Despite the Raiders’ loss in the ECAC Finals this past weekend, the team still had plenty to celebrate. Finding out Sunday that they qualified for their first NCAA Tournament since 1990, the Raiders are now preparing for their first round matchup against a familiar opponent in the Ferris State Bulldogs this Friday.
After picking up two straight victories over Clarkson at Starr Rink in the ECAC Quarterfinals, the Raiders journeyed to Lake Placid for the ECAC Semifinals this past weekend. Facing the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Friday, the Raiders knew a victory would help boost their chances at making the NCAA Tournament.
With the puck dropping at the famous Herb Brooks Arena, the Raiders battled in the first period, fighting off two penalties and keeping the game scoreless. It wasn’t until the second period that the game would see its first goal. In a 4-on-4 opportunity, just three minutes into the period, the Bobcats saw junior forward Connor Jones get one past first-year goalie Charlie Finn.
With just five minutes remaining in the period, the Bobcats extended their lead on the power play. Up 2-0 with less than half the game remaining, the Raiders needed a goal. Under two minutes after the Bobcats scored, Colgate responded with some much-needed momentum of their own. First-year Andrew Black continued his strong play on the season, scoring a goal unassisted and getting the Raiders back into the game. The remainder of the period remained scoreless, but the Raiders saw newfound hope as they were down just one goal.
In a third period that saw five penalties, both teams played conservative hockey, not allowing either side to get the advantage. The Raiders’ hopes seemed to be ticking down, and with under two minutes remaining, Colgate pulled Finn in a last-second attempt to tie up the game. The 6-on-5 situation worked, and sophomore forward Kyle Baun shoved in a rebound off an assist from sophomore forward Tylor Spink to tie up the game at two.
The goal with 56 seconds remaining tied up the game for the Raiders and sent the matchup into a sudden-death overtime.
In a back-and-forth overtime, the Raiders saw strong play from Finn in the net, who made 10 big saves in the first overtime period. Finn’s 30 saves on the night were a big reason the Raiders remained in the game. After a scoreless first overtime period, the Raiders entered the second determined.
Their hard-work paid off, as Baun and first-year defenseman Jake Kulevich found sophomore forward Tyson Spink, whose goal put the Raiders past the Bobcats. Their 3-2 victory meant they would face off against Union in the ECAC Final.
In the final the very next night, the Raiders held the Dutchmen scoreless in the first period before allowing them to score three straight in a sloppy second period. After Union tallied on a fourth early in the third period, the Raiders finally responded with some offense of their own. Junior captain Spiro Goulakos scored first off an assist from fellow defenseman in sophomore Ryan Johnston, and sophomore forward Darcy Murphy scored again five minutes later to cut the Dutchmen lead to 4-2. Sending off Finn for an extra attacker, the Dutchmen capitalized on the open net and scored one last goal, winning the Championship 5-2.
Without the automatic qualification, all the Raiders could do was wait for the Selection Show the next morning to see if they did enough this season to be selected. The Raiders had to wait until the absolute last spot in the bracket, but they found out that they would be paired with the Ferris State Bulldogs in a matchup in Cincinnatti in the first round.
“Making the NCAA tournament is a great accomplishment for this young team,” Head Coach Don Vaughan said. “Being one of only 16 teams in the field helps validate all of the hard work and sacrifice that these student athletes put into this season that started back in September. It is a proud moment for Colgate Hockey, the University, our alumni, fans and of course the families of team members. It will help define this team and challenge us moving forward to continue to work to sustain this level of play. As a program, there is more work to do and goals to reach.”
The Raiders play a familiar opponent in Ferris State, as they have squared off three times this season already. Splitting the two matchups early this season at Starr Rink, the Raiders met the Bulldogs in the Finals of the Mariucci Classic and picked up a 3-0 victory.
“They play tight defensively and are relentless,” Goulakos said about their first round opponent. “We are going to have to outwork them and play fast. As a team, it’s eyes forward, and we’ve turned our focus to Friday night’s game.”
Contact Spencer Serling