HAMILTON, N.Y. — Again, they’re never easy. The No. 13 Colgate Raiders (10-2-3, 6-1-1) recovered from a two-goal deficit to score three straight goals, defeating the Princeton Tigers (3-9-0, 2-8-0) on Saturday night. The Raiders put an exclamation point on the end of their weekend home stand with a thrilling comeback finish after being twice down to the Quinnipiac Bobcats the night before and winning 4-3.
Princeton was playing after making a poor showing against the Cornell Big Red, in which it was outshot 42-18. The Tigers had quite the challenge before them as they were winless in their last seven games against the Raiders and did not have a victory in Starr Rink since the 2000-01 season. After Saturday’s loss, Princeton is winless in eight of its last nine games.
The Tigers got off to the positive start they needed. The first period was relatively quiet, until Tiger captain Patrick Neundorfer picked up his fourth goal of the season on a late power play. With exactly one minute to go in the first, Raider Matt Torti took a boarding penalty. Eight seconds later a shot came in from Darryl Marcoux at the point which Raider netminder Mark Dekanich made the initial save; however, the rebound escaped him and landed just in front of the goal line in the crease. Neundorfer dove for the puck Bobby Orr style to give Princeton the 1-0 lead.
In the eighth minute of the second, Tiger Kyle Hagel received a head-man pass from his defenseman, Brett Westgarth, and as he gained the blue line and let one rip. The big slap shot from the off wing caught Dekanich off guard and slipped by on the near side under the glove. Colgate struggled with connecting breakout passes and setting up on the power play. The second best power play in the nation was stopped for only the second game this season, but that didn’t hold back the Raiders’ trinity of captain Jon Smyth, Tyler Burton, and Jesse Winchester.
Eric Main sparked the Raider resurrection later in the second. Smyth dumped the puck into the opposite corner while Winchester and Burton chased hard to fight for possession. Eventually Burton worked the puck free and cut towards the slot. He drew the attention of the Tiger defenders, which allowed the defenseman Main to sneak in from the point. Burton passed to Main in front, who one-timed it home for his second of the season.
The Raiders went into the locker room with a surge of confidence.
“Coach knew we were going to win this game,” Smyth said.
“I just told the guys that I didn’t want them to win the game one shift,” responded Raider head coach Don Vaughan about his between-period speech, “I wanted them to work hard and work the puck down low. Tyler and Jesse took over after that, they had some good things to say that sparked the team…When we hit the ice in the third, we were a very determined hockey club.”
The Raiders tied the game on another grinding goal. Burton and Winchester worked the puck back and forth down low until Winchester found Smyth heading around the net with speed. Smyth carried the puck on a wrap around that Tiger goaltender Eric Leroux slid too far and too quickly to stop. The backhander went in on the near side for Smyth’s sixth of the season, bringing the captain to a four-game point-scoring streak and his third goal in four games.
Colgate took the lead less than four minutes later after a quick change of possession that led to a two-on-one odd-man rush. Winchester caused a turnover at the Tiger blue line and quickly fed a pass to Tyler Burton streaking down the left-wing side. Burton roofed it over Leroux’s blocker for his 13th, while Winchester picked up his third assist of the game, extending his point scoring streak to five games.
“Since our line’s gotten back together, we’ve been very successful,” commented Smyth on playing with line-mates Burton and Winchester, “I love playing with those guys.”
“It’s great to watch them dominate down low,” Dekanich had to say about the Raiders’ first line.
Princeton pulled its goalie with 1:20 left in the game and held the puck in Colgate’s zone for practically the entire time left in regulation. Dekanich came up with two critical side-to-side saves to steal the show and seal the Colgate win.
“They were crashing hard and taking a lot of shots,” reminisced Dekanich, “but I stayed totally focused on the puck. That’s my job – keep the puck out of the net. It basically came down to reflexes,” with the Tigers buzzing around the net. “The second goal I let in was brutal, but I knew I had to park it and zap it out of my mind.”
When asked what caused the shift in momentum, Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky answered, “From my standpoint on the bench, it was Tyler Burton. He was fore checking and winning face offs…when we lost momentum, Tyler Burton was there to capitalize. Even when he didn’t get a point he was playing well.”
The Raiders next play in two weekends in the Providence, Rhode Island tournament December 21st and December 22nd, with games starting at 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively. Colgate is hoping to continue its five-game undefeated streak, while the Tigers host Alabama-Huntsville for two games December 9th and December 10th, both starting at 7:00 p.m. Princeton looks forward to playing its first game at home in the last seven and will try to turn around their losing streak.