A year after going to the NCAA Tournament, and a controversial play in overtime from advancing to the quarterfinals, the Colgate Raiders fell out of the ECAC playoffs last season.
“We’ve put last season behind us; we tried to do that right away and not to dwell on it,” said Raider head coach Don Vaughan. “We hope that it was a speed bump, and the sooner we put it behind us and focus on this year, the better.”
In order to do that, the Raiders will have to rely on youth. Over the past two years, the Raiders graduated the likes of Andy McDonald, Sean Nolan, Darryl Campbell and Cory Murphy.
“We are very young — this is the youngest team I’ve ever had,” said Vaughan. “From a coaching standpoint that’s an exciting opportunity to be able to get a team like that, coaching them and working with them.
“The other thing that goes hand in hand with that is patience. We have to work to bring them along and our upperclassmen have been very good so far. In order for us to be successful this group will have to play like upperclassmen sooner than usual.
“You can look to guys like Etienne Morin, Ben Bryce and Steve Silversides [to lead]. We’ll pull on the seniors even though there’s not a lot of them.”
Last season the Raiders scored 95 goals in 34 games. The season before they scored 132 goals in 35 games. That’s quite a dropoff.
“Offense is still a concern of ours as a staff,” said Vaughan. “Our offensive production was down last year and somebody else will have to pick up the slack for us. We’ll have to pull on guys like Etienne. Scooter Smith is a guy we missed in the second half last year, and a guy like him can help us. P.J. Yedon will continue to come on for us.”
Some of the dropoff came on the power play, where the Raiders were dangerous for the previous two years, but dropped from 49 goals to 37 last season.
“There were some younger guys that got to play special teams last year,” said Vaughan. “Those guys have seen some time, so from a special-teams standpoint we might be okay. We’ll miss Cory Murphy, but a guy like Rob Brown will help us out there.”
The Raiders will get an infusion of youth on the front lines. Vaughan likes what he has recruited.
“Adam Mitchell is somebody that a lot of guys would like to have in their program,” he said. “He can play offense and defense. Jaymon Hill is a big strong winger and will be able to step in and play a role for us.
“We think that if we can get [Dmitry] Yashin in the right spot… He’s not his brother (NHL star Alexei), but he’s got great hands and a pro shot. Those three guys should be able to step in right away. And we’ve got other guys that have speed. I think we’ve increased our team speed.”
The defense will also be young.
“Bryce and Silversides played well for us down the stretch and then Rob Brown played every game last year, so we’ll lean on those three guys heavily,” said Vaughan. “We’re excited about some of the younger kids, and I hope they are quick learners.
“This is the biggest group of defensemen that we’ve had. [Joey] Mormina, [Rich] Hodgkinson and [Justin] Spencer are all big kids that should be able to play.”
The Raiders will return experience in goal as both sophomore David Cann and senior Jason Lefevre are back.
“David played very well down the stretch, and Jason realizes that this is his last go at it and he wants to go our with a bang,” said Vaughan. “He seems to be ready to go. [Steve] Silverthorn is a big kid in the net and there could be a three-way battle back there.”
The Raiders are a young squad, but one that could challenge as the season goes on. But right now, Vaughan is seeing what his young team is all about.
“We’re going to have to be patient, and the schedule may be ambitious to begin with,” he said about facing Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota in the first four games. “We have to find out where we’re at and we’ll find that out early.”