SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Tonight’s matchup at Messa Rink pitted first-place Union against last-place Colgate, with both teams coming off impressive wins the night before. The Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, but the Dutchmen came alive after that, scoring five unanswered goals before pulling out a 6-3 victory.
“They’re a very good hockey team and I thought they bottled us up in our own end. I thought at times we panicked a little bit, probably more so than we needed to,” Colgate coach Don Vaughn said. “Once they got some momentum, they just turned it up another gear.
Colgate’s hot start began midway through the first frame when Brian Day slid the puck under the pads of Union goaltender Keith Kinkaid from the bottom of the left circle.
They continued to have the upper hand throughout the period, and doubled their lead with less than two minutes left on their third power-play opportunity of the period. This time it was Thomas Larkin who beat Kinkaid with a shot from the far-side of the left circle.
“We just didn’t have great focus from anywhere; from the goaltender out we just didn’t have good focus,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “We kind of made things tough for us in the first.”
Union came back with a vengeance in the second period, as they controlled the play and tied the game at two, thanks to goals from two seniors.
The first goal was initiated on a wraparound attempt by Matt Hatch, who tried to stuff the puck the puck past the right leg of Colgate goaltender Eric Mihalik. Mihalik stopped the puck, but the rebound bounced to Adam Presizniuk at the right circle, who corralled the puck and fired it into the net.
The Dutchmen built off of this goal and knotted the score after applying some very long sustained pressure in the Colgate zone. After the trio of Jeremy Welsh, Josh Jooris, and Daniel Carr kept the puck in the Raiders zone for their entire shift, John Simpson jumped on to the ice during a change and picked up the puck at the top of the left circle and powered to the net with the puck. After a scrum ensued in front of Mihalik, the puck found its way over the goal line, which was credited to Simpson.
“It was a great team effort,” said Simpson. “Welshie’s [Jeremy Welsh] line had them down there for a minute and a half and we got a great change. They were just tired and [Stephane] Boileau had the puck, there were three guys on him, he just chipped it down low and I had the lane wide open and I just took it down to the net and luckily it went in.”
“Those are momentum changers when you can’t get the puck out, but we got out of the second tied, which was a good thing, and then we made a couple of bad mistakes,” said Vaughn. “If you make a few mistakes against a team like that, they end up in the back of the net.”
Union dominance continued in the third period, as they scored four goals to seal the victory.
Presizniuk gave the Dutchmen their first lead of the game about six minutes into the period when he found himself on a breakaway after receiving a pass from Kelly Zajac at the Colgate blue line and then beat a Colgate defender. He fumbled the puck while making a move, but it caught Mihalik off guard, which allowed Presizniuk to put the puck through Mihalik.
“Kelly made a great pass and I just tipped it past the defenseman,” said Presizniuk. “I fanned on it, and luckily it went in.”
Coach Vaughn called a timeout immediately following the goal to try and regroup his troops, but the tactic failed, as Daniel Carr one-touched a Jooris pass from the right corner into the net 16 seconds later to double Union’s lead
Jooris netted a power-play goal 3:30 later to give his team a comfortable three goal cushion.
The Raiders tried to mount a comeback late in the contest when Kevin McNamara caught Kinkaid out of place on a shot from the left circle to cut the deficit back to two. Vaughn then pulled Mihalik with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but Wayne Simpson sealed the Union victory with an empty-net goal.
Both teams have four ECAC games remaining on their schedules as Union looks to hold on to the top spot, while Colgate hopes to crawl out of the cellar.
“Our hard work has put us in a spot where we wanted to be,” Union captain Brock Matheson said after the game. “But that being said, our work is cut out for us for the next four games just to maintain that spot and keep improving.”