HAMILTON, N.Y. — Colgate goaltender Steve Silverthorn’s fifth shutout of the season kept Brown at zero in more than one category, as the Raiders completed a two-game sweep of the Bears in their best-of-3 ECACHL quarterfinal series with a 3-0 victory at Starr Rink on Saturday night.
Silverthorn added to his school career record by collecting his eighth blanking, and tied Colgate’s single-season mark. With a pair of victories next weekend during the ECACHL tournament, the senior could eclipse the Raiders’ all-time wins record and advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time in his career.
“You’re not going to win in Albany without great goaltending, and you’re going to see a lot of great goaltenders in Albany,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “He’s done it all year long, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t continue.”
Brown (16-14-3), frustrated all weekend after scoring 11 times in two games against Rensselaer, struggled to generate quality scoring chances against Silverthorn for the second straight night. The Bears played a solid first period and earned three power plays. But they failed to send a shot on goal while on the man-advantage, a streak that continued through their first five power plays.
“The game was there waiting for us to grab some momentum, and we just couldn’t get anything going,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “Our power play struggled tonight, especially early on. We didn’t create enough scoring chances on them, and it kept them in the game.”
Colgate (24-9-3) executed its grinding style much of the night, keeping the puck to the boards while clogging passing lanes.
“We’re probably not the prettiest team in the world to watch,” said Vaughan. “But we got the lead and we did a real good job with it. We’re not afraid to play in our own end, and even if we lose some territorial battles, I don’t think we give up a lot of grade-A chances.”
The Raiders took advantage of a two-man advantage early in the second period when an unexpected hero scored what eventually proved to be the game-winning goal. Tony Masotto’s slapshot from the blue line sailed through traffic and Brown goalie Adam D’Alba’s legs, giving Colgate a 1-0 lead.
“He played well all weekend,” said Vaughan of the 5-foot-6 senior, who assisted on both of Colgate’s subsequent goals as well. “I’m really happy for Tony. Tony didn’t play a whole lot early in the season, but he handled it very well, and he really hasn’t looked back. He got all of that shot, and it’s nice to see him get that in his last game at home.”
ECACHL Rookie of the Year candidate Tyler Burton buried a rebound opportunity seven minutes later. The Langley, B.C., native’s 18 goals ties him with Dartmouth’s Nick Johnson for most goals for most goals for a league freshman, and moves him into ninth on Colgate’s all-time rookie scoring list.
Down 2-0 with eight minutes remaining in the game, Brown received one final chance to get back into the game on the power play. But the Bears failed to get the puck to the net once again, and finished the weekend 1-for-11 on the man-advantage.
“[Assistant coach] Stan Moore’s done a great job with [our penalty killers] all year long,” said Vaughan. “That’s his baby. When you have only one opponent you can prepare for them all week, and it gives you a real advantage. We did a great job of getting in passing and shooting lanes.”
Colgate’s Dave Thomas laid the finishing blow to Brown, hacking a rebound past a diving D’Alba. The goal was the senior’s first in nearly two months, and proved that the extra week’s rest which the Raiders earned by way of finishing third in the league may have been just what the doctor ordered for Thomas and his teammates.
“For certain guys it was definitely important,” said Vaughan of the added rest. “We used a handful of guys an awful lot down the stretch. I thought Dave Thomas came back to life. He’d had a couple of tough weeks leading into this one.”
“It’s a long season,” added Masotto. “We’ve been going since September. So I think the week off got the guys focused and got everybody healthy. From now on it’s a straight sprint, so it’s important to have everyone rested.”
Brown finished with a third straight winning season, and seniors Gerry Burke, Les Haggett, Rob Kapuscinski, Mike Meech, Scott Rowan, and Chris Swon became the Bears’ winningest class in the last 30 years. After the game, Grillo spent extra time talking to them in the locker room.
“I thanked them for what they did for us over the last four years,” he said. “They meant a lot to this program, and hopefully our young guys can carry on that tradition.”
The future looks bright for the Bears, whose freshman class outscored every other class on the team and whose number-one goaltender is a candidate for the ECACHL’s All-Rookie team.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Grillo. “It was a decent year. We did a lot of positive things. It was disappointing the way we played last night, and obviously a disappointing finish to the year. But there are a lot of positives we can build on for the future.”
Meanwhile, Colgate sets its sights towards Albany for the second straight season. Last year the upstart Clarkson Golden Knights upset the top-ranked Raiders in the semifinals, keeping Colgate from its first NCAA bid since 2000 and its first ECAC championship since 1990.
“We’re going over there to win this thing,” said Vaughan. “This team was there last year, and I think they were very disappointed with the semifinal loss. They’re on a mission, and they have a purpose.”
Awaiting the Raiders will be Harvard, a team which Colgate beat twice earlier in the season. But Silverthorn knows that the past will have little to do with what Friday night brings.
“We’ve won twice against them in the regular season, but that means nothing in the playoffs,” he said. “The playoffs are a totally different story.”