HAMILTON, N.Y. — With its 3-1 victory over Union on Friday night at Starr Rink, Colgate witnessed a pair of milestones, as Adam Mitchell skated in his team-record 144th game and helped head coach Don Vaughan pick up his 200th career victory.
Mitchell broke his former teammate Rob Brown’s record set last season by continuing his streak of never having missed a game in a Raider uniform. Meanwhile, Vaughan became just the second Colgate coach to reach 200 wins, doing so in 12 seasons behind the bench.
“It just goes to show you that if you stick around long enough, things like that happen,” said Vaughan. “More than anything it just makes me feel old. [Assistant coach] Andrew [Dickson] and I were joking, because he was here for the first one as a player. That’s longevity, I guess.”
Meanwhile, Starr Rink’s curse on the Dutchmen appeared present almost from the beginning, as an early 2-0 Raider lead foretold Union’s (11-19-1, 7-12-0 ECACHL) fall to 1-18-0 in Hamilton.
Colgate (21-8-2, 13-4-2) freshman Tyler Burton, kneeling on the ice after being tripped up, found a pass from linemate Kyle Wilson at his knees and fired the puck past Union goalie Kris Mayotte’s left pad. Sophomore Dustin Gillanders extended the Raider lead after lifting his own rebound high over the shoulder of the diving netminder.
“Dustin played the game tonight like a power forward without getting caught up in the peripheral stuff,” said Vaughan. “He played hard between the whistles and didn’t take any penalties. His goal was a power-forward goal. He stuck with it, got the rebound and finished.”
The Dutchmen hung around, however, and a late first-period goal from Jordan Webb sliced the Colgate lead in half. Union’s captain took advantage of a giveaway by Raider defender Matt Torti and roofed a shot high over the glove of Steve Silverthorn from his wide-open position in front of the net.
“Jordan Webb has been sick, he missed practice all week, and then he goes out and puts on a performance out there,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “He was great tonight.”
Mayotte’s stellar play in the second period kept his team a scant one goal down heading in to the final frame. The junior netminder made several spectacular saves on quality Colgate chances, causing frustration on the home team’s bench.
“I didn’t think we were ever going to score again,” said Vaughan. “We got up 2-0, and he just stopped everything after that. We had some unbelievable, Grade-A chances. It wasn’t a situation of us making him look good tonight. He made some spectacular stops.”
Vaughan’s frustration didn’t come close to that of Leaman thanks to a questionable call by referee Tim Kotyra. Midway through the second period Dutchman Jason Visser appeared to score when he redirected a high slapshot past Silverthorn on the power play. Kotyra, who had positioned himself a few feet from the net, initially signaled a goal. After a conference with linesmen Chip McDonald and Joe Ross, however, Kotyra ruled that the puck had been knocked in with a high stick.
“What’s most disappointing is that the referee, who was three feet from the call, sees it that way and calls it that way, and then he lets the guy 50 to 60 feet away from him change his mind,” said Leaman. “That’s what’s most frustrating from a coaching standpoint.”
He continued, “When the guy is three feet from the play, calls goal, and then 10 seconds later a linesman comes up and changes his mind… I don’t know. It’s the referee’s job to make the calls, especially when it’s three feet from him. You ask your players to be accountable to you all the time. Now hopefully the league will watch the tape and the referees will be held accountable.”
Not surprisingly, Vaughan’s opinion of Kotyra’s decision rang differently.
“I saw a high stick,” he said. “I think [Kotyra] did what you’re supposed to do. If he’s unsure he’s got to ask his ARs. What you want to do is get the call right, so when he brought them in and asked them, obviously they had a different vantage point than he did. They got the call right.”
After surviving a potential tying goal, Colgate caught another break when Kyle Wilson’s power-play slapshot, which knuckled high into the air after the forward nearly fanned on a one-timer attempt, floated over Mayotte — who had skated forward to challenge the shot — and into the net.
“They got two bounces,” said Leaman. “Their third goal almost hit the rafters and then it goes in.”
Wilson returned to the ice on Friday after breaking his foot against this same Union team a little over a month ago. The junior, who brought his season point total to 18 in 22 games played, hopes that, with bounces like his, he might spur an offense which has floundered of late.
“I was just trying to get it on the net,” he said of his goal. “Sometimes you get the breaks, and sometimes you don’t. I thought it was hitting the glass or going over the glass. Everyone just looked up and watched in bewilderment as it went in the net. I’ll take what I can get.”
Union has faced scoring woes of its own. Following a 6-0-0 beginning to their ECACHL schedule, the Dutchmen have scored 10 goals in 13 games against league foes en route to a 1-12-0 record during that span. Scoring will not come easy Saturday night as they face Cornell netminder David McKee and his 1.30 goals against average.
Meanwhile, Colgate clinched a first-round bye with its victory over Union and a Dartmouth loss, and looks to Saturday night’s contest with Rensselaer as its first step towards jockeying for position in the league’s top four.