HAMILTON, N.Y. — Colgate needed some extra time, but tri-captain Adam Mitchell’s goal 33 seconds into OT sent his team to its first 4-0-0 start in 14 years, as the Raiders slipped by Lake Superior State 2-1 on Saturday night.
Colgate (4-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) defenseman Mike Campaner, a member of the ECAC all-rookie team last season, stripped Laker defender Derek Smith deep in the visitor’s end, and connected with Mitchell who one-timed the game-winner past an outstretched Jeff Jakaitis.
“He’s a great player,” said Raider coach Don Vaughan of his sophomore blueliner. “He’s one of the best defensemen in the country, in my opinion. I just love watching him. He can always find another gear. He got the guy’s stick first, and that set their guy off balance. But Adam didn’t miss. It was a great shot and a great play.”
Mitchell credited his teammate’s efforts as well, complimenting Campaner, who has amassed seven assists in only four games.
“I was just sort of floating around the high slot waiting to see what happened,” said Mitchell. “I was close enough to get back if we turned it over, but close enough to the goal to capitalize on a chance. Camp did a great job on the forecheck, and it was a bang-bang play.”
Lake Superior State’s (0-2-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) bench saw the play from a slightly different angle. Campaner appeared to send Smith stumbling as he chased after the puck, which sent Laker head coach Frank Anzalone into a fury after the lamp was lit.
“I don’t know,” he said. “The referee shook his head. I thought there were three penalties in the last two minutes of the game, all against them, and none were called. I don’t know if Smith was pulled down. If he wasn’t, it was a really bad play bringing the puck back in deep. If he was pulled down, then they won the game on a penalty. And they buried it. Give them credit for burying their one chance.”
The visitors, for their part, generated a ton of scoring chances throughout the contest. The Lakers managed to score only once in seven power plays, however, when Mike Adamek banged home a redirected Barnabas Birkeland slapshot to tie the game at 1-1 late in the second period.
“We had our chances and we fanned on them,” said Anzalone. “I thought we did good on our power play, we generated some chances, but not good enough. Just not enough. We’re just at that point.”
Perhaps Lake Superior State’s best opportunity came with five minutes remaining in regulation. During a late-developing two-on-zero rush, Steve McJannet hoisted a backhand into the chest of Colgate goaltender Steve Silverthorn.
“He works hard,” said Anzalone of McJannet. “He’s a big, strong kid. He creates some puck movement for some of his teammates, but you’ve got to have guys who can score, and we just didn’t have that kind of weekend.”
Odd-man rushes were the norm for the game, as the style of play differed vastly from the previous night. The end-to-end action kept both goaltenders on their toes, and the final score proved less than indicative of the prime opportunities created.
“There weren’t as many penalties tonight,” said Vaughan, who noticed that the 10 power plays on Saturday were five fewer than the night before and far less than the league average this season. “There was more five-on-five hockey, so the play was allowed to open up. There was a lot of back-and-forth play.”
Another Colgate tri-captain, Dave Thomas, scored the team’s first goal on the power play, his second on the weekend. The senior is one of many players on the Raiders who recognize how important the fast early start against CCHA opponents may be come tournament time.
“Everybody on the team last year found out how important a good start was,” said Mitchell. “A game or two cost us a bid at the NCAA tournament. Starting off 4-0 is huge, especially playing against teams that are going to play against teams like Michigan.”
The last time Colgate began a season with four victories they rose to the championship game of the NCAA tournament against Wisconsin. Now Vaughan just wants to focus on impressing on his team the importance of gutting out tough games, as the Raiders welcome Hockey East opponent Northeastern next weekend.
“We saw two completely different styles between Ferris State and this team here,” he said. “We had to fight for every single inch of ice. That’s a great lesson. But I was really pleased that we found ways to win this weekend.”
Meanwhile, Lake Superior State’s road won’t get any easier, as the team will have to find a way to avoid an 0-4 start in a difficult two-game set with the Wolverines next weekend.
“We got swept,” said Anzalone. “We got swept again. That’s the bottom line. Some of our best players didn’t skate when they had chances. That’s the way it goes.”