Men’s Hockey Ends 14-Game Winless Streak

While the Colgate men’s hockey team’s long-term struggle against the St. Law­rence Saints continued with an eighth straight defeat, its recent victory over the Clarkson Golden Knights gave the Raiders some hope for the future. Col­gate suffered a shut out for the first time this season by the Saints on Friday 4-0, but bounced back the following evening to earn a convincing 4-2 win over the Golden Knights. The Clarkson game was the Raiders’ first conference win of the year. Sophomore forward Kurtis Bar­tliff produced his first career multi-goal contest. Senior assistant captain François Brisebois contributed one goal and add­ed an assist, while junior forward Austin Smith dished two helpers in the victori­ous effort. Saturday night also marked first-year goaltender Eric Mihalik’s first intercollegiate triumph.

“This year I have really worked hard on being a consistent player with the puck, as well as being confident in my skills to make the best play possible under pressure,” Bartliff said. “A lot of my of­fense is in large part thanks to my team­mates and our ability to find open ice to make plays.”

Colgate came out firing from all cyl­inders in the first period of the weekend’s opening game against St. Lawrence. The Raiders cornered the Saints in their own end for the majority of the game’s first ten minutes. St. Lawrence weathered the storm well, however, and Colgate was un­able to take advantage of two power plays awarded in the early minutes. The Saints, on the other hand, did not hesitate to benefit from their first man advantage, drawing first blood at 17:00 before add­ing another tally 65 seconds later, which was scored after the puck took a bizarre bounce off a Raider defenseman. The last three minutes capped off a peculiar end­ing to a period Colgate had dominated for the majority of play.

At the beginning of the second pe­riod the Raiders had lost all momentum that they may have gained throughout the first period. The Saints took control of the game and quickly added to their lead with another power play goal at 8:17. From then on, Colgate seemed to be de­feated and the thought of a comeback seemed impossible.

The third frame followed the trend of the second with St. Lawrence maintaining control of the game. Several key saves by Mihalik, including one on a short-handed breakaway stopped the Saints from in­creasing their lead. St. Lawrence added one final tally on the man-advantage just five seconds into their power play at 18:10. Special teams proved to be the difference in this contest, as the Saints cashed in on three of their power plays whereas Colgate failed in each of its five attempts.

“There were a lot of mental break­downs in the game against St. Lawrence,” Bartliff said. “We did not come to that game ready to compete every shift and it was evident.”

The following evening the Raiders came out determined to pick up the pieces from the previous night’s crushing defeat and attempt to turn their season around in order to gather confidence in time for the postseason. From the initial puck drop, it was Colgate who took the initiative. De­spite failing to score on an early five-on-three power play opportunity, the Raiders did not cave. Their relentless attack was soon rewarded when Bartliff scored on the man advantage at 10:09, assisted by Brisebois and Smith. A minute and a half later, the sophomore struck again, increas­ing Colgate’s lead to two goals to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.

The second frame could not have had a better start for Colgate. A fantastic in­dividual play by Brisebois, coming off the right wing and putting the puck past the Golden Knights’ net-minder gave Col­gate a 3-0 lead 37 seconds into the pe­riod. Almost 12 minutes later, however, at 12:25, Clarkson scored to get itself back in the game. The tally did not seem to phase the Raiders, however, as they con­tinued to crash their opponent’s net. Col­gate created several scoring opportunities, but timely interventions by the Golden Knights’ goaltender prevented the Raid­ers from increasing the St. Lawrence defi­cit. The bottom line was, however, that Colgate would get a chance to defend a third-period lead for only the sixth time this season.

Clarkson’s goal halfway through the previous frame seemed to have renewed their energies as the visitors seized control of the contest, creating pressure on the Raiders’ defensive zone and forcing Miha­lik to make several big saves to protect the two-goal lead. With a little under three minutes left in the game – when it seemed as if Colgate would cruise to its first con­ference win of the season – the Golden Knights added to the drama by adding an extra-attacker tally at 17:56. An empty-net goal by junior forward Matt Firman with 18 seconds left, however, secured the Raiders’ first victory since December 4.

“In Saturday’s game you could tell right from the start that everyone was en­ergized and ready to outwork Clarkson,” Bartliff said. “Each line worked hard every shift and did all of the small things right, which helped us earn the edge we needed to come out on top.”

This upcoming weekend Colgate will travel to the Capital District to take on two nationally ranked opponents: the No. 8 Rensselaer Engineers on Friday and the No. 9 Union Dutchmen on Saturday. The Engineers currently sit in third place in the league standings, with the Dutchmen just ahead of them in second place. Col­gate will look to avenge a couple of 2-1 losses at the hands of Union and R.P.I. as the team enters the final stretch of their regular season.

“This coming weekend we are just go­ing to go into Union and RPI with the confidence that we are as good as both of those teams, and prepared to outwork them every shift,” Bartliff said. “Although they came out on top in our last meeting, they know that we are not going to be an easy team to play against and our goal is to send a message to the entire league that come playoffs we are going to be a team to watch out for.”

Both games are slated for 7 p.m. puck drops.