Men’s Hockey Struggles Despite Promising Start

The new year has not been kind to the Colgate men’s hockey team. In December, Colgate went undefeated with wins against St. Lawrence (the first victory over the Saints since 2008), Clarkson and Canisius. The team also tied No. 5 Merrimack. That success in the first half of the season, which had them sit­ting at 12-4-2 entering 2012, saw them rise to be among the nation’s best ten teams. Since January began, however, the Raiders have gone 0-5-1 with defeats to Ferris State, Princeton and Quinnipiac in addition to last weekend’s results. This past weekend Colgate came from behind to tie Harvard 2-2 on Friday and gave up a third period lead the following night for just the second time this season as Dartmouth came from behind to win the game 5-4.

Last Friday evening, the Raiders hosted the Crimson hoping to avenge last November’s defeat. Colgate dominated play throughout the entire first period, outworking and out­hustling Harvard. Therefore, it came as no sur­prise when sophomore Chris Wagner opened the scoring for the Raiders at 6:06 assisted by first-year Joe Wilson and junior defenseman Jeremy Price. Toward the end of the period, however, an untimely penalty gave the visitors a power play and they cashed in on it at 19:41 to knot the game at one. Colgate did not put the puck on net as often as they could have, and were outshot by the Crimson 12-8 on the period.

The second frame was a little bit more of a back-and-forth affair, as both teams enjoyed several great scoring chances, but the Raiders’ sophomore Eric Mihalik and Harvard’s Steve Michalek held their own in net. The Crimson scored the only goal of the period at 12:33 to take a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

Colgate completely owned the third frame of the contest. The Raiders held Harvard to just one shot on net and had 16 of their own, while several shots hit the post. Colgate man­aged to get a single shot past Michalek when senior forward Austin Smith scored at 12:28 to tie the game at two, assisted by Wagner and senior tri-captain Corbin McPherson, to over­come the 2-1 deficit. That would be the last tally of the game, as neither team could muster shots in overtime.

“The biggest reason for the turnaround was the persistent efforts from everyone wearing a Colgate sweater,” Smith said. “We held Harvard to one shot in the third period and we threw everything at their net. It was a night we played good enough to win, but unfortunately we met a hot goaltender who rallied his team to a tie.”

Saturday night’s contest saw two teams des­perately seeking a victory in the Raiders and the Big Green.The first period could not have had a more uplifting start for Colgate, given that 13 sec­onds after taking a penalty, junior forward Kurtis Bartliff scored his third goal of the season and the Raiders’ eighth shorthanded of the year. Colgate proceeded to dictate play throughout the period, yet the Raiders once again failed to close the period successfully, as Dartmouth knotted the game at one at 19:20.

Both teams came out fighting in the second frame, providing some entertain­ing hockey for the crowd at Starr Rink. It was not until the last few minutes that any tallies hit the scoreboard. At 17:33, Wilson scored his fifth of the year, assist­ed by Smith and Wagner. Just 18 seconds later senior forward Matt Firman scored off assists from first-year John Lidgett and senior Austin Mayer to give Colgate a 3-1 lead. A couple of minutes later, at 19:38, Smith added his 24th of the year, assisted by McPherson and Wagner, to give the Raiders a commanding 4-1 advantage heading into the final period.

The final frame was a disaster, to say the least. The Big Green scored just 21 seconds in and cut Colgate’s lead to two. A little over a minute later at 1:35, the Big Green scored again to make it a one goal game. Throughout the rest of the period both teams traded scoring chances, but one could see that Dart­mouth was quickly gaining momentum and strength. Dartmouth finally tied the game to force overtime at 15:24. The Raiders had a couple of chances to score in the extra session, but it was the Big Green that scored at 2:43 to put the final nail in the coffin.

“It’s hard to say what the difference was, per say, but we definitely had more energy and we were doing a good job of getting the puck to the net,” Smith said. “We played good hockey all weekend ex­cept for the lapse we had in the third pe­riod. We are on the upswing again, and we are looking to burst out offensively really soon. This weekend will be a good test for us.”

Despite the team’s recent struggles, Smith has continued to have a career year, leading the nation in goals with 24 and tied for second in points with 38. Smith has al­ready had a career high in goals and is three points away from tying his career high in points. The senior is also eight points away from becoming Colgate’s all-time lead­ing scorer among American-born players, as he currently boasts 141 points in 138 career games.

“My personal success can be attributed to my line mates making timely plays,” Smith said. “Joe Wilson and Chris Wag­ner create a lot of time and space for me, and it’s lots of fun playing with them. It’s a fast line with three players who are willing to do a bit of everything. We have great chemistry, and I have been a benefactor of some great passes that have found the back of the net.”

This upcoming weekend Colgate will take on Cornell in the annual home and home series between the travel partners, hoping to reverse the recent history in the series. Friday’s game will be played in Ithaca, while on Saturday the Raiders will host the Big Red.

“This weekend is huge for us for obvious reasons, but more than any­thing we need a win to break this win­less streak,” Smith said. “Beating Cor­nell would boost the confidence of our team and set us up for a big finish to the regular season in February. As we saw last weekend, 40 minutes of good play isn’t enough to get a win. So the most important thing will be playing consistently for 60 minutes and play­ing with a gritty edge that consists of high energy and jam. I like our chances if we can outcompete Cornell and get everything to the net all weekend for the entirety of the game.”

Friday’s game, which will be televised nationally by CBS Sports, will begin at 7:30 p.m., while Saturday’s is set for a 7 p.m. puck drop.

Contact Jaime Heilbron at

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