HAMILTON, N.Y. — Brown’s woes in Starr Rink continued and Colgate’s offense finally arrived, as the Raiders knocked off the Bears 4-1 and earned a 1-0 edge in their ECACHL quarterfinal series.
Brown (16-13-3, 9-11-2 ECACHL) dropped its 13th straight game in Hamilton and fell to 1-14-0 against Colgate (23-9-3, 14-5-3) in their last 15 games. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ four unanswered goals marked the first time since January 21 that the team has managed more than three tallies.
“We didn’t play very well,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “I thought we were flat. I thought we played better in the second, but in the end we just didn’t have enough spirit or energy.”
The Bears managed just a single shot in the first period, while Brown goalie Adam D’Alba stopped 11 shots to keep his team even with Colgate at 0-0 at the end of one.
“He’s a great goaltender,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan, “and I think of the three games we’ve played against them, he played his best game tonight. He’s the real deal.”
After extending its shot advantage to 19-3 in the second period, Colgate watched in dismay as Brown’s Brian McNary scored a power play goal to give the visitors a momentary lead. Colgate’s Steve Silverthorn stopped the 5-foot-11 freshman’s initial backhand, but surrendered a rebound which McNary chipped over the goalie’s right shoulder.
“I thought we played pretty well for the first four or five minutes of the second,” said Grillo. “We were moving the puck pretty well and we got a nice goal. But we just couldn’t get any rhythm going.”
An experienced Raiders club, consisting of nine seniors, refused to let the setback haunt the team, and rallied Colgate to action.
“We have a lot of experience on this club,” said Vaughan. “We relied on the older guys, and let them talk. They really had command of the locker room and on the bench. You’ve got guys like [Darryl] McKinnon, [Adam] Mitchell, and Joey Mormina who are pretty good at calming down even the coaching staff at times.”
Senior tri-captain Adam Mitchell knotted the score at 1-1 with a power-play goal five minutes later with a low seeing-eye wrist shot from the blue line. Afterwards, he skated towards his bench with arms raised, sparking his teammates.
“I was going to throw the puck back down into the corner because I didn’t think I had a shooting lane, but as soon as I looked there their guy moved to the boards to cut it off, so I just threw the puck on net,” said Mitchell. “It skipped right up over the goalie’s pads, but we’ll take them however we can get them. After that went in we really turned the tides and started to play our game, which is grinding it out down low and really getting after it.”
Mitchell, who also recorded an assist on the evening, has picked up five points in his last three games after struggling through a four-game scoring drought.
“I thought it was one of his best games of the year,” said Vaughan. “He had great jump, a really level charge on the forecheck, and created a lot just by keeping his feet moving. We’ve seen him do that a lot this year, but tonight was his best.”
Colgate’s Jon Smyth gave the team its first lead of the night with the game’s only even-strength goal. Sneaking in on the near post, Smyth received a neat backhand feed from McKinnon and buried the chance just under the arm of a sprawling D’Alba, who finished the night with 28 saves.
“With D’Alba, if you give him a chance to see the puck he’s going to make the save,” said Smyth. “You wouldn’t want to leave it to a great pass from Darryl McKinnon every time to score, but if we can get him off balance and out of position, those are the ones that will score.”
After surrendering third-period leads in each of their last two games, the Raiders ended the streak by adding to their lead in the final frame. Mike Campaner cashed in on a power-play rush by sliding the rubber along the ice and just past D’Alba’s outstretched right pad.
Dustin Gillanders scored only his third goal of the year with Colgate on the man advantage as well. The 6-foot-2 sophomore skated hard towards the front of the Brown cage and jammed the puck past the Bears’ screened netminder.
“Dustin’s very capable of doing more of that,” said Vaughan. “He’s a big power forward, and he drove to the net and finished. I thought that was a great goal.”
The Raiders finished the evening 3-for-7 with the man advantage, marking only the third time all season that Colgate has managed three power-play goals.
“Power plays are funny things,” said Vaughan. “You can move it around and execute on all of your passing on some nights and not score. Tonight I didn’t think we had great control of the puck in the zone on the power play, and yet we finished.”
Meanwhile, after generating nine shots in the second period, Brown fell back to lackluster play in the final 20 minutes, firing only two shots on Silverthorn while allowing Colgate to extend its lead out of the Bears’ reach.
“They’re a tough team to get the puck to the front of the net on,” said Grillo. “We’ve just got to keep our feet moving and be smarter about where we send the puck. We turned the puck over way too many times in that area, and they capitalized on it.”
Colgate had dropped its last two home playoff openers, both against St. Lawrence, and managed to come back for the eventual series win on each occasion. The team still likes its chances better with a Game 1 victory, however.
“It’s huge,” said Smyth. “It was on my mind leading into this week. I thought it would be great to get that first game. It just makes such a huge difference, and the attitude that’s there when you win the first game at home is huge.”
Brown now needs two road victories in a row to continue to Albany. Grillo knows that a different Bears team will need to show up for such a comeback to be possible.
“We played poorly tonight,” he said. “That’s not to take anything away from Colgate. We just were not very good.”