beat anyone. If we play how we’re supposed to night in and night out, I like our chances heading into playoffs time,” Irwin said.

The Raiders currently sit in third place in the ECAC standings with 26 points, one point behind Cornell and three points above Clarkson University. The Raiders have an opportunity to chase the Big Red this weekend as they travel to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Union College this weekend. Both teams sit significantly behind Quinnipiac, who has run away with the lead in points, tallying 38.

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About the Contributor
Richie Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor
Richie Rosen is a sophomore from Los Angeles, CA concentrating on economics with a minor in political science. He has previously served as a staff writer for the Commentary, Baker's Dozen, and Sports sections. On campus, Richie is involved in the Colgate Investment Club, the Ski Club, and a greek letter organization. 

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