HAMILTON, N.Y. — Colgate managed only one goal against St. Lawrence goaltender Mike McKenna for the second straight night. On Saturday night at Starr Rink, however, McKenna’s counterpart, Steve Silverthorn, kept the Saints off the board entirely, saving his team’s season by earning the Raiders a 1-0 victory.
Silverthorn stopped all 25 shots he faced en route to his third career shutout. The junior allowed two goals or less for the seventh straight outing and forced a third and decisive game in the ECAC Quarterfinals against St. Lawrence.
“He played quite well tonight,” said Colgate interim head coach Stan Moore. “I thought he played a little bit better tonight than last night, when he had problems with controlling rebounds. But he pounced on them much better tonight. He also handled the puck and dished it off well tonight, which tells me he had an added level of comfort.”
For a second straight night nothing came easy for either club. Colgate (20-11-5, 14-6-2 ECAC) and St. Lawrence (14-20-6, 7-12-3) battled to a 0-0 tie in the opening period, but established a physical presence that lingered throughout the contest.
“It’s been a really tight series,” said Silverthorn. “Our guys are battling for every inch, and theirs are doing the same. Tomorrow’s going to be a hell of a game for sure.”
The Saints generated the best chance of the first period when T.J. Trevelyan snapped a shot from the slot over Silverthorn’s right shoulder. The puck drew iron, however, which drew a sigh of relief from the home crowd.
“It was a nice shot,” said Silverthorn. “I’d like to think I would have had that if it hadn’t hit the bar, but I don’t know.”
Colgate simulated its effort from the previous night and outplayed St. Lawrence in the middle frame. The Raiders fired 14 shots on McKenna to the Saints’ five, and pinned the visitors deep for large stretches. This time, however, Colgate managed to score on one of its many chances, as defenseman Justin Spencer pinched in and caught a break.
“I tried to roof the puck, but ended up fanning on it,” said Spencer. “Somehow it ended up in the back of the net.”
In actuality, the puck never got quite that far. The rubber barely trickled over the red line, representing a fitting goal for series in which any kind of tally has been tough to come by.
“Playoffs are just a different animal altogether,” said Stan Moore. “Even high scoring teams can run into a wall, so they have to make sure they have a defensive game as well as an offensive game. If you can get even a 1-0 lead and hold it, you force the other team to take risks.”
St. Lawrence jumped on Colgate in the third period, carrying much of the action into the Raider end. But a hit from senior defenseman Ryan Glenn on Colgate’s Dmitry Yashin, which planted the forward into the glass partition between the bench and the wall, drew a five-minute major call from referee Tim Kotyra along with a game misconduct.
“The major penalty certainly didn’t help us any, but I don’t question the call,” said St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh. “That call has to be made to protect these kids.”
Despite being behind the proverbial eight ball, the Saints caught a second wind. St. Lawrence created countless turnovers in the neutral zone and nearly found twine with shorthanded chances.
“I was very pleased with our effort there,” said Marsh. “That gave us a big boost. It would have been nice to throw one in, but it was a great job by the killers who were very aggressive. We’ve really gotten a lot better with our special teams, particularly our penalty kill.”
Colgate’s power-play lines, which clicked at a 19% clip during the regular season, seemed out of sync and out of energy throughout the majority of the five minutes. In a hard-fought series, Moore believed that fatigue may have played a role.
“It seemed like everyone was playing on eggshells,” he said. “When you’re working with two units for five minutes and rolling them over, there’s going to be a certain amount of fatigue that sets in. In retrospect we might have played a regular line to get a little rest to those units.”
Following the penalty, St. Lawrence failed to capitalize on their even-strength chances, however. The Saints posted a zero on the scoreboard for the first time since January 2 against Denver.
“We’re obviously pleased with holding this team at home to one goal each game,” said Marsh. “Any time you do that you put yourself in position to win. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a way to beat Silverthorn tonight.”
With a winner-take-all game coming on Sunday night, neither team holds claim to any kind of advantage. Only four goals have been scored throughout the Quarterfinal match-up, two on each side.
“If you take a look at last night’s game and tonight’s game, there’s very little difference in how the teams played,” said Moore. “One seed, 10 seed, at this point in the season no one seems to care, especially the teams playing.”