HAMILTON, N.Y. — Defense apparently refused to brave the bitter cold and visit Starr Rink on Saturday night, as Colgate got the better end of a 9-4 shootout with visiting Vermont.
Raider Jon Smyth recorded his second hat trick of the season with goals in every period. His five-point weekend buoyed him to the top of the Colgate scoring chart with 16 goals and 26 points.
“Without a doubt I credit the guys around me,” said Smyth. “In addition to that I think all the time I’ve been getting on the power play and penalty kill have helped me too. It’s easier to get into the game when you’re on the power play, because the chances come to you.”
The Raiders jumped on the Catamounts early, amassing a 3-0 lead less than 15 minutes into the contest. Smyth and Kyle Doyle each notched goals with the man advantage, part of a four-PPG night for Colgate.
“The kids are starting to gel,” said Raider head coach Stan Moore of his special teams. “Sooner or later you expect that it will come. There’s never a power play anywhere that isn’t based on work. You can have all the talent you want, but if you’re not going to go get the puck and dig and scrape and claw when it’s tough, you’re not going to get the goal.”
Vermont answered near the end of the opening period with a power-play goal of its own. Junior Brady Leisenring notched his first of two tallies on the night, cutting the Colgate lead to 3-1 after one period. The Catamounts’ 10th-ranked power play in the nation finished with two goals on six chances.
“I’m sure Stan’s not happy with some of the power-play goals they gave up,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon, “and I’m sure they’ll address that, but we were never in the game.”
Colgate put the visitors even further out of it when Mike Campaner and Smyth notched two quick goals to give their team a four-goal cushion late in the second period.
“We played a very good team tonight, and that’s all I’ve got to say,” Sneddon said. “Colgate got everything they deserved tonight. More power to them. I’ve got no comment on the way we played.”
The Catamounts hung around with another goal late in the second period. This time it was Joey Gasparini whose floating snapshot found twine.
“You have to look at the other end of it too,” said Smyth. “We allowed four goals to Vermont, and to be honest I thought we had a lot of letdowns in our zone. You have to give them credit. They never stopped and kept coming at us, and that really impressed me.”
After Smyth and Leisenring traded goals to start the final period, Colgate finally distanced itself from the opponent with another string of three goals. Kyle Wilson and Kelley each beat backup goaltender Scott Sortal, while Campaner added a shorthanded breakaway goal to complement his strong game.
“Everyone needs to keep in mind that besides his offensive productivity he comes to play every night all the time,” said Moore of his freshman defenseman. “Don’t lose sight of the fact that he’s on the ice for a lot of PK work. He’s the guy on the ice at the end of the game to try to help us prevent a team from scoring. He does it both ways, which is a pretty amazing feat for a young guy.”
Vermont managed one final gasp when Jeff Miles buried a quick wrist shot high above Colgate netminder Steve Silverthorn’s shoulder, but the game had slipped well out of hand. Despite scoring four goals on only 14 shots, the Catamounts came away with a defeat.
“Any time you can score that many goals you feel good about it,” said Moore. “Thorny would probably tell you that he didn’t have his best game, but we had a good offensive game and it’s nice to have that for a change. In games like that it’s easy to let the momentum slip, but if we’re thinking of improving we need to find that consistency and not let that slip.”
The nine-goal flood the Raiders’ best offensive showing since defeating Union 9-3 on February 19, 2000. After scoring only 96 goals in 40 games last season, this year’s brand of Colgate hockey has generated 81 goals in just 24 games.
“Depth is one of the most important things in determining how far we go this season,” said Smyth. “Defense is definitely very important to this team, but I feel like if we can balance our attack and come at our opponent with two or three lines, it’s hard for them to check us.”
The Raiders, winners of four in a row, take their streak into a weekend home-and-home series with travel partner Cornell next weekend. The team recognizes the upcoming games as a chance to prove themselves to the league.
“We see a team [in Cornell] that’s had some up-and-down success,” said Smyth. “We just heard that they lost [to Dartmouth] 2-1, so they’ll be ready to go next weekend. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle that the guys are really looking forward to. It’s a chance for us to get even more momentum, and hopefully we sent them a message tonight that we’ll be there and we’ll be ready.”
Meanwhile, Vermont returns home to host Union and Rensselaer next weekend. The Catamounts hope to put the brakes on a four-game losing streak.