HAMILTON, N.Y. — After putting out a dismal showing in game one of the ECAC quarterfinals series against the Saint Lawrence Saints, the Colgate Raiders took two victories in a row to advance to the second round, defeating the Saints, 3-1, on Sunday night.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” summed up Saints’ head coach Joe Marsh about his team’s efforts in the series. “[Starr Rink] is a tough place to play. We threw everything we could at them. The Raiders are a better team than people think. They beat us five times this season. They’re a well-coached team.”
Marsh continued to praise Colgate head coach Don Vaughan in his interview session, as well as his team’s seniors. Marsh spent a significant amount of time after the game talking to his team in the locker room before be came out to meet the press. “I wanted to wrap it up the right way,” he said.
“Our leadership stepped up,” said Vaughan. He pointed out that the keys to winning the series were that his starting goaltender, Mark Dekanich, settled down between the pipes after an average showing in game one for games two and three, and also that the line changes the coaching staff devised forced his players to focus and communicate more.
As in each of the previous playoffs games, the team that scored first nabbed the victory, and like Saturday night Ben Camper for the Raiders broke the scoreless tie late in the first period. Camper has benefited tremendously from being placed on a line with team scoring leader Tyler Burton and Peter Bogdanich.
“Playing with Burts and Bogs is really fun,” Camper said.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first, Bogdanich received a drop pass from Burton at the red line and carried the puck on his own into the Saints’ zone. Bogdanich then looked for an outlet in front of the goal. Burton crashing toward the net drew away two back-checking Saints, leaving Camper unguarded in the slot. Camper one-timed a shot on goal that Saints’ netminder John Hallas made the initial leg save on. Camper, however, followed up his shot and tapped home his second goal of the series.
“I didn’t hear the siren,” Camper said, “so I just kept going.”
“Ben’s greatest asset is his intelligence,” assessed Vaughan. “He’s a real heady player. He played off Tyler well.”
After a scoreless second period, the first scoreless period of the series, Colgate quickly extended its lead. Merely 29 seconds in to the third, Camper led linemate Burton with a pass that created a Colgate two-on-one opportunity. Burton crossed the St. Lawrence blue line, picked his head up, and opted to take the shot himself. Burton tucked the puck in from the off-side wing under Hallas’ blocker for his third goal of the playoffs.
Wade Poplawski gave the Raiders a 3-0 lead on a power-play goal a quarter of the way into the third. Co-defender Kevin McNamara went D-to-D, giving Poplawski several seconds to make a decision about where to put the puck. Poplawski subtly wrested a shot on goal that Hallas neither saw nor heard coming. The puck slipped past Hallas low blocker side.
SLU finally cracked the scoreboard 7:47 into the third. Brock McBride caused a turnover at the Raider blue line and in one motion spun around putting a shot on goal. Charlie Giffin, caught deep in the Raiders’ zone, cut toward the front of the net and tipped the shot over Dekanich’s shoulder.
Though they had a number of quality scoring chances, the Saints were unable to notch another before the end of regulation.
Dekanich put on another solid performance for Colgate, making 27 saves in the game, while Hallas made 19 saves for the Saints.
Colgate will face No. 13 Clarkson on the road in the next round of the playoffs. The teams have played to 1-1 and 0-0 ties in their season match-ups this year.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Clarkson,” said Vaughan. “We’ll have our hands full, “he added, “but that’s the play-offs. We’re thrilled to play another day.”
It will be a best-of-three series beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. in Potsdam, N.Y.