Long Time Coming
Colgate Returns to ECAC Title Game, First Since 1990
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
So many times Colgate has gotten to the ECAC semifinals under Don Vaughan, now the longest-tenured coach in the league. But now in his 22nd year behind the Colgate bench, the Raiders had never made the ECAC championship game.
A thrilling, come-from-behind, 3-2, double-overtime win over Quinnipiac changed all that. Saturday's game against Union will mark Colgate's first ECAC championship game appearance since 1990, when the late Terry Slater also led the then-Red Raiders to the NCAA championship game as well.
"Me personally, I've been here a number of times and it's my first time in the finals," Vaughan said. "It's very exciting for our team and our program."
The win also seems to have locked up an NCAA bid, the third one under Vaughan, and first since 2005.
Vaughan has said time and again this season that this is one of, if not the, best groups of players he's ever coached. And that's saying a lot, because Vaughan, while perhaps never making an ECAC title game, has coached a lot of good teams and players, and sent many of them to the NHL.
That's why he wasn't too worried about his team when it fell behind 2-0, even against as tough an opponent as Quinnipiac.
"This team, a lot of nights, they say all the right things," Vaughan said. "We spend a lot of time in practice working on good habits, a lot of repetition. They know the game we wwant to play. And a lot of nights, you hear them talking in the locker room, and it's redundant for me to go in there and say anything. I just need to stay out of the way sometimes."
As a result, Colgate was able to withstand the waves. And while the first two periods looked discombobulated at times, the Raiders had to be given credit for fending off the usually domineering Quinnipiac forecheck and keeping things close until it could get its own legs going.
"We talked about having numbers back, and not over-pursuing on the big sheet," Vaughan said.
"The game overall got better as it went on. We made a commitment early in the season to play much better defensively than we did in the second half last season. It starts with good skating defensmen. We close quickly. We spend a lot of time working on it in practice. But I think a lot of it starts with the skill set to begin with. We don't give up a lot of time and space. We don't quit on a play. And that's what you have to do against (Quinnipiac). They come so hard and have so many weapons.
"But it's a group effort. This team supports the puck as well or better than any team I've ever coached. And that's from working on it a lot. But it starts with how well we get around the rink on the back end."
Andrew Black threw a puck from the corner near the end of the second period, and it got by Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig to make it a 2-1 game.
Colgate got some chances in the third, but the Bobcats played a pretty strong defensive game, until a mad scramble in the final minute led to Kyle Baun's tying goal.
"I didn't even really see it," Baun said. "I was just whacking away and luckily my stick hit it. I've been struggling around the net lately."
Baun is emblematic of what's working for Colgate, even though he hadn't scored in close to two months.
"He's a gamer. He comes up big at big times," Vaughan said. "No one attacks the play and separates the puck from the (opponent) as well as Kyle Baun. He's a big, strong guy who likes to get into that part of the rink, and that's how you get those goals. So it didn't surprise me."
Both teams had chances in the first overtime, but Colgate was going toe-to-toe, rush for rush. In a war of attrition, the Raiders were getting the edge.
Then, early in the second OT, Baun put a shot on net and the rebound came right to Tyson Spink, who buried it.
Spink credited his defense and goaltender, freshman Charlie Finn, from keeping the team in it, including a couple of breakaway stops on some big-time players, like Matthew Peca and Kellen Jones.
"In overtime, when your goaltender makes a couple big saves in a row, it gives your team a lot of momentum, and we fed off that," Spink said.