Finding a good goalie can be a challenge for many hockey teams, but it shouldn’t be difficult for Colgate this season.
The Raiders have juniors Andrew Farrier and Mitch Benson, a goaltending duo whose strong play helped Colgate host a home series in the first round of the league playoffs last year. Colgate also added freshman Carter Gylander, a Detroit draft pick who was named the AJHL’s top goalie last season.
That trio should give the Raiders plenty of options in net this season.
“We’re really excited about where we are [with our goaltending],” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said.
But the Raiders’ success this season rests on improving an offense that ranked 52nd in the country in scoring last season and lost its top two scorers to graduation.
“When you only give up two goals a game, you’ve got to find a way to score more than two goals,” Vaughan said. “If we can find a way to [average] two and a half or three goals a game, we can pile up the Ws.”
For that, Colgate will turn to two brothers to help kick start the offense this season.
Sophomore Colton Young, Colgate’s top returning scorer, is joined this season by younger brother Alex.
It’s not the first time that Colgate has had brothers play important role on offense. Identical twins Tylor and Tyson Spink played for the Raiders from 2012 to 2016 and helped the program reach the NCAA tournament in 2014.
“It’s amazing how that sixth sense kicks in,” Vaughan said of the Spinks. “They’re not twins, but we’ve seen that already with the Young brothers.”
Alex, who was drafted by San Jose in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL draft, leads Colgate in scoring through the first month of the season. The brothers have skated on the same line in each of the Raiders’ games so far, and Vaughan says he plans to keep them there.
“Alex is a talent,” Vaughan said. “His older brother Colton keeps him in check. I’ve seen people try to split players up like that, but I go back to the Spinks. They played on the same line for so long.”
It’s been an uneven start for the Raiders.
Colgate opened its season with a 2-1 loss to Clarkson on Nov. 23 and then didn’t play for a month due to COVID-19 related schedule changes.
Gylander and Farrier have split time in goal and combined for an .888 save percentage during Colgate’s 1-2-2 start, but the Raiders have scored four or more goals twice this season after only reaching that mark five times last year.
One of those times was a 4-4 tie against RIT on Dec. 29, which was also Vaughan’s 1,000th career game as head coach of the Raiders.
“That’s a lot of games for sure,” Vaughan said following the game. “I am fortunate to have been at Colgate University for every one of them, and even more lucky that I have been behind the bench for all of them.
“The hockey gods have been good to me.”
Putting time off to good use
Clarkson is the only one of the four league teams to have consistently played over the last month.
Colgate went a month between games, while Quinnipiac (Dec. 14) and St. Lawrence (Dec. 31) each had delayed starts, although the Bobcats have squeezed in ten games since their season started.
That extra time has given some coaches a chance to mix it up.
“It’s been kind of really neat,” Vaughan said. “We’ve been able to do a lot of small group stuff and really get into the finer points of development.”
St. Lawrence coach Brent Brekke said that the coaching staff broke the players up and ran a draft, with captains selecting their teams to compete in different skills competitions. The teams competed for a trophy and the coaching staff would hold a new draft each week to mix things up.
“There was a lot of value to the extra practice time,” Brekke told Saintsathletics.com. “Usually, you’re sprinting through September to get prepared for that first week in October for an exhibition game and then its full speed ahead.”
The extra time also gave Brekke and his coaching staff a chance to get a better look at the nine freshmen on the Saints roster, something that could pay off in the future.
“I think we’re going to look back and look at this year in particular and be able to say that this has been a real good developmental year because we’ve been fortunate enough to practice more and not worry about game preparation,” Brekke said.
St. Lawrence added a tenth member to its freshmen class when forward Greg Lapointe officially joined the team for the spring semester. The Granby, Quebec native made an immediate as he scored two goals in the Saints’ first two games, a win and a tie against Quinnipiac.
Lapointe, who had 29 goals and 31 assists last season for the Coquitlam Express in the BCHL, should provide an immediate upgrade for a St. Lawrence offense that lost its top three scorers after averaging less than two goals per game last year.
The Saints also have to be encouraged by junior Emil Zetterquist, who was named the league’s goalie of the week after posting a .946 save percentage in the series against Quinnipiac.
Around the league
— It didn’t take long for the NCAA’s new three-on-three overtime format to make its ECAC Hockey debut, as Quinnipiac and Colgate both recorded wins under the new setup last month. The Bobcats beat Sacred Heart 2-1 on Dec. 15, while Colgate beat Clarkson 5-4 on Dec. 23.
Under the new rules, the game will officially end in tie if neither team scores after the five-minute overtime period, but conference games will go to a shootout to determine who gets an extra point for the league standings. A team will earn three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, and one point for an overtime or shootout loss.
Quinnipiac’s Odeen Tufto scored the only goal in the first shootout in league history last Thursday against St. Lawrence. Colgate also won a shootout against Clarkson on Sunday.
— Clarkson’s Zach Tsekos was named the league’s player of the week after recording two goals and three assists in three games week, while teammate Ethan Haider was honored as the league’s rookie of the week after stopping 73 of 78 shots in a 2-0-1 week for the Golden Knights.
— Tufto, who leads the nation in scoring, was named the Hockey Commissioners Association player of the month. The Bobcats senior is also among the top faceoff men in the country and recently became the eighth player in program history to record 100 career assists.