HAMILTON, N.Y. — Sophomore Daniel “Scooter” Smith and the Colgate Red Raiders proved Friday that home cooking is an excellent remedy for a struggling team.
Smith’s first career hat trick, along with a fine performance in net by Jason LeFevre and a strong Starr Rink crowd, propelled the Red Raiders to a 6-4 victory over visiting Brown.
Colgate (2-5-2, 1-2-0 ECAC) ended a five-game winless streak and improved its home record to 25-2-4 since the start of the 1998-99 season.
“At this point, you’ll take them any way you can,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “We’re not where we need to be yet, but with all the injuries we have and all the new roles our guys have had to adjust to, you have to be pleased.”
The Red Raiders dictated the flow for much of the contest, but not before a penalty-ridden and lackadaisical first 10 minutes presented them with an early deficit.
After garnering a two-man advantage, Brown (1-4-0, 0-4-0) drew first blood at 6:50 of the first period as Paul Esdale threw a hard shot on net and Chris Legg was there to punch the rebound past LeFevre. With only one Colgate skater returning to the ice and the power play continuing, Keigh Kirley deflected Christian Warrin’s slapper into the net for a 2-0 Brown lead just 35 seconds later.
The game’s first major turnaround came before Colgate even got on the
scoreboard. With eight minutes to go in the first and Brown dominating play, LeFevre withstood a series of Brown shots — several at point-blank range — to keep the Red Raiders within striking distance. With five minutes remaining in the period, the Bears held a 14-2 advantage in shots on goal but had been denied several chances to extend their lead.
By the time Colgate earned a 5-on-3 advantage of its own, the tables were already turned.
In typical fashion, the team’s leading goal scorer, senior assistant captain Sean Nolan, found his way in front of the crease and redirected a shot by Mike O’Malley into the nylon, bringing his team within a goal at 3:48 of the first.
The power-play marker was the seventh of the year for the native of Dorchester, Ont., who played despite a badly bruised hip.
“Our tendency has been to be a little tentative and we were definitely a little bit flat early on,” Vaughan said. “Once we concentrated on taking it one shift at a time and taking the scoreboard out of it, we responded with one of our best periods of the season.”
Colgate promptly turned a narrow deficit into a comfortable lead.
Keeping up their intensity, the Red Raiders soon tied the game on the first of Smith’s tallies. Rookie defenseman Matt Nicholson’s shot from the point was stuffed by the Brown defense, but Smith was there to corral the rebound and beat goaltender Yann Danis low on the glove side.
Smith struck again at the 6:38 mark, weaving through a web of defenders and pounding home his own rebound for a 3-2 Colgate advantage.
Senior defenseman Bryan Long added to the lead with his first goal of the season at 11:02 of the second stanza. After a shot from the point by Smith missed wide, Long circled behind the cage and flipped the loose puck off the pads of Danis and into the net.
At 16:24 of the second, Smith tallied his third and final goal by converting on yet another rebound, this time following up a blast by rookie blueliner Rob Brown.
“All night I was just trying to get to the right place at the right time,” Smith said. “We caught some breaks and got some good bounces, things that haven’t happened for us much this year. I’m glad I got the opportunities.”
Sophomore P.J. Yedon gave Colgate its biggest lead, 6-2, with exactly one minute gone by in the final frame. Brown’s Matt Kohansky scored off a beautiful feed from Brent Robinson at 3:11, then set up Jon Zielinski for a power play tally at 16:33 to close out the scoring.
Smith, a native of Calgary, Alberta, contributed two assists along with his hat trick, earning him five points on the evening and the team lead in scoring (six goals, eight assists). Colgate’s previous leader in that category, senior defenseman and captain Cory Murphy (two goals, 11 assists), was credited with three helpers.
“The main reason our team had so many rebound chances tonight was the job guys like Murph and the defense did with controlling the puck and firing shots,” Smith said. “It all starts with them.”
Kohansky’s goal and two assists highlighted the Brown scoring column.
LeFevre recorded 36 saves to earn the win for Colgate, while Danis stopped 26 shots for the Bears in a losing effort.
“[LeFevre] played well for us tonight, particularly in the first period when it was most crucial,” Vaughan said. “Finally we were able to score some goals in from of him.”
A total of seven power-play goals were notched during the evening, with Colgate converting on four of 10 opportunities and Brown cashing in on three of seven.
Brown continues in search of its first league win Saturday as it travels to Ithaca, N.Y., to face Cornell. The Red Raiders hope to record their first successive victories of the season when they play host to Harvard Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We’re happy that things went our way this game and that we broke out of our slump,” Smith said. “I think we’re turning it around. After tonight, I foresee good things out there tomorrow.”