A 4-1 record after five games had folks hopeful in Hamilton, but that was just about all she wrote for the Raiders in 2008-09.
Colgate’s 3-0 start wound up being the only winning streak of the Raiders’ whole season, as the team bellyflopped into an 8-17-7 tumble following the early five-game burst. The Raiders played a remarkable 19 overtime contests, including their last seven and nine of their last 11. The squad didn’t take the short end of the deal, going 6-6-7 in those extra sessions, so it’s hard to fault bad luck or sudden-death circumstances for the team’s troubles.
The ‘Gate did push Quinnipiac to the edge with three overtime contests in Hamden in the first round of the league playoffs, but it wasn’t meant to be as the Bobcats eventually muscled into the second round on the strength of Brandon Wong’s incindiary series.
Junior David McIntyre was a Hobey Baker Award finalist thanks to his 21-goal, 22-assist campaign, but frosh Austin Smith’s 17 goals and second-year Brian Day’s 14 kept opponents on their heels, as well. Four of the Raiders’ top 10 scorers were seniors, but the top four producers are all back in the fold this fall.
Junior Charles Long earned the lion’s share of the time tending the twine, playing 28 games and featuring a .909 save percentage and a goals against average right around 2.5.
McIntyre is clearly going to be a focus for anyone watching or playing the Raiders, so the question marks will fall hard on his supporting cast. Smith and Day will have to keep up with McIntyre if the offense is to produce, and other snipers will have to show themselves as well for Colgate to have sustained success.
Long, too, will have to improve along with his defense to prevent a repeat of last year’s slippery slides — the Raiders were victimized for four goals or more 13 times. The Raiders’ offense wasn’t that prolific then, going 2-11-0 in those games, and it’s highly doubtful that it will suddenly evolve to a level that can compensate for such sloppy work around the net.
“Defensively, we lost some senior leadership on the back end for sure,” coach Don Vaughan said of the departure of five graduated defenders. “That’s tough to replace on any team, but as a result we’re going to be playing with three freshmen on a regular basis this year.”
In the front end, however, things look a bit rosier.
“We have as much depth up front as we have in years at Colgate,” Vaughan said. “I’m pretty confident that we’re going to be OK. We want to continue to play an aggressive style of hockey; we have six or seven guys who have seen power-play time in the last few years. We need to do a better job producing on the power play though. It’s where a lot of goals are scored.”
While Vaughan isn’t ready to crown a first-string keeper just yet, he’ll acquiesce to curiosity.
“On paper, you’d think Longer gets the nod,” he allowed. “He attended New Jersey’s prospect camp” and did well there, Vaughan said.
Among the incoming class, the coach likes what he sees so far.
“We’re very confident with the group we’ve brought in. [On defense, NHL draft picks] Thomas Larkin and Jeremy Price could get some quality minutes early on, and [Mike] Leidl will provide stability. [Kurtis] Bartliff and Price think the game very well.”
One big advantage that this year’s team has over last year is depth, but that’s not important in the most obvious ways. Rather, the mere ability to run comprehensive practices is what has Vaughan giddy.
“The first thing that gets me excited is that we’ll have depth, especially at practice,” he said. “Last year, we had to get creative at practice. … We had some sessions where we only had five defensemen, and we had to hold back a bit. This year, the biggest difference in our game will be that we’ll be better prepared through having better practices.”