HAMILTON, N.Y. — In just over a minute late in the third period, fans at Starr Rink witnessed two teams heading in opposite directions, as Colgate scored twice to pull away from Yale and secure an eventual 4-1 victory on Saturday night.
Colgate (12-4-0, 5-1-0 ECACHL), winner of four straight, boasts the highest overall win total in the ECACHL and stands just two points back of first-place Union with two games in hand. Yale (1-11-0, 1-9-0), meanwhile, faces a season with a lone victory in 12 games, a -37 goal differential, and last place in the league.
“I think it’s pretty clear that after 12 games we’re not going to come out of these games as a statistical leader,” said Yale coach Tim Taylor. “We’re not going to be outshooting people and we’re not going to be successful in high-scoring games. We’ve got to somehow develop a successful game plan which starts with a tight defense.”
Throughout the game Colgate put on the exhibition of defense, surrendering only 14 shots including eight in the final two periods. The Raiders kept the Bulldogs off the board in period one, holding their goals allowed in opening frames to a scant three through 16 games this season.
“It’s an anomaly to me,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “Getting out to good starts is one of our goals, but we haven’t specifically talked about shutting teams down in the first period. I don’t have the answer for it.”
Raider netminder Steve Silverthorn recorded his 11th win of the season. Apart from a few quality saves, however, he saw little rubber throughout the night.
“The guys are unbelievable in front of me,” said Silverthorn. “Eamon Del Giacco blocks at least four shots a game, Joey [Mormina] is the best penalty killer in the league; all of the guys all the way down are great.”
Colgate produced some key scoring chances in the first period, but failed to capitalize. Pucks bounded off crossbars and hopped over sticks, leaving fans holding their breath and players shaking their heads.
“It’s disappointing,” said Vaughan. “You’d like to see some of those go in so that the floodgates will open. We had a lot that were around the net or just bounced over. We’ve got guys that are pressing a little bit and holding their sticks a little too tight, but I’d be more concerned if we weren’t getting the chances.”
Mike Campaner blasted Colgate into the lead with a hard slapshot midway through the second period. Yale goals leader Christian Jensen tied the game just three minutes later with a rebound goal of his own. The Bulldogs failed to find the net for the rest of the contest, however, and floundered in the offensive zone.
“We were pretty anemic offensively on a night where I think we did a pretty good job defensively,” said Taylor. “We did a lot of things that you have to do on the road to win a hockey game, but we just flat-out didn’t generate enough offense.”
The game remained tight into the waning minutes of the middle frame. Then even-strength goals from Tyler Burton and Jon Smyth, separated by a mere 62 seconds, left the visitors well behind with only 20 minutes to play.
“He’s a very good player,” said Vaughan of Burton, whose shot knuckled through the legs of Yale goaltender Josh Gartner for the eventual game-winner. “He was our first scholarship player. He’s had some good moments, and now he’s starting to put some consistency together. He’s starting to play really well shift after shift.”
Gartner found himself way out of position on Smyth’s goal as well, as Colgate’s point leader wristed the puck from the slot into a wide-open net. Sophomore goalie Matt Modelski took over the reins for Gartner as the third period commenced.
“I thought he looked a little shaky on the second and third goals,” said Taylor of Gartner. “I thought it might give us a spark. I’m not a coach who likes to pull his goalies left and right. But we’re a team that’s so desperate to find our way and find some solutions.”
With a fresh sheet of ice and a full two minutes of power-play time, Yale believed itself to be within range of the home team. Missed opportunities left the Bulldogs still two goals behind five minutes later, however, when Colgate’s Adam Mitchell buried a power-play goal just inside the right post.
“Down 3-1 we have a power play to start the third,” said Taylor. “We’ve got rested guys in those positions, and we didn’t get it done. Our offensive effort was inadequate in terms of what’s required to win a Division I hockey game.”
Silverthorn took control for the remainder of the contest, keeping hopes of a Yale comeback at bay. The senior netminder, who boasts a 2.02 goals against average and .913 save percentage, still believes he has a way to go before he reaches his level of play from last season.
“Right now I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but at least I’m staying pretty consistent, which is all you can ask right now,” said Silverthorn. “As the season goes on I hope I can progress even further. I’m not at where I was last year, but I know it’s going to happen.”
Colgate hosts an exhibition game against Ottawa on December 18, but will not face official action until the Denver Cup on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, Yale hopes to use three weeks of rest to right the ship, as it prepares for Wisconsin and the Badger Showdown on December 31.