At one point, Colgate was a respectable 7-5-4. Then, just like that, a four-game slide put the Raiders a deuce under .500.
But they bounced back with nine points in six games, followed by an opportunistic three-game winning streak to close out the regular season that secured the ‘Gate a first-round bye.
The Raiders ran into a steaming St. Lawrence squad that lay Colgate flat in straight sets, terminating the 2009-10 campaign just as hopes were escalating for a deep playoff run. The Raiders featured four strikers who tallied double-digits in the goal column, led by Brian Day’s 21. Three of those players averaged over a point a game, with Austin Smith leading the pack with 16-25–41 in 36 games.
Goalie Alex Evin was serviceable, but failed to muster much personal momentum. His best weekend was a three-point effort against Robert Morris in late January, and only followed a win with a tie or better four times in nine opportunities.
Colgate returns eight of its top 10 scorers from last year, including its top three goal-scorers. The six departing seniors accounted for a little more than 20 percent of the team’s goals last year, despite the class consisting of five forwards and a goalie (Charles Long). This leaves the blue line entirely intact, and we can only presume that the defense will improve on its mediocre goals-against average (70 goals against in league play last year, tied for sixth).
“Consistency of effort and good team defense” are expected to be Colgate’s strengths this year, coach Don Vaughan said in an e-mail. “We had a tendency last year to make untimely and costly defensive mistakes. We are working to limit those things this year. A young defense with a year under its belt should help, but this will take commitment from everyone on the ice.”
Vaughan also believes that as opportunistic as his team was in wresting a bye late last winter, it can be equally perspicacious in assessing high-leverage moments within games.
“I believe we will once again be a good transition team,” he wrote. “This Raider team will have much better situational awareness. We will be better at recognizing and understanding when momentum is likely to swing in a game and look to take advantage of that moment.”
The weak links
David McIntyre was a special player, and even though he wasn’t on top of Colgate’s scoring charts last season, he was always in the mix. His graduation will leave a playmaking void, especially on special teams.
“Our special teams play needs to improve,” Vaughan wrote. “It is something we will be working on a lot in the early going. We really need to simplify things both on the penalty kill and power play. Our skilled players to must buy into that line of thinking.”
Evin also must prove that he has the mental and physical stamina to play a complete season. ECAC fans have been blessed in recent years with the Kalembas, Richters, Scrivens, Leggios, and now the Kinkaids and so forth who have proven to be monuments of strength of focus and mental durability; one such goaltender was Colgate’s own Mark Dekanich. Can Evin stack up against such a lucid local legend?
The Raiders perpetually fly under the radar, even in their own league. They skate in the shadows of their travel partner Cornell, and rarely enjoy the attention borne of major streaks, skids or scandals. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve some credit: Colgate finished fourth last year in a pennant-chase-type race to the wire, and they did it with pizazz. They’ve been painfully inconsistent in recent years, which doesn’t help dispel their “who the heck are they?” reputation, but be on the lookout for the Raiders. This is a bye-worthy crew.