HAMILTON, N.Y. — St. Lawrence goalie Kevin Ackley stole the show and helped his team steal a game on the road from Colgate, as the Saints held off the Raiders, 2-1, at Starr Rink on Friday in Game 1 of the best-of-three ECAC quarterfinal series.
Colgate fired shot after shot on Ackley, but the sophomore turned away 37 of them en route to St. Lawrence’s first Friday night road victory this season, and first road ECAC playoff win since 1964.
“Colgate really came at us, particularly in the third,” said Saints coach Joe Marsh. “It was a tremendous game by Kevin Ackley. I know the shots were drastically in their favor. That was a good road game for us to battle like that. Those have been tough to come by this year.”
“It’s definitely nice to get the first win, especially on the road,” said Ackley. “We’ve just got to come out tomorrow and play hard, and hopefully we’ll win again.”
The Saints struck first just three minutes into the opening period, capitalizing on a Raider defensive breakdown. As scoring leader Rich Peverley charged the zone, he drew two defenders, leaving Matt Macdonald alone in front of the Colgate net. The St. Lawrence defenseman waited goalie Steve Silverthorn out, and tapped home an easy goal to spot his team a 1-0 lead.
“The team came out flying right away,” said Ackley. “That helps a goalie get comfortable.”
The Raiders answered back midway through the first when captain Stephen Silversides’ blast beat Ackley just over his left pad. It proved to be the only time that Ackley failed to stop an initial shot, and his defense consistently kept rebound chances at a minimum.
“We bent, but we didn’t break tonight,” said Marsh. “We had some good second efforts down low. Guys were blocking shots and things like that. I think we played the way we had to.”
Said Ackley, “That’s probably one of the best games they’ve had all year. They tied up sticks all night and cleared them all the way so that I could see the puck.”
Another momentary collapse in Colgate’s zone led to the eventual game-winning goal. Ziga Petac found himself all alone between the circles and roofed a shot over Silverthorn’s right shoulder to give his team a 2-1 edge they would never relinquish.
“We got caught all on one side and left the middle of the rink open,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about. We made a couple of mistakes, and they scored on their chances. We didn’t capitalize on our chances, and that was the difference.”
St. Lawrence provided the Raiders with plenty of power-play opportunities, but Colgate failed to dent the net in five chances with the man advantage.
The home team lost another prime opportunity thanks to their own fans. While already on the power play, Colgate appeared to have almost a full minute of 5-on-3 time when referee Alex Dell sent Mike Madill off for cross-checking. But a Raider fan lobbed a piece of debris on the ice for the second time on the night, incurring a two-minute minor on his own team for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Raiders crowded in front of the Saints net for most of the night, but Ackley and his defenders refused to yield.
“Overall, I thought the effort was really strong tonight,” said Vaughan. “We have to play the same way tomorrow and capitalize on our opportunities. That’s really what it comes down to. We didn’t score on our chances. We probably had more chances than they did, but it’s a funny game that way. I thought our guys played pretty well.”
With three out of the four ECAC traveling teams earning a victory in Game 1 this weekend and all games settled by a single goal differential, this series, like all the rest, promises to remain close until the end.
“This was a great college game, and both teams battled extremely hard,” said Marsh. “This one’s a long way from being over, I’m sure.”