Men’s Hockey goes 1-1-0 Over Past Week

Jaime Heilbron

The boost the Colgate men’s hockey team gained after earning its first conference victory of the season translated into its first win streak of the year with a 2-1 overtime triumph against Rensselaer last Friday night. The following eve­ning, the Raiders fell to the ninth-ranked Union Dutchmen – who had taken over first place in ECAC Hockey the previous evening – by a score of 6-3. Junior Kevin McNamara scored twice in the weekend, including the overtime tally on Friday. Sophomore forward Kurtis Bartliff posted his second multi-point contest in the last three with two assists on Saturday, while first-year goaltender Eric Mihalik earned his second career win on Friday, stopping 18 of 19 shots faced.

“It feels good to have contributed to our success in the past few games,” Mihalik said. “The entire team has been playing really well defensively over that stretch of games, which makes it a lot easier for me.”

In Friday’s tilt, Colgate completely over­whelmed RPI with pressure in the first half of the opening period. The Raiders maintained the puck in the Engineers’ defensive zone for a large amount of time, yet failed to get many shots on net or take advantage of their op­portunities. Momentum shifted at the 7:56 mark when Colgate took a penalty for in­terference and Rensselaer went on the power play. The Raiders were able to hold RPI off the score sheet throughout the two-minute man advantage, but a relentless forecheck by the Engineers paid off and the hosts drew first blood when Joel Malchuk put the puck past Mihalik. From then on, the two teams went back and forth with both creating good scor­ing chances but finding themselves unable to capitalize.

At the beginning of the second stanza, Colgate found itself having to kill a 21-sec­ond, two-man disadvantage. The Raiders’ did a phenomenal job, anticipating Rens­selaer’s strategy and depriving it from any shots on goal. The success it brought changed momentum in ‘Gate’s favor, as it proceeded to dominate RPI throughout the rest of the period. Colgate was awarded a couple of power plays throughout the pe­riod, in which the Raiders cycled the puck well and kept the play in the Engineers’ zone. The only thing missing was a goal and despite outshooting its opponent 13-2 in the period, Colgate found itself trailing 1-0 heading into the final 20 minutes of the contest.

The Raiders continued to take the play to Rensselaer early in the third frame. Their efforts were finally rewarded at 3:05 when junior forward Austin Smith scored his eighth tally of the year, off assists from Bar­tliff and senior assistant captain François Brisebois. Bartliff came in on the Engineers’ goaltender Bryce Merriam’s left side, pull­ing him, as well as their two defenders, to­wards him and fed the puck to Smith, who had an empty net in front of him. Colgate continued to apply pressure throughout the rest of the weekend, as did RPI but several crucial saves by both Mihalik and Merriam kept the game deadlocked at one and forced the extra session.

The Raiders reestablished their dominance in the overtime period, controlling play from the get-go. Halfway through the extra session, junior forward Nick Prockow handed the puck at center ice to sophomore forward Rob­bie Bourdon, who streaked into a two-on-one along with McNamara, to whom he served the puck for the game-winning goal.

“The whole team played 60 minutes of great hockey, which we’ve struggled to do from time to time this season,” Mihalik said. “We had good intensity from the drop of the puck and dictated the play for much of the game. We also avoided making some of the mistakes that have hurt us in past games.”

The first period of Saturday night’s contest was Colgate’s best of the weekend. The Raiders played an extremely physical brand of hockey with a relentless forecheck that enabled them to suck out the energy from Union. It came as no surprise when senior captain Brian Day added his ninth tally of the year at 10:09, with assists from junior forward Matt Firman and sophomore defenseman Jeremy Price. The Raiders continued to play in the Dutchmen’s offensive zone, and Union’s frustration lead to a clipping penalty, which proved to be lethal, as Colgate capitalized on the ensuing power play. Sophomore defenseman Thomas Larkin scored his fifth of the season, assisted by Smith and Bartliff with under two minutes remaining.

The second period was the complete op­posite of the first. From the moment the puck was dropped, the Dutchmen were a different squad. This time it was Union’s turn to be physical and dictate play, as well as put pres­sure on Mihalik. The Dutchmen’s efforts paid off at 6:10 when they cut the Raiders’ lead to one. Almost nine minutes later, at 14:48 Union added another tally to knot the game at two heading into the final frame.

The Dutchmen’s storm continued in the third frame with a flurry of goals. The first came at 6:15. 16 seconds later, after Colgate had called a timeout to settle the troops, di­saster struck as Union took a seemingly in­surmountable 4-2 lead. A few minutes later, at 10:01 the Dutchmen, who boast the top power play unit in the nation, struck on the man advantage to put the contest out of the Raiders’ reach. ‘Gate continued to fight, however, and showed outstanding resolve to not go down without a battle. The Raiders’ efforts were rewarded at 17:38 when McNa­mara scored his second goal of the weekend, assisted by Brisebois and Bartliff to give Col­gate hope. The Raiders’ hopes were dashed 70 seconds later, however, when Union added an empty-net tally.

“There really is not one concrete reason for the let down after the first period,” Mihalik said. “I think Union really started playing well in the second period and proved why they are in first place right now in the ECAC. From our point of view, I think it was just a few little things that we let become bigger things. Moving forward we just have to make sure we are mentally tough for an entire 60 minutes to fix this.”

This upcoming weekend Colgate will conclude its home slate when it hosts No. 16 Dartmouth on Friday and Harvard on Saturday for Senior Weekend.

“We need to continue to do what we have been doing lately,” Mihalik said. “We’ve been playing really good hockey over the last few weeks so for the most part we just need to continue to play the way that we have and hopefully get a couple wins to move up in the ECAC standings.”

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on both nights.