Adam Mitchell’s late third-period goal broke a 1-1 deadlock, unleashed a Colgate scoring spree, and proved to be his second game-winning goal in three outings, as the Raiders defeated the Vermont Catamounts 4-1 at Starr Rink on Friday night.

Perhaps the prettiest part of Mitchell’s first goal after downing Cornell in overtime a week ago was the pass that set it up. Raider leading scorer Scooter Smith pumped on a slapshot and slipped the puck behind him to his trailing linemate.

“Unbelievable,” chuckled Colgate (10-14-3, 5-8-2 ECAC) head coach Don Vaughan. “The game-winning goal was just a great play by Scooter. He got it deep, fake pumped, and fed it through. Adam just adjusted his feet and didn’t overhandle the puck, which is something we actually work on in practice. It’s nice to see something you actually work on in practice pay off.”

Up to that point, the majority of the third-period chances had rested with the visiting Catamounts (9-13-3, 6-9-0) as they began clicking after struggling in the first two frames.

“I thought we had a very solid 16 minutes or so of the third,” said Catamount coach Mike Gilligan. “It’s too bad we couldn’t have come up with some points, but that’s the way the game is.”

After breaking the tie, the Raiders poured on the offense. Less than two minutes later sophomore Tony Masotto dug the puck free along the boards deep in the Vermont end and found a slashing Ryan Smyth, who roofed home his second goal of his young career.

“It’s a maturing process,” said Vaughan of the freshman. “He’s got half of a season under his belt now, and he’s starting to do some things that we knew he could. He’s playing with a lot more confidence right now. It’s great to see him get one like that, because we knew he could do that. But he’s really contributed at other areas of the ice as well.”

Smith placed the game out of reach with a backhand notch of his own, his 16th on the year. The goal came only 48 seconds after Smyth’s, and secured an important victory for the home team.

Vermont’s lone goal of the evening came less than two minutes into the second period during four-on-four action. Defenseman Jaime Sifers used the open ice to his advantage and flew untouched to the side of the Colgate net, where he centered to Baron Becker. The freshman powered the pass past Colgate netminder Steve Silverthorn, giving the Catamounts a momentary 1-0 lead.

“Baron’s been playing solid hockey all the way through,” said Gilligan. “High-energy kid, real fast skater, one of the quickest guys in the league. He’s got a lot to look forward to.”

Colgate evened the score later in the second. Grinding behind the Catamount net, senior P.J. Yedon recognized linemate Dmitry Yashin darting through the slot. The two connected, and Yashin’s shot met with the twine to create a seemingly unbreakable tie.

“What a great shot,” said Vaughan. “When Dmitry gets his stick on the puck in that area of the rink, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to hit the back of the net. The thing with Yash is that even though everyone on the rink and the staff knows he has an unbelievable shot, sometimes he doesn’t want to use it. Once he realizes that they are going to go in when he shoots them, he’ll start getting some on net.”

With the victory, the Raiders draw even with Vermont for the eighth spot in the ECAC. The position holds particular weight, as teams ranked five through eight receive home ice in the first round of the league playoffs.

“The victory is real big,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan. “We have to get points if we want to play at home here in a couple of weeks. But our focus right now has shifted already to tomorrow night. We have to get those two points as well.”

Colgate hosts Dartmouth on Saturday night, which currently hold the seventh position in the conference. Meanwhile, Vermont travels to Ithaca, N.Y., to take on the top ranked Cornell Big Red.

“I told the guys that I thought that they played pretty well and not to be too down about it,” concluded Gilligan. “If you’re going to win one and lose one, you’d like to win the one on Saturday.”