Colgate Streaks Into Playoffs
by Matthew Ruffini/CHN Reporter
For Colgate, the 2009-10 campaign was a season full of highs and lows. The Raiders never had a winning streak of longer than four games, nor did they ever go more than five games without getting a win.
However, if you ask any of the Colgate coaches or players what they were most pleased about this season, the three-game win streak to end the year would be the common answer.
The Raiders began the season sluggish, playing to a 1-2-3 record, but picked up their play heading into November, winning four in a row. The Raiders struggled to keep the good vibes going, winning only two out of their next 10 games.
As the season came to a close, the Raiders put themselves into position to gain a top four spot and thus a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs. In the second-to-last weekend of the season, the Raiders traveled to Dartmouth where they escaped with a 6-6 tie and then defeated Harvard the following night, 4-2. The three-point weekend set up for a huge showdown at Starr Rink against RPI; if Colgate was victorious the fourth spot would be theirs.
“We knew we controlled our own destiny, we had a lot of energy going into the game against RPI and I thought we played extremely well” sophomore Austin Smith said.
Against a team with as much offensive talent as RPI, head coach Don Vaughan knew his team had to play their game and get good goaltending.
“We focused on some of their tendencies but we knew we had to take care of our business and we needed [Alex] Evin to come up with huge saves and he did,” Vaughan said.
The Raiders won a thrilling 3-2 game and afterward, could hardly contain their excitement.
“I was really excited because I know in this league how important it is to get that first-round bye and get your players rested,” Vaughan said.
Said Smith, “We were all very excited but I don’t know If have ever seen him (Vaughan) that excited. To win that game was a huge weight off our shoulders.”
The intensity that Vaughan brings to the game and his players is one of the many reasons his players enjoy playing for him.
“He is a very intense individual and extremely competitive, and he brings that attitude every day with him whether it’s a game or practice. He also does a great job of working with us as individuals, trying to improve our game,” Smith said.
Colgate had several players, some underclassmen that stepped up with big years that lead to the team nailing down the four spot in the conference. Smith lead the team in points and goals and saw his production improve in more than one way from his freshman year.
“I thought I had a good freshman year but I was disappointed with my consistency," Smith said. "In my second year I’ve learned more about the league and I have been much more determined and consistent.”
Senior David McIntyre, a Hobey finalist a season ago, has been one of Vaughan’s most consistent players in his four years at Colgate. McIntyre shares the captain duties with Ethan Cox and has become a player that the underclassmen can look up to.
“I’ve been much more vocal this season, we have a very good squad and I try to encourage the younger players when things might not be going so well," McIntyre said. "I will also let them know when they are doing a good job, I just try to help in any way I can.”
Vaughan has praised the way McIntyre has helped the young Raiders deal with the ups and downs of the ECAC regular season.
“There was a stretch of time this season that we had some tough losses and David did a great job of helping the players get past it and focus on the next game,” Vaughan said.
Senior leadership was needed with such a young squad that Colgate had on the ice this season. 17 underclassmen, many of which played significant minutes and were counted on in big games.
“If we’re going to win in the playoffs we have to play solid defensively and keep it simple and make smart plays," McIntyre said. "We have so much depth on this squad and our young guys have played huge in big situations, so I feel we can match up against anyone.”
Two of the young Raiders that have played huge minutes and scored big goals have been defensemen Thomas Larkin and forward Robbie Bourdon.
“Larkin has done a great for us on the power play as well as the penalty kill. It’s a lot to ask of a freshman but he has handled it with great poise," Vaughan said. "Bourdon is not the biggest guy but he has scored some big goals for us and has provided great secondary scoring.”
Now with the first round of the ECAC playoffs in the books, the Raiders know they will be taking on Vaughan’s alma mater — St. Lawrence. The Saints swept the season series from Colgate.