With a crucial game tied 1-1 midway through the second period, Colgate’s Scooter Smith struck twice for the Raiders to ignite his team en route to a 5-1 victory over Union on Friday. The Dutchmen are now 1-16 at Starr Rink.
Colgate’s leading scorer fired his 18th goal of the season past the left pad of Dutchmen netminder Kris Mayotte to give his team a momentary 2-1 edge. The senior capitalized for a second time on a Union miscommunication only a little more than a minute later, throwing the visitors back on their heels.
“Randy [Dagenais] was trying to get on the ice, and Jason Kean was trying to get off,” explained Union head coach Kevin Sneddon. “But he hesitated; jumped back on, then off. Those two seniors have to make smarter plays than that. That defensive change gave them a two-on-one break, and you can’t give players like Scooter Smith those kinds of opportunities.”
Smith’s 19 goals this season now exceed his total points from all of last year.
“He’s been our best player all year, and he took charge in the second period,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “He had a bit of a rough start, as his skate was bothering him in the first period. But we found out after the first that his skate was broken, so we got it fixed. I don’t know how much that had to do with it, but he really picked his game up after that.”
The Dutchmen (13-14-4, 9-8-2 ECAC) entered the locker room at the end of the second period down two goals and extremely frustrated.
“I wasn’t real happy with the energy we were bringing,” said Sneddon. “The guys were getting on each other a little bit. We had very few players who were ready to play tonight. I don’t think anybody had a good game for us.”
Things went from bad to worse when Raider defenseman Matt Nicholson singlehandedly took a puck from his own blue line and drove to the side of the Dutchmen net, where he jammed the puck past Mayotte to put the game out of reach.
“Matt is capable of doing that,” said Vaughan. “He played with a lot more confidence tonight, and really took that thing right to the net. It was a great coast-to-coast goal.”
Union’s power play had plenty of opportunities in the third period, but failed to convert. The unit went 0-for-5 on the night and even surrendered a shorthanded goal to P.J. Yedon midway through the third period.
“Horrible,” said Sneddon. “It was horrible. Five guys not working together is not going to work. When a penalty kill outworks your five-man unit, you’re in trouble. And they did a good job of that tonight.”
Meanwhile, the Raiders (12-16-3, 7-10-2) exorcised the demons from a week ago in which the team allowed five power-play goals, including four to Harvard alone. Colgate goalie Steve Silverthorn proved to be a major part of his team’s success shorthanded and throughout the night, as the two-time ECAC Goalie of the Week stopped 21 shots in the winning effort.
“He’s been on his game,” said Vaughan. “He’s been out of the blue to challenge the shooters. He didn’t get overworked tonight, but when we needed a save, he made it.”
Silverthorn’s lone smear on an otherwise perfect night came early in the second period, when Dutchmen Jordan Webb redirected a Nathan Gillies shot from a nearly impossible angle into the net.
The Union goal tied the game, but the Raiders would never trail. Colgate freshman Jon Smyth tallied the first goal of his young career in the first period. Classmate Ryan Smyth struggled free from a check to center the puck to Jon Smyth, who roofed a shot over Mayotte’s left shoulder.
“That was a great grinding goal,” said Vaughan. “Ryan Smyth made the play just by grinding behind the net. It’s great to see Jon get a chance. He hasn’t played a whole lot, but he didn’t miss. He put that thing right under the crossbar, and it was a great goal.”
Colgate’s victory only served to tighten things up in the ECAC, as the Raiders now stand tied with Vermont for the eighth and final home playoff spot. The Raiders host RPI on Saturday, and hope that they come away from the weekend with a sweep.
“We knew coming in to this game that we had to win both games this weekend,” said Vaughan. “If we want to play at home in the playoffs, we have to win these two, so tomorrow night is another must win for us.”
Meanwhile, Union is still not guaranteed a home playoff series, and must travel to Ithaca to face the first-place Big Red of Cornell.
“That’s a tough place to play any year, and they’ve obviously got it running,” said Sneddon. “We’ll see what these boys are made of.”