Colgate not letting itself dwell on late stumbles

As the outsiders that the vast majority of us are, it can be difficult to appreciate exactly how much the hockey season — especially the end of the season — means to each of the players and coaches we follow so avidly all winter long. There is no “next year” for many of the seniors that you’ve watched develop over the past four years, and that can be a very difficult pill to swallow for them and their teammates.

So I will risk excessive sentimentality and misplaced responsibility to thank Brown, Clarkson, Princeton and St. Lawrence for their passion, effort and determination. Good luck and extra gratitude to the graduating seniors, whose names we all hope to read again in the papers as soon as possible.

“It’s not easy to end another team’s season,” St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh told me a few years back.

It’s even harder having yours end. Eight teams are up against that reality again this weekend.

Colgate brushing off fumbled finish

Colgate didn’t exactly soar into the postseason this year. It didn’t claw its way in, either.

The Raiders qualified for a bye by virtue of a strong season as a whole, but the way the team finished the regular season — four straight losses — you’ll have to forgive Raiders fans for feeling as though the team flopped fanny-first into the four seed, and can only thank beneficent fates for a much-needed week off.

“We certainly talked to our guys about the body of work and securing the bye, no matter how we ended up doing it,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “Of course we would’ve preferred to get a win in one of our last four games, but it didn’t happen. Like we’ve always done, we learned from some of the mistakes we made in those games, and we move forward. That’s all you can do. You can’t dwell on what’s gone on behind you.”

That said, Vaughan didn’t feel as though his team sleep-walked its way into the playoffs.

“We certainly did [play well enough to win],” he said of the squad’s last four contests. “I thought Clarkson played us very tough. … They got an early lead on us, and we weren’t able to come back. The other games were all close. We spotted St. Lawrence a lead and had to scramble to get back into it. I thought we played OK at home the last weekend. We fired a lot of pucks at the RPI goaltender [Scott Diebold], he made some huge stops, and they played hard. They got a lead and did a really good job with a lead on the road. We still had a really good chance to tie it up late, but weren’t able to score. And Union — Union’s a very good team. There was an empty-net goal, it was a one-goal game [otherwise], and our effort was there.

“In all of those games, the mistakes we made were very costly. They were very bad mistakes: turning the puck over in our own zone, missed assignments coming back on a backcheck, those kinds of things that you just can’t have happen anytime really, but they certainly get magnified this time of year heading into the playoffs. So that’s been a big focus for us, this last little while.”

One minor advantage of finishing fourth — as opposed to first, second or third — is the knowledge that if the favored fifth seed defeats the league’s last-place team, you will automatically play No. 5.

“We knew, with a win, that Quinnipiac would be our opponent,” said Vaughan, “but there are certainly no guarantees in this league, so the coaching staff — we probably prepared as much as we possibly could with video prep and that kind of thing in terms of getting ready to play Quinnipiac, but we also knew that we couldn’t put that in front of the team because we just didn’t know. So we did a lot of other stuff: We worked on our own game. We worked on our power play, on our special teams overall. We got a couple days’ rest, which was certainly good for a couple of our guys. Now that we know our opponent, this week we can start to zero in on the tendencies of Quinnipiac and get to work on some of that sort of stuff.”

But win the Bobcats did, so Vaughan and his staff are confident that they know where to focus the Raiders’ attention for the next few days.

“It’s a very skilled hockey team. They like to possess the puck, and they’re very good at it. We have a lot of respect for their skill set. We know that if we put them on the power play too often, it’s not going to be good for us. We’ve got to solve a goaltender who’s played very well against us, too [Eric Hartzell], so it’s a good hockey club and we’re going to have to play our best, and we know that. I think special teams play, as it always is this time of year, is going to be critical, and maybe even a little more so playing this Quinnipiac team.”

Big Green breaking through frustrations

Dartmouth underwhelmed this year.

There, I said it. It’s not a stunning stance, nor an epiphany. Dartmouth has simply not achieved the level of success that many expected them to entering the season … and the head coach knows it, too.

“You talk about adversity,” veteran coach Bob Gaudet said. “I’ve been doing this for, y’know, 20 — what, 29 years as a coach. Twenty-four as a head coach. We’ve played with a lot of key guys out of the lineup for stretches of time, but everybody did. You don’t make excuses, you just find a way to fight and claw.

“It’s not like we were ecstatic at where we were at the end of the regular season, but I was proud of the way the guys were fighting together, they were battling hard, and the league is so tight that you’re a couple of games out of a home-ice bye, and that’s kind of how we look at things.”

The biggest bits of adversity to which Gaudet referred were injuries to critical contributors at critical points of the season. Junior forward Dustin Walsh has played only eight games all season, and sophomore sniper Matt Lindblad missed a number of key contests late in the regular season.

And the list goes on beyond that.

