HAMILTON, N.Y. — In an exciting back-and-forth battle, the Colgate Raiders (2-0-0) capped off a perfect weekend with a 6-5 victory, while the RIT Tigers sustained a disappointing season-opening loss. The Tigers managed to claw back from a three-goal deficit early in the game to eventually take a third-period lead, but a questionable goal and two late penalties led to the team’s demise down the stretch.
“It was a win that we scraped out,” said Raider assistant coach Brad Dexter. “We deserved to win. It was a good character win.”
Character was the theme that both teams’ players and coaches highlighted about their own play and the play of their opponent. The Tigers’ nine-year veteran head coach, Wayne Wilson, after commenting on Colgate’s good job bouncing back down the stretch, remarked that he was disappointed with the loss but happy with where the team is at and with the way his team battled back rather than getting down when losing early in the game.
Raider head coach Don Vaughan had commented that his team had shown good “jump” in Friday night’s game against the Sacred Heart Pioneers, and they displayed no less to begin their game against the Tigers. After an 0-for-6 night on the power play to open their season, the Raiders took advantage of their first power play against the Tigers. Colgate captain Jesse Winchester tipped a Kevin McNamara slapper from the point past RIT netminder Louis Menard for his second goal of the season, giving Colgate an early 1-0 lead.
Raider Jason Williams followed up with his first goal of the season 10 minutes later off a well-executed passing play between his linemates Franc Brisbois and David McIntye. Brisbois one-timed a pass to McIntyre, who was streaking down the right side toward the offensive blue line. McIntyre skated the puck in, and then zipped a pass cross-ice to Williams, who was following the play, and he snapped the puck home before a sprawling Menard could get across the goal mouth.
Colgate’s lead was extended to 3-0 off Jason Fredericks’ first goal of the season. A Winchester headman pass sprang Ethan Cox and Fredericks on a two-on-one. Cox opted to take the shot, on which Menard made a good leg save but left a wide-open net for Fredericks to bury the rebound.
The Tigers roared back to life soon after the Fredericks goal. Last year’s second-best power play in college hockey finally showed its stuff to cut the lead to 3-1, after the Tigers generated pressure around Raider Mark Dekanich’s net. Simon Lambert got off a wraparound shot, the rebound of which Sean Murphy backhanded home for the first collegiate goal of his career.
Three minutes later, just as another Raider penalty expired, the Tigers again were again buzzing around the Raider goal and managed to cut to lead to 3-2. Dekanich stopped the initial shot from Lambert on his knees, but lost sight of the rebound. Tiger Matt Smith found the loose puck and knocked it into the open side.
The Raiders seemed to have regained their composure going into the second period, and midway through they extended their lead to 4-2. After a mid-ice transition, the Raiders rushed into the RIT zone on a 3-on-2. David McIntyre dropped a pass to Brian Day, who wristed in his second collegiate goal under Menard’s glove from the top of the slot.
The momentum quickly shifted in the Tigers’ favor, however. Taking advantage of another power play, Lambert whisked a heads-up pass from the point to Smith standing alone by the right post, and he roofed his second goal of the game to make the score 4-3.
Less than two minutes later the Tigers capitalized on poor Raider defensive-zone coverage. Justin Hofstetter held the puck in the offensive zone off a Tyler Mazzei shot and took an off-balance wrister on which Dekanich made a sprawling save, but was too far out of position to stop the rebound which Jesse Newman slid into the open side.
Thus the score was tied when the teams headed into the locker room for the second intermission. 2:40 into the third RIT took its first lead of the game on a wacky play. Four out of five Raiders got caught crashing the Tiger net, leaving Fredericks the lone defender against four Tigers rushing toward the Raider end. Matt Crowell carried the puck most of the way, and sniped a shot under Dekanich’s glove and just inside the near post for his first goal of the season.
Colgate looked to be on its heels for the ensuing minutes, but David McIntyre brought the pep back into the Raiders’ step with his second goal of the game. McIntyre zipped down the right-side boards coast-to-coast, weaving through two Tiger forwards, and then stopped just in front of the Tiger goal to watch all the Tiger backcheckers overshoot their mark. Day then whipped a shot that ricocheted off teammate Brisbois’ skate and followed up his shot to stuff home the rebound. Menard laid out across the goal line and trapped the puck in his glove, but the referee trailing the play signaled that it was a goal.
Wilson spent several minutes talking over those events to no avail with the referee, insisting that the referee was not in a position to make the call and that the goal judge did not signal the goal until after the referee gave the signal.
“I asked him where he was standing because I felt he was too far behind the play to make that call. I wish he had conferred with the goal judge or one of the linesmen, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” the Tiger coach said.
Colgate then regained the lead five minutes later, with Day striking again on a Colgate 5-on-3 power play. Stevan Matic and Brennan Sarazin were sent to the sin bin for tripping and kneeing, respectively. After carefully working the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone, Mark Anderson at the point found Day alone on the doorstep, who tipped home Colgate’s sixth goal.
“[The McIntyre goal] flustered us, and then we really shot ourselves in the foot with those two late penalties,” said Wilson.
Though it was a disappointing loss, the Tigers felt that they came away from the game with many positive aspects to look back upon.
“It was good to see the power play working,” said Lambert with his hard hat in hand, earned each game by the hardest-working Tiger. “We know we can compete at the Division I level.”
RIT is only in its third season as a Division I program.
“There isn’t a team on the schedule that we’re considered underdogs against,” followed up Wilson. “We’re still working out our systems. Right now we’re playing as much to calculate as to win, to see where different people fit best. It’s not like we’re two points down in the standings yet — we really appreciate Colgate inviting us here to get a taste of ECAC hockey.”
None of the Raiders felt that this was a lucky victory. “We deserved it,” said Dekanich, “it shows good character to fight back the way we did.”
“A win’s a win,” added Raider defenseman Matt Torti. “Down the line these are the types of wins you need because they could end up being what gets us into playoffs. Hockey’s a game of mistakes — throughout the course of the season you just need to keep on working to fix them.”
The Raiders will return to the ice next Friday on the road against Michigan State. RIT will host Bowling Green that same evening for its next matchup.