ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Maybe you shouldn’t use your head if you’re Colgate.
The Red Raiders learned that lesson well, as the key goal by New Hampshire’s Lanny Gare bounced off Colgate goaltender Jason Lefevre’s helmet and into the net. The unusual tally helped build No. 9 New Hampshire’s momentum en route to a 7-3 victory in the championship game of the Ice Breaker Cup on Saturday.
“I tried jamming the puck at the stick and it just hit his head,” said Gare, a sophomore. “To win this tournament, it’s a great confidence builder.”
After winning a shootout against North Dakota on Friday night, the Wildcats (1-0-1) took the fourth-annual tournament despite trailing 2-0 to runner-up Colgate.
“We’ll take it,” New Hampshire coach Richard Umile said. “I liked the way our guys came back especially from 2-0 down. We showed that we could compete at this level.”
North Dakota and Michigan tied 5-5 in the early game to settle for third place each.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said of the tournament. “It’s great to be in this type of company. Our conference (the ECAC) sometimes takes a slashing in the media. Here we came to prove we could play.”
The tournament brought in a highly-regarded team from four conferences – North Dakota (WCHA), Colgate, (ECAC), New Hampshire (Hockey East) and Michigan (CCHA).
Colgate provided tough company for New Hampshire in the first two periods. The Red Raiders scored their first goal shorthanded in the first when sophomore Scooter Smith lobbed a puck into the left side of the net past goaltender Ty Conklin (15 saves).
Paul Kelly scored Colgate’s second goal at the 7:42 mark of the second period. But from then on, it was all New Hampshire.
The Wildcats’ speed and the Red Raiders’ fatigue culminated in a 39-17 shot advantage for the second and third stanzas. New Hampshire was able to draw six penalties in the period, including four Colgate minors in a 12-minute period.
Junior Darren Haydar, New Hampshire’s leading scorer last season, tallied two consecutive goals to knot the game at 2. Then, Gare’s lucky goal bounced off Lefevre’s head, giving New Hampshire a 3-2 lead it would never relinquish.
The Wildcats notched four more goals, two by David Busch, to finish off the Red Raiders for the championship.
“It sends a message,” Haydar said of the tournament win. “We’re ranked fourth right now in (Hockey East). Some teams might have overlooked us.”
Umile had told his team to be ready for the season, which began two weeks earlier than 1999. The players responded, working out since school started and it showed in the final two periods of the championship.
“With the amount of penalties we took, you get tired,” said Colgate’s Lefevre, who stopped 28-of-33 shots before being pulled in favor of Dave Cann. “It’s tough when you have to keep killing off constantly.”
Colgate tied Michigan 2-2 in the semifinal, but won the tiebreaking shootout 2-0. It was much of the same in New Hampshire’s first game against No. 1 North Dakota, as the Wildcats crept by thanks to defenseman Garrett Stafford, who was the only player out of 14 to score in the shootout on Friday.
Gare said that the tournament championship may have a little less importance, since New Hampshire only advanced with a shootout.
The North Dakota game “was definitely not a win,” Gare said. “When it comes to the shootout anything can happen.”
Mark Francescutti is a sports editor for the Michigan Daily.