“Jesse Beamish, as a good freshman player for us, is done for the season. Rick Pinkston’s done for the season: He got hurt on Friday night and Beamish has been out for a few weeks now.”

But by far the biggest hurdle has been Walsh’s absence up front.

“He’s done for the year,” the coach sighed. “He played maybe five or six games, and he was playing really, really well. We thought he was probably going to be a 40-point guy this year. And then there was a stretch — he got banged up, and kind of reinjured an old injury — but he was back on the ice for a stretch each week, so each week going in we’d work on the power play, and he’s a pretty key guy. He’s like a point guy, and we’re thinking, ‘Geez, Dustin will be in this weekend,’ and then, you know, it was another week, and then, ‘Geez, he looks good this week.’ … It went a while, and what happened is it was too tough on him to continue on like that. He’d come out skating, look pretty good, and then there’d be a twinge, and so [he saw a doctor]; it is really important that he gets this squared away for the future, so he’s done for the season.”

Even one of Gaudet’s top goalies has been playing through pain all year, a fact that was clearly not advertised.

“[Senior James] Mello has been injured most of the season,” he said. “It’s hampered his game, but he’s not the type of kid who’s going to say much about it.”

Despite the obstacles, Gaudet feels that his team’s chemistry is exceptional, and that his players have learned a lot about themselves and each other while facing down numerous personal and group challenges.

“As difficult as it’s been in terms of trying to get a lineup on the ice, it’s been a lot of fun, too, because you see kids grow,” Gaudet said. “One of the things we’re proud of is the development of our guys: You take a kid like [Eric] Robinson, a kid who had three goals last year as a freshman, has 12 this year. [Brandon] McNally has 10 goals, [Tyler] Sikura’s got 10 goals, both freshmen. Doug Jones has really stepped up his game even more than his previous three years. He’s done a great job for us. I’m really proud of the development of these guys.

“It’s been an interesting year, but it’s been fun. In 24 years, I haven’t faced this type of a season … but it’s hockey adversity. It is what it is; it’s a game. We’ve battled, but I like where we’re at. I like the mentality of our team, and I like the style of play we’ve developed.”

Apart from the injuries — as though one could reasonably separate a team’s performance from its personnel — the Big Green have struggled mightily on special teams. Dartmouth’s power play is mediocre at best, scoring on 15.5 percent of opportunities so far this season. The penalty kill has been downright horrific, successfully surviving barely 72 percent of Big Green penalties. Yet looking back on last weekend’s surprising first-round sweep at St. Lawrence, Gaudet and the Green aren’t terribly concerned.

“Stats are interesting. It’s not like I don’t follow statistics at all, because obviously you have to, but what I’m really interested in is getting the job done,” Gaudet said. “St. Lawrence was 0-for-10 on the power play last weekend. That’s all that matters to me, and I know that over the course of the season statistically [the kill] wasn’t great, but we’ve learned a lot of things. We’ve found some personnel, and obviously goaltending’s a key thing, and Jody was outstanding, and I thought our kids played with a lot of energy and a lot of confidence. We sacrificed, we blocked a lot of shots, we did the right things, and we’ve had stretches where we’ve been really good. Statistically, not great during the course of the season, but last weekend we were absolutely outstanding.”

As for the man advantage, Gaudet said perhaps his PP isn’t up to snuff because it hasn’t had enough opportunities to get things humming.

“It’s interesting, you know I’m not a statistics guy, but if you look at the 58 teams in the country, we have the fewest power plays of anyone,” he said. “So it’s not like we get a lot of opportunities. Our kids are playing the right way: We don’t dive. We do not dive, and we won’t dive. And what happens is, we don’t get a lot of power plays.”

As for this weekend’s trip to ever-intimidating Lynah Rink, the Big Green feel secure in their knowledge of Cornell as well as their own blossoming abilities.

“I like what we’ve built here. We know we’re going in as the underdog, but I like our team,” Gaudet said. “We’ve played two really good games against ’em. We came out on the short end both times — one-goal games — but I think our team competed really well.”

Awards season begins

Just a quick-hitter here: The league is beginning to release its list of finalists for its various annual awards, the first release naming the contenders for Tim Taylor coach of the year honors.

Rick Bennett guided Union to its second consecutive Cleary Cup in his first year at the helm and has the Dutchmen in solid position for an NCAA at-large bid, if not more. At Harvard, Ted Donato coached the Crimson to their best finish and first bye in four years. Another newcomer to the league’s head-coaching fraternity rounded out the finalists, as Casey Jones pulled all the right strings in Potsdam to lead a poorly regarded Clarkson team to a competitive seventh-place finish, the program’s best record in four years (16-17-6, 9-9-4 ECAC), and nearly a first-round bye.

There will be plenty more award finalist announcements coming in the next week. Stay tuned.


