SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — In search of its third straight home victory, Union flew around the Achilles Center ice, outplaying every Colgate player save one: Steve Silverthorn. The Raiders netminder made 26 jaw-dropping saves to earn his squad a 1-0 victory over the Dutchmen on Friday night.
Union (11-15-5, 5-11-3 ECAC) dominated from start to finish, controlling the puck in the Colgate zone for minutes at a time and generating chance after prime scoring chance. Silverthorn, who entered the contest ranked seventh in the nation with a 2.02 goals against average, backed up his team’s sometimes sloppy play to vault the Raiders into a tie for first in the ECAC.
“Silverthorn was spectacular,” said Union head coach Nate Leaman. “I give him a lot of credit. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the best in the nation and the league. We had our chances tonight. We had our best players alone in front. But their goaltender is a big guy in net and made some saves look routine.”
Colgate (17-9-5, 12-5-2) head coach Stan Moore applauded his goalie for saving the day for the rest of his club.
“He’s the one who played for us tonight,” he said. “We challenge our players all the time to be consistent. I would say the guy that exuded the most consistency tonight for Colgate was Steve Silverthorn.”
In a game filled with quality offensive chances at both ends, the lone tally by J.R. Bria late in the first period seemed out of place. The defenseman flipped a knuckling puck that skipped over the stick of Dutchmen goalie Kris Mayotte.
“Their guy was up against the wall and just was throwing it on the net to get a change. It took a bounce and got through Mayo. It’s one of those things where they got a bounce tonight and we didn’t. That’s hockey sometimes.”
Union harassed Colgate for the remainder of the night in an effort to tally the equalizer. The Dutchmen outshot the Raiders 13-4 in the second period and 26-15 overall, but failed to find twine.
“It’s tough not to come away with a win,” said Leaman. “I thought that was one of our best efforts of the year. Our guys had great shots. Of our 26 shots I would think that at least 20 were grade-A. We were doing all the right things, but the puck just didn’t go in the net.”
The best chance for Union came with less than a minute remaining in the game. Sophomore Jason Visser found himself alone at the side of the net with Silverthorn still recovering from the other post, but could only hit iron.
“I just stretched,” said Silverthorn of the final Dutchmen rush. “I didn’t get it, but it hit the post, thank God.”
Following the game, Colgate’s junior goaltender fired off at the recent praise Union had received in the local media. Referring to an article that had been used as billboard material by coaches that week, Silverthorn expressed his opinions on the Dutchmen’s recent improving play.
“They’re desperate,” he said. “There was a writeup in the newspaper that says they are a team to fear. They’re playing pretty good, but they’re definitely not a team to fear. We don’t fear them. They played good, but they didn’t play good enough, obviously.”
Silverthorn’s coach, who formerly coached the Dutchmen for two seasons between 1996-98, voiced far more respect for his new team’s adversaries.
“I had the opportunity to work at Union College,” said Moore, “and I know they kinds of conditions that these players are used to in order to come out and put out a best effort and put a win on the board. To say we were outplayed for most of the game would be a gross understatement.”
Despite the loss, Leaman also appeared happy with his team’s performance. The Dutchmen had tied first-place Brown a week ago in another hard-fought battle, and Leaman pointed to his team’s fortitude against top-ranked opponents.
“It’s a good sign for our team right now,” he said. “The team we played tonight is tied for first in the league and we’re supposed to be 10th. That’s the great thing about our league. It’s going to be a very interesting playoff.”
The Raiders hope to put some distance between themselves and fourth-place Rensselaer Saturday night, but will have to bring a stronger effort against an Engineer team which is having Senior Night at Houston Field House.
Meanwhile, Union’s quest for more scoring won’t get any easier, as it hosts Cornell. The Big Red and freshman goalie David McKee have surrendered the fewest goals in the ECAC this season.