HAMILTON, N.Y. — Last season Jon Smyth piled up 42 points, a full 39 more than during his freshman campaign. Friday night the junior proved last year wasn’t a fluke, as Smyth buried a snap shot past Lake Superior State goalie Jeff Jakaitis with five minutes remaining in the contest to give Colgate a 3-2 victory.
“It was actually a broken play,” said Smyth, whose point total rose to five in just three games after a two-point night. “The puck came off of [Adam] Mitchell’s skate and straight to me. In that situation I didn’t have a lot to look at on net. I knew I wanted to shoot down low because I wanted to get the rebound at least. It ended up going through his legs.”
The ECAC named Smyth to its all-conference first team last season, when five of his 21 goals proved game-winners. His second goal of the 2004-05 season secured a Raider victory as well, as the team rattled off its third straight victory at the beginning of the season for the first time since 1994.
“Johnny-on-the-spot,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “He’s got a great release, and that’s what that goal was all about. He can get it away in traffic, and that’s a great skill to have, especially in today’s game.”
“That’s what 23, Smyth, is supposed to do,” explained Lake Superior State coach Frank Anzalone. “He’s got to score big goals. When we get those big goals, we will win. But it was his turn, and he got it done.”
Lake Superior State (0-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA), competing in its first official contest of the season, stuck with the hosts for much of the night, playing a physical style that held the Raiders in check and kept the game close throughout.
“There has been great improvement over the last couple of years,” said Anzalone. “We didn’t get out-shot here 51-8 like we did in St. Lawrence a couple of years ago. We’re in a position to do better, we just need to make some of that come to fruition.”
The Lakers, the nation’s least penalized team a season ago, found themselves down two men on two separate occasions late in the opening period, but wriggled free to a 0-0 tie at the end of one.
“We missed some opportunities,” said Vaughan. “We had a couple of open nets and we fanned on them. I write that off on some guys not being ready mentally. You can tell when guys aren’t there sometimes because when they’re standing up they’re not over their skates.”
Then, midway through the second period, Laker Alex Dunn buried a power-play goal of his own to give his team a one-goal edge. The junior found himself alone on the far side of the net, sped across the goalmouth, and jammed the puck into the open side.
Colgate (3-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) answered later in the period, and actually had a penalty of their own to thank. Upon returning to the ice after serving two minutes for interference, defenseman Eamon DelGiacco found himself behind the Laker defenders with the puck on his stick. The Fairfield transfer from two years ago switched the rubber to his backhand and lifted it over a diving Jakaitis for his first goal in a Raider uniform.
“It was funny,” said Vaughan. “We had a little shootout the other day in practice. Eamon took a penalty shot and didn’t do what he did tonight. Something must have rubbed off on him tonight.”
Colgate tri-captain Dave Thomas provided his squad with a brief goal advantage early in the third period during a delayed penalty call. But Lake State rookie John Nogatch took advantage of a fortunate deflection off of Raider defender Mike Campaner’s stick to notch his first career goal and tie the game at 2-2 with seven minutes remaining in the final frame.
“He’s a little bit better player than a lot of people think,” said Anzalone of Nogatch, who replaced the injured Ren Fauci on the blueline. “He came out of a league that does produce the occasional player that needs more development. But he’s spunky, he skates well, and he’s probably going to become one of our better defenseman.”
Smyth’s shot less that two minutes later completed the Raider comeback, however, its second on the season. The team, loaded with nine seniors, has scored six of its 12 goals this season in the third period.
“We’ve become a more resilient team when it comes to these games,” said Smyth. “We’ve got some guys who are older and who come with experience. It’s in our minds that we’re able to come back and win games, but we don’t want to play that way. We want to put teams away, like maybe in the first period when we had all those power plays.”
Both teams emerged slightly disappointed in their respective performances. Anzalone hoped he would see more from his squad, admittedly still in the stages of rebuilding.
“We tried to play pretty hard,” he said. “I thought we would do a little bit better than this tonight, but you have to give Colgate credit. We still don’t have enough top-end guys who can make a big play when we need it. I think tomorrow night a lot of our sophomores and juniors are going to have to step up and make plays against a team that’s going to want to win four straight.”
Meanwhile, Vaughan was happy to escape the even, see-saw battle with a win, but seemed determined to make alterations for the rematch with the Lakers.
“It wasn’t our best outing,” he said. “I thought we were back on our heels early. I told our guys that we’ve got to be better tomorrow. But if you can come out of it with a “W” while not playing your best game, I guess there are some positives there too.”
The two teams will meet for another non-conference showdown at Starr Rink on Saturday night.