Men’s Hockey Splits Weekend with Niagara

Jaime Heilbron


Last weekend was a weird one for the Colgate men’s hockey team. On Friday, the Raiders won an overtime barnburner over Niagara University by a score of 7-6 and on Saturday evening, the team fell 2-1 to the Purple Eagles, who took a split from Colgate.

Senior forward Austin Smith was once again the Raiders’s best player throughout the weekend, posting two goals, including the game-winner, as well as an assist on Fri­day and adding a helper on Saturday. Senior forward Austin Mayer had his first career two-goal game, scoring twice on the power play and junior tri-captain Thomas Larkin had two tallies on the weekend. Sophomore forward Chris Wagner had a career-high three assists during Friday’s game.

“The main thing we need to take away is that we need to finish every opportu­nity we get,” Larkin said. “Especially in Saturday’s game, we had so many chances to score and the puck just didn’t end up in the net. As we saw, the difference between winning and losing might just come down to a couple of missed opportunities.”

On Friday, Colgate started off slow, which allowed Niagara to take the initia­tive and control the play early on in the first period. The Purple Eagles got on the board early, scoring at 4:34.

The Raiders answered soon after, drawing even at 6:41 when Larkin scored on the man advantage, assisted by Wagner and Smith. Five minutes later, Colgate took its first lead of the evening when Mayer scored his first at 11:40, off assists from senior tri-captains Kevin McNamara and Corbin McPherson. Niagara would get on the board a few minutes later at 15:52, as the period ended with the score knotted at two and ‘Gate holding a 14-11 shot advantage.

The second period could not have had a better start for the Raiders, as Smith scored his first of the evening and Colgate’s third power play tally of the night at 2:00 off assists from Wagner and junior forward Robbie Bourdon. The goal gave the team confidence as it proceeded to control play throughout the next few minutes.

The Purple Eagles once again drew blood at 8:25 on their own man advan­tage, but the stalemate would not last long, as the Raiders responded 23 seconds later when Bourdon recorded an unas­sisted tally. Colgate proceeded to take a 5-3 lead at 18:59 when Mayer scored his second one of the night, assisted by senior forward Matt Firman.

The final frame of the contest did not start well for the Raiders and seemed to be an indication of what would finally hap­pen in the final 20 minutes when Niagara pulled within one 41 seconds into it. Col­gate, however, retook the two-goal lead at 8:45 when junior forward Christian Long scored an unassisted goal.

No one could have expected what would happen in the last several min­utes of the contest, however. Just when it seemed as if the Raiders would obtain their fourth victory of the season, the Purple Eagles scored twice in a span of 16 seconds at 15:48 and 16:04 to force the game into overtime. In the extra ses­sion, Smith once again came through for Colgate, scoring at 1:21 off assists from first-year forward Joe Wilson and Wagner to give the Raiders their second overtime victory of the season.

“We are a very confident team and we expect to win,” Larkin said. “Mistakes will happen, but I think we are strong enough mentally to focus on our goal of winning every game despite any setbacks.”

The following evening it was Colgate’s turn to host Niagara. Both squads played more intensely in the first period than they had throughout the previous night’s tilt. The Purple Eagles maintained control through most of the period, outshooting the Raiders by an 18-16 margin while ben­efitting from two power plays. However, neither team was able to put the puck past their opponent’s goaltender.

In the second stanza, it was Colgate’s turn to dominate the contest, drawing two penalties and outshooting Niagara 14-10 throughout the period. Once again both goaltenders stood strong and stopped every puck they faced.

Entering the final 20 minutes of the contest, one had the feeling that if any goals were to be scored, it would be the result of either mistakes or special teams.

At 7:39 into the frame, a Purple Ea­gle skater got sent to the penalty box for holding the stick. 26 seconds into the power play at 8:05, Larkin tallied his sec­ond of the weekend off a blast from the top of the right circle, assisted by Smith and Bourdon.

Niagara knotted the game at one in a controversial play at 13:56, as the refer­ees had blown the whistle before the red light indicating a goal had been scored lit up. After further review, the original call stood and the game was tied at one. With a little over a minute left to play at 18:51, the Purple Eagles forced a two-on-one, on which they scored to take a 2-1 lead. Hav­ing pulled the goaltender, the Raiders did all they could to tie the game and came close to doing so, but they ran out of time and fell for the second time this campaign by a score of 2-1.

“We need to play better team defense and keep on being as aggressive as we have been throughout the entire game,” Larkin said. “We play our best hockey when ev­erybody is giving it their all and not sitting back waiting to win, and we need to do that for a full 60 minutes.”

This upcoming weekend, No. 18 Col­gate will open ECAC Hockey play, travel­ing to New England to take on Ivy League foes the Brown Bears on Friday and the No. 9 Yale Bulldogs on Saturday in New Haven. The Raiders will seek revenge on both teams. Last year, Brown swept the season series and Yale ended Col­gate’s incredible playoff run in the ECAC Hockey semifinals.

“This weekend definitely has the team fired up,” Larkin said. “We’re excited to start league play again, and there’s no bet­ter feeling than getting two wins on the road early. We’re ready.”

Both contests are slated to begin at 7 p.m.

Contact Jaime Heilbron at [email protected].