HAMILTON, N.Y. — The series seemed destined to last three games from the beginning.
After 76-plus minutes of grinding, grueling hockey, Colgate senior P.J. Yedon’s blast from the top of the right circle broke one tie and created another, as the Raiders defeated St. Lawrence, 3-2, in overtime. By taking game two of their best-of-three ECAC Tournament series against the Saints, Colgate forced a third and decisive match Sunday night at Starr Rink.
Freshman defenseman J.R. Bria broke the game-winning play out of his zone with an up-ice pass along the boards to Yedon. The senior forward then took a few strides before firing the puck just off the toe of St. Lawrence goaltender Kevin Ackley and into the net, extending his Colgate career for at least one more game.
“I just felt relief that we were playing tomorrow,” said Yedon. “And a little bit of excitement, also. This one was extra special because we got to extend the season. I didn’t want to be sitting home tomorrow doing nothing.”
Both Colgate (15-17-3) coach Don Vaughan and St. Lawrence (11-20-5) coach Joe Marsh acknowledged that an overtime thriller leading to a winner-take-all matchup was a fitting result for these two clubs.
“These two teams are so evenly matched,” said Vaughan. “Tonight, as crazy as it sounds, was fun. That’s what college hockey is about. It’s exactly playing out the way I think people anticipated it would. We’ve had two one-goal games and we tied twice this year. It’s great for college hockey, it’s great for our fans, and it’s great for our program.”
“Both teams are so evenly matched,” echoed Marsh. “We tied during the regular season, and I don’t know if you can get any closer than these two games have been. It’s going to come down to the wire, which is probably the best thing. It was a great college game, and both teams put out unbelievable efforts.”
St. Lawrence, which never trailed in game one of the series, took an early lead in Saturday night’s contest as well. With Colgate scrambling on its penalty kill, Ryan Glenn calmly deposited a shot to the stick side of Raider goalie Steve Silverthorn to give the Saints a 1-0 advantage.
“We had a bit of a slow start,” said Vaughan. “But as the game unfolded I think we got our legs back underneath of us. I don’t know what that is. We had a bit of the same last night, too.”
Colgate responded in the second period right off the opening faceoff. A 2-on-1 odd-man rush developed, and Scooter Smith slid a pass to Yedon for his first goal of the night just 47 seconds into the frame. The Raiders called upon their youth later that period when freshman Kyle Wilson backhanded a shot high over a sprawled Ackley to give the home team its first lead of the series.
“I thought a couple of our first-year guys really stepped up,” said Vaughan. “Obviously Kyle had a great game. Ryan Smyth and Jon Smyth worked the boards real well, and they were a big part of the game tonight, too. They’ve all done a lot of good things.”
The 2-1 Raiders lead at the end of the second period would not stand, however. This time the Saints unleashed their own freshman, as T.J. Trevelyan sprung free on a breakaway and cleanly beat Silverthorn up high to tie the game.
“T.J.’s a real battler,” said Marsh. “This is a great experience for him, obviously. Everybody’s chipping in now, whether it be in points or not. You have guys like [Jamie] Parker, who I thought had a great game tonight. We’ve got confidence in these kids, and we’ve been going four lines across the board.”
Ackley held off final Raider rushes as the home team looked to win the game without going into extra time. The sophomore netminder turned away 36 shots throughout the night, despite earning the loss.
“He’s been playing well,” said Marsh, “and he’s a great competitor. I thought our defense played pretty well, too. It’s just real playoff hockey. It’s the way it should be played, especially in the overtime.”
In the end, however, it was Yedon who sent the building into a frenzy and forced a third game. After two demanding efforts, both squads will rely on adrenaline to carry them through 60 more minutes of ECAC action.
“It’s all about heart and soul,” said Yedon. “That’s what we try to pride our team on. But being at home we feed off of the crowd and all the people up in the stands cheering for us, our family, and our friends. It’s really special.”
With all other ECAC second round matchups determined, the future is simple for St. Lawrence and Colgate. The winner on Sunday travels to take on Dartmouth, while the loser goes home. If the four previous games between these two teams shows any indication, neither club will be going home without a fight.