Goulakos’ return a boost for Colgate, which brings in 10 new faces

Spiro Goulakos is back at full strength after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (photo: Melissa Wade).

Four of Colgate’s top five scorers last season were freshmen, which somewhat masked the fact that the Raiders relied on a large senior class for some important contributions.

The Raiders enter this season down three starting defenseman in Jeremy Price, Thomas Larkin and Nathan Sinz. Also gone are forward Robbie Bourdon and Kurtis Bartliff, meaning that once again Colgate will rely on a number of freshmen to step into the lineup.

“Most programs try to create a culture and identity and I think in many cases we try and recruit players that fit that mold,” coach Don Vaughan said. “That said, 10 new faces are in the program and many of them are going to have to play.”

One player the Raiders are glad to have back at full strength is junior captain and defenseman Spiro Goulakos.

Goulakos was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the middle of last season, but is in remission and ready to go.

He left the team in late January to begin cancer treatments in his native Montreal, but was given the chance to play toward the end of the season after treatments were going well. He returned at Dartmouth on Feb. 16, and the defenseman scored the game-winning goal in a 4-1 win over Union at home.

“All of us involved with Colgate hockey are very happy for Spiro and his family,” Vaughan said earlier this summer. “He has handled this illness with incredible courage and grace. We are excited to have him back in good health and leading our team as captain.”

In addition to the emotional boost of having their captain back, Goulakos was a important player on the ice for Colgate, running the first power-play unit that consisted of freshmen Tyson Spink, Tylor Spink, Kyle Baun and Mike Borkowski.

Sophomore Spencer Finney earned most of the playing time in goal for stretches of last season but gave way to senior Eric Mihalik as the year progressed. Freshman Charlie Finn got the start in Saturday’s season opener but gave up six goals to Ferris State before Mihalik shut out the Bulldogs Sunday to give the Raiders a split in their season-opening series.

Colgate wore down a bit last year as the season went on, ending with one win over the final month-and-a-half, including getting swept by St. Lawrence in the first round of the playoffs.

Even though Vaughan and his staff just went through the process of putting together a team full of newcomers, he knows it’s still not an easy task.

“They’ll be a steep learning curve and we’ll try to do a lot of the same things that we’ve done for years and get those guys on board quickly,” Vaughan said. “But that’s a challenge. We’ll have to find our identity early and hope that those young guys are going to contribute early.”

About the Raiders

2012-13 overall record: 14-18-4

2012-13 ECAC Hockey record: 6-13-3 (11th)

2013-14 predicted finish: Ninth in both the coaches’ and media polls

Key losses: F Robbie Bourdon, D Jeremy Price, D Thomas Larkin, D Nathan Sinz

Players to watch: F Kyle Baun, F Tylor Spink, F Tyson Spink, F Joe Wilson, D Spiro Goulakos

Impact rookies: F Tim Harrison, G Charlie Finn

Why the Raiders will finish higher than predicted: Last year’s productive freshman class is even better this year, while several newcomers make an impact as well.

Why the Raiders will finish lower than predicted: The second-half slump from last season carries over, and Colgate can’t stabilize its goaltending situation.