HAMILTON, N.Y. — Colgate streaked into second place in the ECAC on Saturday night at Starr Rink by putting a 2-1 finishing touch on a weekend sweep of Cornell.
Kyle Doyle’s 10th goal of the season midway through the second period proved the game winner, as Cornell failed to score a second goal for the sixth time in seven outings. The senior converted a two-on-one odd-man chance by lifting the puck over a sprawling Big Red goaltender David McKee. The Raiders utilized solid defensive play and never look back.
“We definitely dominated the second period by only allowing three shots,” said Colgate goalie David Cann. “It’s tougher for me to stay in the game that way, but it’s so much fun to watch your team play that well.”
Cann started the game after regular starter Steve Silverthorn received a game disqualification following a late scrum the previous night. The backup goaltender played like anything but in his first action since Dec. 28.
“Everybody had to make adjustments,” said Raider head coach Stan Moore, “but the team gave him a standing ovation for the adjustment he made after not having played for quite some time. He came out and made the saves that he needed to, and he should be very proud with his effort.”
Cornell (8-7-6, 6-5-3 ECAC) was behind from the very beginning, though not on the scoreboard. The Big Red could only dress 10 forwards, as players such as Ryan Vesce and Cam Abbot were injured and freshmen Byron Bitz and Ryan O’Byrne served game suspensions. Despite playing shorthanded, Ben Wallace got his team off to a good start when his wrist shot found the back of the night early in the first period.
“The extent of our injuries will never be revealed, but they make scoring very difficult,” said Schafer. “Defenseman Ben Wallace has casts on both hands and he scored a goal tonight. Everybody has injuries, and you have to fight through it. We have to play a certain way, and we have to bide our time until we have a full roster and we can play our style of game.”
Colgate (15-8-3, 10-4-0) answered back later in the period when Adam Mitchell fired a snap shot under the glove hand of McKee from the right circle. The shot was one of only a few that eluded the freshman netminder on the night.
“His play did not change since last night,” said Moore. “He was outstanding. I really like him as a goaltender. He was hard to solve, and quite literally we didn’t. We scored two goals, but I don’t think that based on some of the chances we had we expected to score only two. He’s an exceptional goaltender.”
The Colgate defense locked down on Cornell, allowing them only seven shots through the first two periods of play. Aggressive backchecking allowed the Raiders to keep the game at 1-1 before Doyle’s decisive tally.
“I got tons of support,” said Cann. “We’re just on fire right now. Everyone’s coming back and doing their jobs, and it makes my job that much easier when I can rely on them to pick up their man.”
Cornell generated better chances in the final period, but ran out of energy as the game went on. With only 10 forwards and four reliable defensemen available, the Big Red fought mightily just to stay close throughout the night.
“I was very proud of our hockey team and the way we played tonight,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “That’s about as shorthanded as I’ve ever been with a hockey team. The guys were all on the power play and all on the penalty kill. To come out against a very good hockey team and do a job that gave ourselves an opportunity to win made me very proud.”
Moore echoed the comments of his counterpart.
“I give Cornell a ton of credit,” he said. “They didn’t have many guys to play, and they played like champs. They gave us everything we could take, and they kept us on our seats. They were always in it, and that’s because they only let us score two goals.”
In the end, however, the Raiders served Cornell its fifth loss in seven games, and broke free of Dartmouth for sole possession of second place in the ECAC. With the sweep of the Big Red, Colgate’s first since 2000, the Raiders eclipsed their ECAC win total from all of last season.
“We may or may not get respect, but it doesn’t matter because it’s about us in the dressing room,” said Cann. “Whether or not teams give us respect is up to them. We just have to show teams that we’re here to pay hard.”
With a struggling Vermont team on the horizon, Moore knows he must fight a possible let-down after an emotional weekend in order to keep his team on its winning streak, which now stands at six games.
“It’s pretty hard to find a way to say differently the same message which is we have to play at a consistent, high level,” said Moore, whose record against Cornell on his career now stands at 5-0-1 stretching back to his days as Union’s head coach. “All of our coaches were saying ‘high flat line’ on the bench.”
Meanwhile, Cornell will continue to struggle with offense and injuries, as the near returns of Abbot and scoring powerhouse Vesce and seem unlikely.
“[Vesce]‘s going to be out for a while. He has not had a full practice with us since December 5. He’s one of the toughest players that I’ve ever coached, but it’s come to a point where the team has to get healthy. He’s not going to play until he’s 100 percent.”
Cornell hopes to snap its own three game slide when it faces Dartmouth next Friday night.