SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — In the first game of the best-of-three series between Union and Colgate, the Dutchmen pulled out a 4-1 victory behind two first period and third period goals.
Union jumped out to a hot start in the first period causing the Raiders to play catch up early. Even though the Raiders clawed their way back to make it a one goal game at the end of two periods, it was not enough as the Dutchmen prevailed.
“They played so well early that we were back on our heels for the entire first period,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughn. “They came out of the locker room really strong and we didn’t have an answer.”
“We just wanted to make sure we’re outworking our opponents and just trying to do the little things like winning battles on the wall, managing the puck in our own end, and staying disciplined,” said Union captain Brock Matheson. “We’ve tried to keep it simple all year and that focus has not changed going into the playoffs.”
The Dutchmen dominated the opening frame, outshooting the Raiders 22-4 and jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
Union set the tone early as they commenced the scoring less than five minutes into the game. After seniors Justin Pallos and Stephane Boileau created pressure and caused a turnover in left corner of Colgate’s zone, Pallos was able to knock the puck on to the stick of classmate Andrew Buote in the slot, who one touched the puck through the five-hole of Colgate goaltender Eric Mihalik.
Colgate fell behind two goals late in the period when the Dutchmen converted on a five-on-three advantage just after the Raiders were called for too many men. The play began in Colgate’s right faceoff circle where Kelly Zajac won the puck back to Adam Presizniuk. The senior from Calgary, Alberta then slid the puck across to Wayne Simpson in the left circle, who proceeded to fire a one-timer past Mihalik.
Union once again outshot Colgate in the second frame, but it was the Raiders who scored the lone goal of the period.
They cut their deficit in half in the latter portion of the period when Chris Wagner picked up the puck in his own zone and flew down the right wing. Once he got to the right circle in the Union zone, he ripped an uncontested slap shot short-side past the glove of Union goaltender Keith Kinkaid.
The Raiders had a great opportunity to tie the game during four-on-four play with about a minute left in the second period after a scrum ensued in front of Kinkaid, who made a diving glove save on the melee. Francois Brisebois hit the post during the battle in front, and Matt Hatch came up with some important blocks while Kinkaid was caught out of place.
“I thought I had the puck between my legs but the ref thought not, and the guys just did a great job clogging the middle of the net and keeping it out,” said Kinkaid. “I think Hatch was the one that went into goalie mode, and it was nice to see him sacrificing his body.”
After this scare, Union never allowed the Raiders to tie the score and secured the victory with two third period goals.
The Dutchmen got their lead back to two on a goal by Hatch early in the period. The play began when Hatch raced for a dribbling puck into the Colgate zone along with a Raider defender. He was able to force the puck to the left boards to Presizniuk, who passed the puck to Zajac in the slot. Zajac took a shot that hit the side of the net, but Hatch scooped up the puck behind the right side of the net and wrapped the puck around to the other side of the net and stuffed it between the post and Mihalik’s pad.
“It was a great play by Matt winning the race to that loose puck,” said Matheson. “It’s those little things that are going to get it done for us in the long run.”
Wayne Simpson’s second power-play goal with under a minute left in regulation sealed the victory for Union.
This is not unfamiliar territory for the Raiders. Last weekend they dropped the first game at RPI only to come back and win the series.
“We’ve been here before and we were able to turn it around last weekend and get two wins back-to-back,” said Vaughn. “This is a different team, and by the way they played tonight we’re really going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
“Tomorrow is going to be a tougher game and we know that. We’re just going to focus on one period at a time,” said Wayne Simpson. “Tonight we’re going to prepare, get our rest, and come to the rink with the same mentality we had tonight.”
The two teams will meet again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for Game 2.