  1. Maybe I’m the only one with drinking a pint glass of kool-aid, but any articles on Union – best and most consistent team over the past two years in ECAC?  They win the season and lead every statistical category that matters.. 

    The headline should have been “Colgate – Third Best Maroon Team in ECAC…”

      • Let me put down the glass kool-aid for a second…

        I’ll agree that Yale was fractionally better than Union last year (ie. 2011 #2 ncaa seed Union vs #1 Ncaa seed Yale) – I didn’t go to Yale but I get it.  But, Union is more than fractionally better than Yale this year… (2012 #8 ranked Union vs. not receiving votes #28+ ranked – Yale) (#1 ECAC seed Union vs. #6 ECAC seed Yale).  For the past two years, in general and overall, Union gets the invisible trophy for “best team in ECAC over a 2-year period.” The “1980’s Yankee’s Trophy”, if you will. This isn’t really the point; however.

        Re: this article and others like it – I guess I’m just used to watching the “worldwide leader” on TV.  They cover the best teams, not all the teams evenly.  That said, I’ve come to enjoy this site and rattling the cages of ECAC bottom feeders and those trolling the middle of the water column. 

        I bet Union needs to make a deep run (frozen four?) to have more coverage in the future.  I’m sure when we’re in Tampa I won’t be reading about “a poorly regarded Clarkson team to a competitive seventh-place finish…”

        Now, I’m about out of garmet kool-aid.. where’s my pitcher…. GO U!!!


        • I read your first paragraph, and what I got out of it was “I’m going to try to make up stuff that makes little sense to make Union look awesome”.

          As an RPI fan, to your second part of your argument: they covered two RPI games on national TV, and RPI is far from being the ECAC regular season’s best this year, so that completely disproves your “worldwide leaders” argument. There are countless other examples.

          Your third point: ah, so because your team was suddenly on top for the last two years, you enjoy rattling the bottom feeders’ cages in the ECAC — where Union was not three to four seasons ago. I believe they call that “arrogance” and “forgetting your history”.

          • As a Union fan I think maybe some fans of the Garnet are getting ahead of themselves. Honestly, for me, I am just nervous about this weekend with RPI. The Enigineers are hot and making a nice late season run. I cannot stand RPI, but I do respect their play as of late and their dedication to this weekend. For Union, this is a big as it gets. If they can’t defeat the Engineers this weekend they don’t, in my opinion, deserve to go to the NCAA’s. Union fans please have some class and be realistic about where the team is today. We are still not far removed from the D3 days. Arrogant talk only hurts our students athletes. Go Union and let’s hope for a great, injury free series for both teams starting tonight!

          • “I read your first paragraph…”
            I’m guessing that comprehension wasn’t your strength in grade school…

            “RPI is far from being the ECAC regular season’s best this year”
            good point…

            “so because your team was suddenly on top for the last two years”
            good, you’re learning… 

            “I believe they call that…. forgetting your history….”
            yeah, the kool-aid and 21 wins so far made the painful past go away…


          • Cherry-picking statements from a response to fit your agenda is totally cool. Heck, arguing on the Internet is cool.

            You are just weird.

    • You must be new here, or otherwise you’d realize that all of the leagues’ blogs focus on a different team in the spotlight section of an entry/article every week. If they focused on who was awesome all the time, do you think RPI or Brown would be in any of the highlights like they have been?

      I agree with the person below, you are quickly becoming an annoyance.

      • RPI is an annoyance… Too bad Union didn’t earn a “double bye” for the #1 seed..  could we just cut-to-the-chase…

        Smoked ’em three times this year.. when is enough, enough.  RPI fans will be looking to evoke the little league “mercy rule” after we go four in-a-row tonight..

        Which way to Tampa?

        • You should calm it down, bud.  LONG way to Tampa.  Do you remember the Colgate series last year?  I won’t feel good until 2 wins in the books against RPI.  NCAA’s look like a lock, but the competition will be stiff.

          • last season dies, baby that’s fact…
            but maybe everything that dies, someday comes back..
            put your make-up on, put your hair up pretty..
            and meet me next weekend in Atlantic City….


          • As you say, “maybe” everything that dies, someday comes back.  I wouldn’t go near you with a ten foot pole, you sound too weird.  And if you’re in AC next weekend, hopefully it’s to see UC and not just gamble.

    • Kind of like how the New York Yankees won more games than any other team during the 1980s.  Nice but they don’t give out a trophy for it.  

    • A good point, but not quite valid. Union was the best team in the league during the regular season despite dropping two to the Bears. Yes they are poor losses, Brown just had their number. Yet when you look at the body of work Union put together during the entire year, they are deserving of the label. Austin Smith for Hobey!!!!!

    • I’m pretty sure the disdain for Union fans is because now that they’re suddenly the big boys in the ECAC, they’re acting like North Dakota fans and have somehow assured themselves that Union will be playing hockey in Tampa Bay in a few weeks.


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