HAMILTON, N.Y. — Scooter Smith scored two goals for the second night in a row, and for the second night in a row he registered the game winner, as Colgate upended Rensselaer, 4-3.
The Raiders’ leading scorer put on a show for the fans during Senior Night at Starr Rink. Smith’s blast with less than nine minutes remaining in the final period beat Engineer goalie Nathan Marsters on the stick side, raising his goal total to 21 on the year.
“He’s the real deal, and he’s done it all year long,” said Raiders coach Don Vaughan. “He’s done it in some circle pretty quietly, but those of us who see him every night know what he’s made of. He’s been there every night for us, and he did it again tonight. I can’t say enough about him.”
Smith led off the night’s scoring less than two minutes into the first period with a fluke goal. Following a Rensselaer turnover behind their own net, Colgate’s co-captain attempted to center the puck to teammate Dave Thomas. The disk ricocheted off of an Engineer’s leg and past Marsters to give the Raiders an early lead.
Colgate (13-16-3, 8-10-2 ECAC) took advantage of yet another Rensselaer mistake just one minute later. Freshman Zac Tataryn forced a turnover in the visitors’ end, allowing linemate Darryl McKinnon to feed a wide open Kyle Wilson in the slot. Wilson aimed for the short side and didn’t miss, thrusting his team to an early two-goal edge.
“You’re looking at the clock when the first two go in,” said Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen, “and we’re down 2-0 less than four minutes into the game. That’s a tough game to play, from behind.”
The Engineers (9-22-3, 3-14-3) played it well, however, and stormed back. Nolan Graham appeared to score on a power play midway through the period, as referee John Melanson pointed at the net to indicate a goal. But the goal judge reversed the call, indicating that despite heavy traffic in front of Raider netminder Steve Silverthorn, the puck never crossed the line.
Rensselaer didn’t let the officiating hitch slow them down, however, as Carson Butterwick redirected a Ben Barr shot past Silverthorn with five minutes remaining in the opening period. Barr picked up his second assist just two minutes later on the man-advantage. The junior slid the puck to freshman Alexander Valentin, who tallied his first career goal with a low wrist shot that deflected off of Silverthorn.
“I think Ben’s been doing a great job for us all season long,” said Fridgen. “Actually, Ben’s whole line — Ben, Nick [Economakos], and Carson — have been playing well. He’s on the power play, he kills penalties, and you can’t ask for anything more from a player. He’s giving everything that he’s got.”
The Raiders regained the lead early in the second period when P.J. Yedon deflected an Adam Mitchell slap shot high over Marster’s glove for his sixth of the year. But Rensselaer answered the call on the power play again. A fanned clearing attempt by Colgate defenseman J.R. Bria left Graham all alone to officially register his first goal on the night and tie the game at 3-3.
“It’s the ECAC, and we were playing a team that was pretty desperate,” said Vaughan. “I really thought RPI worked very hard tonight. You have to give them credit. You’d always like to keep a lead, but you have to give credit where it’s due. I really thought they outworked us at times.”
The sentiment was repeated by Fridgen, who witnessed his team drop yet another league road game. The Engineers are now 0-8-2 as visitors in the ECAC this year.
“I thought we outplayed them,” he said. “I thought we outworked them. We were good on our power play, we did a good job on the penalty kill, and we lose the game. The guys we had in the lineup, up front and on defense, played well enough to win that hockey game.”
The Engineers could not find a way to urge a final comeback, however, as Smith’s fourth goal and fifth point of the weekend propelled the Raiders to victory. Silverthorn’s 10 saves in the third period solidified Colgate’s fifth straight home win and placed his team in sole possession of the final home playoff seed in the conference.
“If we wanted to play at home, we had to win these two games this weekend,” said Vaughan. “We’ve put ourselves in a position now where we can control our own destiny. If you look at last year, there were maybe two visiting teams that won in the playoffs. So home ice is everything, really. That doesn’t mean if you have to go on the road you won’t do it. Especially in this league. If there’s ever going to be any upsets, it will be in this league.”
Like the Engineers, Colgate has been snakebitten on the road this season, and must face Yale and Princeton in a traveling weekend in which they have traditionally had little luck. Meanwhile, Rensselaer heads back home and hopes to play spoiler for visiting Dartmouth and Vermont.