HAMILTON, N.Y. — Every journey begins with the first step, and after four straight league losses the Harvard Crimson (2-4-0, 1-4-0 ECACHL) finally took that first step towards defending their two straight ECACHL titles with their first league victory. The Crimson ousted the Colgate Raiders (3-6-2, 0-3-1) 4-1 Saturday evening, which leaves Colgate still in search of its own first league win.
“To be honest, we’re pretty tired. This was not our best game,” remarked Crimson head coach Ted Donato, now in his third season behind the bench. He thought that his team played as if it were physically and emotionally drained. “We were not sharp all around, but we didn’t give up much. The team defended well but the execution wasn’t there.”
14-year veteran head coach Don Vaughan said of his own team, “We’re not playing good hockey right now. We’re in a rut.”
The Raiders have played several disappointing games in a row which they had hoped to put behind them with a victory against the Crimson.
Starting in goal for the Raiders for the first time was the Freshman Charles Long, who gave regular starting goaltender Mark Dekanich a rest after a shaky showing in Colgate’s 6-3 loss to Dartmouth the night before. Long played solidly between the pipes, making 37 saves. Coach Donato said that he had intended to rotate his goaltenders, and particularly after the previous night’s 3-2 loss to Cornell, Donato gave Justin Tobe the nod. Tobe ended up with 18 saves by the end of the evening.
“He played great. He played the puck well, wasn’t too aggressive. Couldn’t ask for more,” assessed Crimson captain Dylan Reese of his goaltender’s play. “Coach Jay said to me after the Justin handled the first shot of the game, ‘He’s on!’ and from that point we could witness how confident he was,” added Coach Donato about Tobe.
After killing off a slew of penalties in the first half of the opening period, including a 5-on-3 advantage, the Crimson countered with a number of power plays of its own and the game’s first goal. On a two-man advantage, Doug Rogers wristed a shot from the high slot that Long was able to get his glove on but not catch. The puck bounced behind him right onto the tape of Mike Taylor standing on the doorstep who one-timed home his second goal of the season.
The Raiders responded three minutes later, on what Coach Donato termed a “freak goal.” Jesse Winchester crossed the blue-line wristing the puck towards the net. The puck deflected off a Crimson defender and through Tobe, knotting the score at one off Winchester’s first goal of the season.
The scoring lulled until midway through the second. Dave Watters stripped the puck from a Raider attempting to break out of the defensive zone. Watters threw the puck at the net and missed wide, but the puck ricocheted off the boards behind the net and came out to Jimmy Fraser on the opposite post. Fraser beat Long low glove side for his second goal of the season.
Harvard then secured its lead in the third period. Almost seven minutes in, Fraser took a shot towards the net that missed and bounced off the back-boards with such force that it came all the way out to the right point to J.D. McCabe. McCade one-timed a shot that fluttered end-over-end top shelf past Long’s glove. Long may not have seen the shot, or if he did, was fooled by its off speed. It was McCabe’s first collegiate goal in his 22 games played for the Crimson.
To cap off the scoring, the Crimson took advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity to put Colgate away. The Raiders caught a bad break as two of their players simultaneously received minor penalties — Peter Bogdanich for holding the stick and Mark Anderson for hooking — at 11:46 in the third. After working the puck around the perimeter, Brian McCafferty found defensive partner Reese wide open at the top of the slot.
Reese let go a slapshot that was buried low glove side for his third goal of the season and to seal the deal for Harvard. Of the simultaneous penalties, all Vaughan had to comment was that both were deserved. “That’s the way they’re calling the game,” he said, “and it was the result of them not moving their feet. We deserved them both.”
Vaughan felt that his penalty-killing unit played well overall, only allowing two 5-on-3 goals. His power play unit was a different matter. “It’s nonexistent at the moment,” Vaughan said. The Raiders finished the game 0 for 9 on the power play. “In nine opportunities we didn’t have ten shots on goal…if you don’t put more than a shot on goal per power play you’re not going to score very much,” said Vaughan in a disgusted manner.
The Raiders’ captain, Liam Huculak, had this to say after the game about his team’s effort, “We didn’t work the way we should have. It was disappointing. We have to outwork the other team.” When asked how the Raiders could turn their fortunes around, he said, “We need to move past [games like these]. We shouldn’t forget about how awful it feels, but keep it in the back of our minds because we don’t want to feel that way any more.”
Colgate will try once more to earn its first league win as the team hits the road to play Quinnipiac, Friday November 17th at 7 p.m., and Princeton, Saturday November 18th at 7 p.m. Harvard looks to expand upon its first league win as the it hosts Brown November 17th at 7 p.m. and Yale November 18th at 8 p.m.