HAMILTON, N.Y. — When all the cogs are working together and working well, it’s hard to stop the machine.
After weathering an early storm of offense from Massachusetts-Lowell, the Colgate Raiders roared back with a vengeance in the form of five straight goals. The River Hawks finally put points on the board in the third period, but it was too little, too late as the Raiders went on to win 6-2.
It was Lowell’s first loss to Colgate in their last five meetings.
“Colgate played very, very well,” said River Hawk head coach Blaise MacDonald. “They did the little things I was hoping our team would do. At the end of the day, Colgate had more desire, tenacity, and willingness to hunt down loose pucks.”
Colgate coach Don Vaughan confirmed MacDonald’s statements, adding that the Raiders sustained a good forecheck and that he liked the flow of the game. Vaughan, 4-6-2 in season openers while behind the bench at Colgate, said that those statistics had not entered his mind.
“We wanted to get off to a good start. The poise of the young guys was nice to see,” Vaughan said.
The visiting River Hawks (0-1-0), tied for third in the Hockey East coaches’ poll, came out of the gates flying, but quickly lost their momentum after a goal by Colgate junior Marc Fulton in the waning minutes of the first period. Colgate’s momentum carried over, providing the Raiders with plenty of cushion to finish off the game.
No. 16 UMass-Lowell hoped to sustain its four-game winning streak against Colgate (1-0-0), ranked 18th in the nation in the USCHO.com/CSTV preseason poll, but did not show the sustained offense necessary to complete the task. The River Hawks began the game with three straight power plays, but converted on none of them.
Instead, Lowell quickly went down halfway through the second period by three goals. Fulton scored his second of the game, while sophomore Jesse Winchester ratcheted his third career goal. Assistant captain Kyle Wilson notched Colgate’s fourth goal late in the second period on the power play; he had two hacks at a loose puck in front and on the second put it home.
Later, he scored Colgate’s sixth goal, again strong in front of the net on the power play — a power play that proved deadly and promising.
Sophomore Tyler Burton was credited with Colgate’s fifth goal, his 20th in his college career.
Vaughan noted that Ryan Smith, “one of the team’s most conditioned athletes,” played like the big man he is, and his two assists on the first two Colgate goals showed his speed, puckhandling ability, and vision.
The Raiders seemed to have their heads on a swivel, as at least four of the team’s goals were the result of players finding the open man in front of the net. The River Hawks’ two goals were scored late in the third period, the first by Mark Pandolfo, who buried the puck top shelf over a fallen Mark Dekanich — knocked over by his own defenseman — and the second a deflection by Jeremy Hall that found its way in on the near side of the net under the goaltender’s glove.
“Some games the bad bounces matter,” said Dekanich, “luckily today they didn’t.”
Dekanich was the number-one star of the game with 32 saves.
“I was excited about the opportunity to play,” the young netminder said, “I was nervous all day because I knew it was a big game, but I’ve learned a lot from [former Colgate netminder] Steve [Silverthorn] and I wanted to do the best job I could.”
“Dex,” as his teammates affectionately call him, commended his defense, saying, “I saw every shot straight on, which is what we like to see, and the defense gave me a lot of support.”
Vaughan complimented Dekanich’s play, remarking that he had faith in the youngster filling the big shoes of Silverthorn.
For Lowell, last year’s Hockey East rookie of the year Peter Vetri ended the game with 29 saves, but allowed all six Colgate goals, though most were back-door plays or from loose pucks sitting in the crease.
Colgate plays next at Lake Superior State on Friday, October 14, at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, Lowell hosts Rensselaer Sunday at 2 p.m.