HAMILTON, N.Y. — The game between the Colgate Raiders and the Union Dutchmen Saturday night at Starr Rink meant nothing in the standings, as both teams had solidified their positions in the league.
You wouldn’t have thought that the way the game unfolded. This was the last regular season game for both the Raiders and the Dutchmen; it was the last opportunity for the teams to tune up before the playoffs. Even before the drop of the puck, it was evident that there was a playoff atmosphere on the ice and in the air.
Less than a minute into the game, Colgate jumped out on top. Co-captain David McIntyre sent a headman pass to Francois Brisebois, who broke into the zone with a burst of speed and took a quick wrist shot from inside the left circle that beat Keith Kinkaid in net. Nathan Sinz was credited with the secondary assist on the play. Just 52 seconds into the game, the Raiders were on top, 1-0.
“It was important,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan of the early goal. “We talked about it in the locker room. We wanted to have our legs and get off to a good start. Our guys answered the bell.”
Union fought back, notching the equalizer just seven minutes later. Stephane Boileau carried the puck into the zone and gave it off to Kyle Bodie at the top right circle. Bodie took a weak shot that goaltender Charles Long misjudged.
With just over four minutes left in the first, Union’s Wayne Simpson snuck behind the Colgate defense, getting an opportunity in the slot. Long slammed the door shut and made an incredible left toe save as Simpson tried to drag the puck across the crease.
“(Long) was a big difference tonight,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “We had looks, we had our chances. The bounces just didn’t go our way. We played good hockey both tonight and (against Cornell) but we didn’t have much to show for it. We will use the time off to refresh and prepare (for the playoffs).”
Kinkaid made a few spectacular saves of his own, particularly with his glove. On a power play early in the second period, Robbie Bourdon appeared to have Kinkaid beat high glove side, as Kinkaid was screened in front. Kinkaid reached back with his glove, nabbing the puck out of the air just before it passed the goal line.
Colgate’s power play unit would not be denied on its second consecutive opportunity of the second period.
The Raiders set up in the offensive zone and worked the puck out to the point. Defenseman Kevin McNamara controlled the puck along the left boards at the blue line. McNamara sent the puck across to Thomas Larkin. Larkin wound up and blasted a slap shot towards the goal, and Nick Prockow redirected the puck past Kinkaid and into the net, giving Colgate a 2-1 lead at 4:04 of the second period.
The Raiders padded their lead before the period ended. A Union shot by Kelly Zajac went wide of the net and wrapped around the boards to Raiders’ winger Kurtis Bartliff in the neutral zone. Bartliff raced down the right side, cut towards the net and beat Kinkaid to the short side with a wrist shot at 14:15.
Union made things interesting, getting its second goal halfway through the third period. Jason Walters won an offensive zone face-off to the right of Long. The puck rolled toward the high slot and right onto the stick of Mario Valery-Trabucco, who took a quick wrist shot low glove side, and Long had almost no time to react. With just under 10 minutes to play, Union was within one.
With just over three minutes left, Union broke in on a two-on-one, looking to tie the game. John Simpson skated down the right boards and crossed a pass to his brother Wayne. Long slid across and made the stop on the one-timer effort.
Brisebois put the game out of reach, getting a pass from Austin Smith and cutting to the left side of the net to beat Kinkaid with a high wrist shot with 2:30 left.
To cap off what was a successful Senior Night at Starr Rink, Colgate got an empty-net goal. Senior Jason Williams took control of the puck at his blue line and skated it up to center ice and passed it to McIntyre, who put it into the open net.
“We played fundamentally sound with the lead tonight,” commented Vaughan. “We were able to take care of our own end. Charles (Long) played really well tonight, I was happy for him.”
Both Colgate (15-13-6, 12-8-2) and Union (18-10-6, 12-6-4) will have byes in the first round of the playoffs next week. They will await their opponents and have home-ice advantage in the ECAC quarterfinals.