Men’s Hockey Earns Three Valuable Points in New England

Jaime Heilbron

This past weekend was a bizarre one for the Colgate men’s hockey team. On Friday night, the Raiders skated to a 6-6 tie against the Big Green of Dartmouth. Junior assistant captain Wade Poplawski had a career night, obtaining three points off a goal and two assists. The following night Colgate earned an important tie-breaker over the Harvard Crimson by defeating them 4-2 on their Senior Night. Senior forward Jason Williams maintained his recent scoring spree by scoring the game-winning goal in the last stanza.

The first half of the opening period in Hanover spelled doom for the Raiders. A mere two minutes into the game, the Big Green drew first blood. Less than two minutes later they increased their lead to 2-0. At the 6:05 mark, Poplawski connected with senior co-captain Ethan Cox, who scored to put Colgate on the scoreboard. Dartmouth answered right back, however, scoring consecutive goals at 8:16 and 11:11 to take a 4-1 lead halfway through the frame.

“I try to play a relatively similar style of game every night, but things sort of change when you’re down a few goals,” Poplawski said. “I think I had a little more freedom to jump up in the play to try to create something offensively when I might typically be more conservative, which probably had something to do with getting a few points.”

The Raiders were not in unfamiliar territory, having already come back twice from 4-1 deficits this season. At the 13:36 mark, junior forward François Brisebois scored his thirteenth of the year, assisted by first-year forward Robbie Bourdon and senior co-captain David McIntyre. Three minutes later Poplawski picked up his second point of the night when he scored off assists by sophomore forwards Austin Smith and Nick Prockow to pull Colgate within one.

The only scoring of the second session was done in its first five minutes. The Big Green took a 5-3 lead at the 2:35 mark, but the Raiders answered right back two minutes later when McIntyre and Poplawski connected with Smith, who added his 13th of the year on the power play. From then on, Colgate proceeded to dominate play and set itself up for a comeback.

The Raiders’ hopes for obtaining at least a point were put in jeopardy when Dartmouth once again scored to start the third period giving them a 6-4 lead five minutes into the third. Six minutes later, however, at the 11:20 mark, first-year defenseman Jeremy Price blasted a shot from the top of the right circle that went in on the top left side of the net. Three minutes later junior assistant captain Brian Day, who also picked up the assist in Price’s goal, scored his 19th of the season to make it a tie game at 6-6. Neither team would score in overtime despite creating several chances.

“We’re a pretty resilient group, so even though we were losing I think we all realized that we were still in the game and just needed to get back to playing the way that we are capable of and we would be fine,” Poplawski said. “The fact that we have come back from such a deficit against a couple of good teams with even less time left in the game earlier this year gave us some confidence to keep working.”

The following night Colgate visited Harvard for a crucial matchup for both teams. As of that night, the Crimson were only three points behind the Raiders and a victory for the hosts would put them within one point. The only goal of the first frame came at 4:40 when Smith scored his thirteenth of the year, assisted by McIntyre.

Early in the second stanza, Day put Colgate up by two with his twentieth of the year being set up by Bourdon and first-year defenseman Thomas Larkin. Six minutes later Harvard would cut the Raider lead to one, and thus the period ended with the boys from Hamilton holding a slim lead due in grand part to Crimson goaltender Kyle Richter’s nineteen saves in the period.

The third session was the most exciting one of the game since both teams came out desperate. Halfway through the period, Williams dumped the puck into the offensive zone and after Richter’s desperate attempt to clear it, Williams retook possession and took a backhand shot that went over Richter’s glove side to give Colgate its second two-goal lead of the game. However, just two minutes later, Harvard made things interesting by scoring on the power play to force a one-goal game again at 3-2. That was all she wrote for the Crimson, however, as Cox added an empty-net goal with three seconds left to seal the 4-2 Raider victory. With the win, Colgate swept Harvard for the first time since 2004-2005 after stealing only a point from the season series last year.

“Things change every year for each team in the league,” Poplawski said. “We’re definitely a different team from last season, and I would expect some of Harvard’s players to feel the same way about their team. So comparing the results from our season series this year with previous seasons is meaningless to me. Anything can happen on any given night, which is why we play the games.”

The Raiders’ three-point weekend put Colgate once again in control of its own destiny. They will face the Rensselaer Engineers on Friday night and the Union Dutchmen will visit Starr Rink on Saturday for the Raiders’ Senior Night. With a sweep, Colgate will lock a first-round bye and the right to host a quarterfinal series.

“It’s a pretty simple task at hand for us now; we just need to do what has made us successful this season,” Poplawski said. “We can’t be looking too far ahead and really need to focus on Friday night’s game against RPI. If we play the smart, aggressive, high tempo game that we like to, then we will set ourselves up nicely to finish the job on Saturday.”

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