Colgate finished in third place in both the ECACHL regular season and in the conference tournament; the Raiders made the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, and lost 6-5 to Colorado College in the semifinals of the NCAA Midwest Regional.
Much of the team’s success was attributable to the stellar play of departed goaltender Steve Silverthorn, who finished the year with a 24-10-3 record, including five shutouts, a 1.88 goals against average, and a .921 save percentage.
Colgate coach Don Vaughan’s first task for the upcoming season, then, is figuring out how to replace not only Silverthorn but his eight classmates who also graduated.
“Obviously it’s tough to replace nine seniors, and they were all very good players,” Vaughan acknowledged. “But we feel we have a good nucleus coming back, especially at the forward position.”
The core of that nucleus is the tandem of sophomore center Tyler Burton and senior forward Jon Smyth, both 34-point scorers last season. Among Burton’s 34 points were eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals, and Smyth was similarly clutch, coming through with six power-play goals and six game-winners.
The Raiders’ strength is along its forward lines, because the graduation losses hit especially hard behind the blue line.
The defensemen will be led by returning junior Mike Campaner, and Vaughan expects sophomores Mark Dekanich and Justin Kowalkoski to compete for Silverthorn’s spot between the pipes.
“We’re certainly going to be young on defense,” Vaughan agreed. “We’ve got five freshman defensemen coming in, and our goaltending — though we like it — is still unproven.”
“There’s definitely still some questions that need to be answered,” Vaughan added.
Some of those answers may come at the start of the season, when Colgate opens its season at Starr Rink against Massachusetts-Lowell, a team that Vaughan called “maybe the toughest team we faced last season.”
After that the Raiders embark on a grueling — and that’s just the trip up there — pair of games against Lake Superior State, which should provide a good early-season test.