This past weekend was arguably the most successful one for the Colgate men’s hockey team throughout the regular season. On Friday night, the Raiders completed a series sweep of Rensselaer with a 3-2 victory. The triumph, along with St. Lawrence’s loss to Dartmouth, helped Colgate clinch fourth place in the ECAC and gave them the right to host a quarterfinal series for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. The following night the Raiders completed their second weekend sweep of the year by beating No. 15 Union, 5-2.
Junior forward François Brisebois, who has scored 15 goals this season, has played a big part in Colgate’s success this year.
“This past summer was very important for my development as a player,” Brisebois said. “My main focus points were on my strength, speed and stamina. I think that having worked on these areas of my game has helped me become a more confident player and allowed me to become more of threat on the ice.”
On Friday night, Colgate came out of the gate strong and determined to play in the offensive zone throughout the entire period. The Raiders dominated the Engineers throughout the period and barely allowed their opponents to create any offense, permitting only six shots in the first 20 minutes. Strong play by Rensselaer’s goaltender Allen York deprived Colgate from taking the lead early in the game. The Raiders, however, were not to be denied on the power play. 9:02 into the period junior assistant captain Wade Poplawski blasted a shot from the blue line that was deflected in by sophomore forward Austin Smith to give Colgate a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The second period was a completely different affair, as the Engineers dictated the play throughout its first few minutes. The Raiders dug themselves in a hole early, giving R.P.I. a man-advantage four minutes into the period. About a minute later another Raider was sent to the sin bin to now give the Engineers a two-man advantage. Right after the first penalty expired, Rensselaer scored to knot the game at one. It only took 56 seconds for R.P.I. to take the lead at the 7:21 mark of the period. Finding themselves down 2-1 and a fourth place finish slowly slipping away, the boys from Hamilton began playing with desperation and three minutes later their efforts were rewarded. Once again on the power play, Smith scored his second goal of the game assisted by senior co-captain David McIntyre and first-year defenseman Jeremy Price.
The third frame of the contest was expected to be the most exciting one of the game, and it did not disappoint. Throughout the first ten minutes, both teams enjoyed numerous chances to take the lead, but both goaltenders stood tall and did not let anything get by them. At the halfway point of the period, Colgate once again found itself on the power play. This time it was sophomore forward Nick Prockow who scored the Raiders’ third goal and the game’s last. Prockow skated the puck through the right circle and took a backhand shot that went in. Junior assistant captain Brian Day and sophomore defenseman Kevin McNamara were credited with assists. The remainder of the game saw Colgate trying to increase its lead and RPI trying to get back in the game. The final score would remain 3-2 due in great part to the goaltenders’ play, especially Evin, who stopped eleven shots on the period.
“That was a very important win for us,” Brisebois said. “We have a relatively young group of guys and it is important that they understand the potential that this team has. I think we just kept it simple, limited our mistakes and were opportunistic when necessary.”
On Saturday night, the Raiders faced the Union Dutchmen in a game that was meaningless when it came to postseason seeding but was all about momentum and pride. Colgate got on the board 52 seconds into the game when junior forward François Brisebois scored his 14th goal of the year.
McIntyre and first-year defenseman Nathan Sinz picked up assists. Seven minutes later Union knotted the game at one and that is how the first period would conclude.
The second frame of the contest completely belonged to the Raiders. While shots were even at 13, it was Colgate that dictated the play and capitalized on its chances. The Raiders took their second lead of the game early in the period as Prockow scored his second power play goal of the weekend at the 4:04 mark off assists by first-year defenseman Thomas Larkin and McNamara. Ten minutes later first-year forward Kurtis Bartliff added an unassisted goal to give Colgate a two-goal lead after two frames.
The third session saw the two squads come out with different mentalities. The Raiders’ goal was to maintain their lead, while the Dutchmen would attack incessantly with hopes to turn the game around. While Union did attack with all they had, senior goaltender Charles Long stood tall and stopped most of what he received. The Dutchmen’s only goal of the period and second of the game came 9:51 into the period. Almost eight minutes later, however, Brisebois scored his second one of the game to seal Colgate’s victory. McIntyre would add an empty-net goal with 1:03 left in the game to make the final score 5-2 in the Raiders’ favor. With the triumph, Colgate broke a four-game winless streak against Union that dated back to February 2008.
“It is a confidence booster,” Brisebois said. “They are a tough team that works very hard. The win was very important because it sends a message to not only them but to whoever we will have to face when the time comes.”
The Raiders, having earned a first-round bye will now wait for the first-round series to be played this coming weekend before finding out who their next opponent will be.
“I think we just can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Brisebois said. “We haven’t done anything yet and will need to have two great weeks of practice in order to show up with the same kind of intensity and character that we have been bringing lately. We simply have to focus one day at a time and make sure to show up hungry and ready to take on whoever it may be.”
Barring any upsets, fourth-seeded Colgate would host fifth-seeded St. Lawrence in a best-of-three quarterfinal series to take place on the weekend of March 12-14.