Last weekend, the Colgate men’s hockey team traveled to the North Country to take on ECAC Hockey rivals St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Despite strong efforts both nights, the Raiders returned home empty-handed, losing to St. Lawrence, 3-2, on Friday and to Clarkson, 2-1, on Saturday. Sophomore forward Chris Wagner, who has enjoyed a breakout season for Colgate posting 41 points (12 goals and 29 assists) in 32 games, was arguably the Raiders’ best player of the weekend, having a hand in all three tallies with two goals and an assist.
“The main difference for me has definitely been experience,” Wagner said. “I learned a lot from the ups and downs we had as a team last year.”
Early in Friday’s first period, Colgate came out with fire in its eyes, imposing its game on the Saints and putting them on their heels by dominating them in every facet of the contest. A questionable tripping penalty at 7:31 and an untimely one at 8:08 gave St. Lawrence a two-man advantage and the hosts did not take to long to cash in on it, drawing first blood at 8:52. The goal killed off any momentum the Raiders had gotten on their side, and the Saints proceeded to control play throughout the rest of the stanza. Just when Colgate seemed to have regained its bearings, another untimely penalty proved to be its worst enemy at 17:12. St. Lawrence scored again at 17:34 and took a commanding 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Raiders’ penalty troubles continued in the second stanza when Colgate was penalized with a five-minute charging major at 4:44. The Saints scored at 6:40 to increase their lead to 3-0, making ‘Gate’s job even harder than it already was. The Raiders finally got on the board during their second power play of the game at 12:22 when senior forward Austin Smith scored his NCAA-leading 33rd goal of the season, pulling within five of Colgate’s single-season record, off assists from Wagner and first-year defenseman Spiro Goulakos. The tally seemed to have brought Colgate back to life, as the visitors proceeded to control the rest of the period and contest and headed into the second intermission trailing only by two and with momentum on their side.
The final frame of the game was the Raiders’ best at St. Lawrence’s Appleton Arena over the past four years. Colgate came out strong and cornered the Saints in their own end for lengths of time. The Raiders enjoyed several grade-A scoring opportunities but were unable to find the net. Colgate finally pulled within one at 15:04 with Wagner’s first goal of the weekend. After receiving the puck from Goulakos, first-year forward Joe Wilson skated into the offensive zone, tailed by a St. Lawrence defenseman and sent the puck towards the net, where Wagner found it while he himself was being covered. The Raiders did their best to force an extra session over the last few minutes with the goaltender pulled, but were unable to score. While the statistics may not show it, sophomore goaltender Eric Mihalik was great for Colgate, stopping several point-blank shots to keep his team in the game and give it a chance to tie and possibly win it.
“In Friday’s 3-2 loss, one thing we could have done differently to change the outcome was to not take as many penalties as we did,” Wagner said. “They scored 3 power play goals in a row in the first 30 minutes, which put us in a huge deficit to start the game.”
The following evening, with more than half the team having fought stomach flu for the better part of the previous night and the ensuing hours before the contest, the Raiders took on Clarkson on its Senior Night. Colgate once again came out strong and dominated its opponent throughout the entire period, outshooting the Golden Knights 10-4. The Raiders, however, ran into a humanized rock in Clarkson’s Paul Karpowich, who stopped them each and every time. In a stroke of good fortune, the Golden Knights found themselves leading 1-0 heading into the second period after scoring at 15:54.
In the second stanza, Colgate once again dominated play from beginning to end. It was easy to see that the Raiders were the more desperate team and they desired the victory more. Only several outstanding interventions by Karpowich saved Clarkson from caving under Colgate’s pressure. ‘Gate kept pouring shot after shot on the Golden Knights, but was unable to break the ice and knot the game at one. Late in the period, Clarkson found itself on its second power play of the contest, and with only two seconds left in the man advantage, the Golden Knights scored to take a 2-0 lead heading into the last 20 minutes.
The third frame was slightly more balanced than the first two, as Clarkson played to preserve its lead and the Raiders fought to get on the scoreboard and give themselves a chance to turn the game in its favor. The result was an entertaining back-and-forth affair that saw both teams enjoying good scoring chances. Toward the final minutes of the contest, Colgate still had yet to figure out Karpowich and with little less than a minute left to play pulled its goaltender in favor of an extra attacker, hoping to score a goal. Wagner scored his second tally of the weekend with two seconds left to end Karpowich’s shutout bid, thus making the final score 2-1 in the Golden Knights’ favor. Despite having lost the game, Colgate showed a lot of heart and love for the colors it represented by coming out and producing the effort it did, despite the adversities it faced in the hours before the tilt.
“Even though half our team was playing with the plague, we learned that even while playing with tough conditions we are still a very good team,” Wagner said. “We outplayed Clarkson for most of the game even though a lot of us were very sick.”
This upcoming weekend the Raiders will have a chance to clinch a first-round bye when they host the Rensselaer Engineers and No. 8 Union Dutchmen on Senior Weekend. Colgate will take on Rensselaer on Friday and Union on Saturday. All the Raiders need is a win to secure a week off and home ice for the quarterfinals of the ECAC Hockey playoffs.
“As long as we bring a 100 percent effort and play a smart game within our systems, I think we are going to like the results,” Wagner said. “Having a first-round bye will give us the rest we need going into the playoffs.”
Both games are slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Contact Jaime Heilbron at [email protected]