HAMILTON, N.Y. — In a colossal battle between the two top teams in the ECAC, Colgate’s biggest player, Joey Mormina, proved huge, scoring twice in the Raiders’ 4-1 victory over Vermont on Friday night at Starr Rink.
Mormina, a 6-foot-5 giant on the Raider blueline, buried two goals for only the second time in his career. The senior notched the first goal of the contest with a snap shot from the high slot, and later sent Colgate (18-5-0, 10-1-0 ECAC) to a 3-0 lead with a neat power-play goal late in the second period. Mormina pinched on the back door and one-timed a neat pass by freshman Tyler Burton past sprawled Catamount netminder Joe Fallon.
“That’s one of our plays on the power play,” said Mormina. “We’ve been working on it all year, and it finally happened for us tonight. It was a great pass by Tyler Burton.”
Liam Huculak’s second period power play goal split his teammate’s tallies, as Colgate stunned a slipping Vermont (13-8-3, 7-3-2) club. The Catamounts, who claim responsibility for the only “L” on the Raiders’ ECACHL record, found themselves in a deep hole on the road.
“We just had some mental mistakes,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. “On their first goal we had two veteran forwards changing in the middle of a play when they were attacking. Then Joey Mormina slipped in the back door on the power play. We walked through that. In practice we said, ‘Joey Mormina is going to come back door.’ So at least two of their goals were mental mistakes on our part.”
Vermont managed just 15 shots through the first two periods, and generated few quality chances.
“We’re a forechecking team,” Sneddon explained. “In the first period we just didn’t have our jump. When we can’t get in and forecheck, it becomes a frustrating game. Their defensive team played very well tonight.”
Colgate coach Don Vaughan saw the game in a slightly different light. While pleased with his senior defender’s offensive outpouring, it was Mormina’s defense which Vaughan attributed to the Raiders victory.
“We had to play big because we were in our end a little bit more than I would have liked tonight,” said Vaughan. “Joey Mormina’s been our best player for most of the year, and he was again tonight on the defensive end of the ice.”
The Catamounts climbed onto the scoreboard four minutes into the third period on the power play. Joey Gasparini’s slapshot ricocheted past Silverthorn, marring the Raider netminder’s otherwise stellar performance. Silverthorn turned aside 22 shots in the victory.
“He’s a great goaltender, and we don’t talk about him enough,” said Vaughan. “We’ve just come to expect that out of him every night. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about him, but we probably should, because he’s one of the best goalies in the country in my opinion.”
Failing to reach the 25-shot mark for the second straight game, Vermont was left questioning its recent offensive output.
“We’re in a little bit of a rut right now,” said Sneddon. “Our top players aren’t performing to the best of their ability, and we’re having trouble putting the puck in the net. We don’t have the confidence that we did a couple of weeks ago.”
The absence of phenom Torrey Mitchell, whose 20 points ranks second on the team, didn’t help. Mitchell had to sit after incurring a game disqualification in his last game. And while Sneddon refused to blame his team’s performance on his freshman’s absence, he appeared relieved to have Mitchell’s services once
again at his disposal for Vermont’s upcoming contest at Cornell.
“He’s one player, and he’s not going to affect our team,” said Sneddon. “The guys who needed to play well didn’t necessarily do so. We’ll get him back tomorrow.”
Colgate scoring leader Jon Smyth scored an empty net goal to cap off the scoring. Vermont banged a rebound past Silverthorn as the horn marked the end of the contest, but referee Alex Dell eventually determined that the buzzer had sounded before the puck had crossed the line. Vaughan shook Sneddon’s hand and later complimented the Catamount coaching staff on their team’s vast improvement since last season.
“They’ve done an incredible job with that club,” he said. “Kevin’s got them very focused. That’s the challenge in our league. They stay focused for sixty minutes, right to the buzzer.”
While Vermont travels to Ithaca to face a streaking Cornell team, Colgate welcomes Dartmouth in what has become a recent rivalry. The two teams meet for the 14th time in four seasons, with the Raiders holding a slight 6-5-2 advantage in that span.
“Dartmouth’s unbelievably talented,” said Silverthorn. “They have one of the best players in the league in [Lee] Stempniak. That guy can do it all by himself. So we have to prepare for them tomorrow night, because I feel they’re a better team than Vermont.”