HAMILTON, N.Y. — Coming off an impressive showing in last week’s Ice Breaker Cup in Ann Arbor, Mich., the 11th-ranked Red Raiders of Colgate registered an 8-2 victory over Sacred Heart in their home opener.
Senior assistant captain Sean Nolan, senior Chad MacDonald and sophomore
Scooter Smith each scored two goals for Colgate (1-1-1), which has lost only two of its last 30 home contests dating back to the 1998-99 season. The Pioneers (0-1-0) dropped their first game of the season and kept the MAAC winless in games against any of the four major conferences.
Despite playing an opponent they were heavily favored to beat, the Red Raiders were determined to come out hungry and put forth maximum intensity for the full 60 minutes.
“We weren’t focusing on the scoreboard as much as we were on our effort,”
Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “We got some goals and that was great, but I was really impressed with our work ethic and the way we smothered them on defense.”
It didn’t take Colgate long to jump on top as MacDonald opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 5:07 of the first. The senior got his stick on a shot by defenseman Rob Brown and deflected the puck over the glove of goaltender Alexis Jutras-Binet.
The Red Raiders made it 2-0 just 36 seconds later when Nolan found his way in front of the net and redirected a shot by senior Mike O’Malley.
Sacred Heart narrowed the gap to 2-1 on a goal by Bryan Reilly at 10:06, but
Colgate soon regained a two-goal cushion courtesy of the first tally for the year by senior captain Cory Murphy. Murphy skated in on an odd-man rush behind forwards Dan Stay and Brad D’Arco, then pounced on the rebound of a shot by D’Arco and beat Jutras-Binet on the stick side.
The Red Raiders extended their lead to 4-1 in the period’s final minute on another rebound effort, this time by Smith after a shot by P.J. Yedon.
Vaughan said he considered the end of the first period a critical juncture and was proud of the way his team quickly regained its momentum.
“It’s really key for us to have guys step up in critical situations,” he said. “Sometimes winning even the smallest battles can get you in position to turn the game in your favor and demoralize a team.”
Smith’s second goal came in spectacular fashion as the Calgary, Alberta, native dove into the slot to collect a loose puck and elevated a shot into the top of the net as he tumbled to the ice. The effort was assisted by senior Kevin Johns, who nearly scored on the previous sequence.
MacDonald then collected his second of the night at 12:05 of the second frame, charging the net and stuffing home the rebound of Pat Varecka’s blast that Jutras-Binet could not contain.
“[MacDonald]‘s effort was non-stop,” Vaughan said of last year’s team leader in penalty minutes. “He played with the same intensity as we’re used to, but he stayed away from the box as well. We need all the things he brings to the team, and he was on tonight.”
Soon it was Nolan’s turn for seconds, as Colgate’s top returning scorer from last year casually caught a pass from O’Malley, dropped the puck on the ice and fired a wrister into the nylon for a 7-1 Red Raider advantage. Chuck Metcalfe scored the Pioneers’ second goal on a power-play tally with 1:59 left in the second frame.
Colgate closed out the scoring at 9:51 of the third period as O’Malley recorded a goal to go along with his two assists. The product of nearby New Hartford, N.Y., connected off a feed from MacDonald at the doorstep and notched his first of the season.
In goal, junior Jason LeFevre picked up the win for Colgate with nine saves in two periods before being replaced by freshman Dave Cann, who stopped six shots in the final period of action. Jutras-Binet recorded 26 saves for Sacred Heart in the first two stanzas and Eddy Ferhi registered 17 in the third.
Lefevre, now the top goaltender for the Red Raiders after backing up Shep Harder for the majority of his first two seasons, echoed Vaughan’s sentiments and praised the performance of his teammates.
“It was great to watch the guys play in front of me tonight,” he said. “We just played a dominant game and it all stemmed from hard work. We feel we can compete with anyone in the country of we focus like that.”
The Red Raiders, owners of one of the nation’s top power-play units last season, finished the night 3-for-9 in man-advantage situations, while Sacred Heart converted on one of three opportunities.
Colgate travels to Massachusetts next Saturday for a contest against Hockey East UMass-Amherst at 7 p.m. Sacred Heart officially begins its MAAC action with a home-and-home series with intrastate rival Connecticut on Oct. 27 and 28.
Steve Marsi is editor in chief of the Colgate Maroon News.