Identical Twins Lead Colgate Into NCAA Tournament
by Avash Kalra/Senior Writer
See all of CHN's Tournament coverage: articles, brackets, history and more.
Colgate makes its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005 on Friday afternoon, and leading the way for the Raiders all season have been sophomores Tylor and Tyson Spink – identical twins who lead Colgate in scoring and who anchored one of the most productive lines in the ECAC this season.
The Spink twins hail from Williamstown, Ontario, and their combined 63 points have already surpassed the 58 they produced as freshmen a year ago. Tyson has points in four of his last five games and paces Colgate with 33 points. Tylor, who centers the dynamic line that also features fellow sophomore Kyle Baun, has 30, though in two less games.
Beyond their offensive production, though, has been a maturing approach and leadership that helped pave the way for a team that finished second in the ECAC regular season and runner-up in the league tournament. The Raiders’ 20 wins thus far are their most since the 2005-06 campaign.
“I've never coached identical twins before,” said ECAC Coach of the Year Don Vaughan, who began his head coaching tenure at Colgate in 1992. “First of all, they're just great people. They're honest to their work ethic, to each other. Their teammates really like them a lot. They're unselfish, and they're the complete package.
“They're good players, but they have all the other stuff too, and that makes everyone around them better.”
One of the beneficiaries has been Baun, who plays on the right wing on Colgate’s most productive line. Baun is the grandson of former NHL player Bobby Baun, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964. Baun’s tenure with the Spink twins began long before the trio arrived on campus in Hamilton, N.Y., as the three played on a line with the Cornwall Colts of the Canadian Central Hockey League in Eastern Ontario.
“I haven't had a guy in a long time who hounds the puck, who separates the puck from his check as effectively as Kyle,” said Vaughan. “Big strong guy. So there's a little bit of everything on that line.”
The Spinks, along with Baun, have anchored one of the most productive sophomore classes in the country. Colgate’s sophomores have scored 64 of the Raiders’ 103 goals this season. That’s been important for Vaughan’s young squad that features 17 freshmen and sophomores, but only two seniors.
Tyson and Tylor – like many twins – have used their innate sense of one another to help each other’s success.
Explained Vaughan, “They have the sixth sense, even though they might deny that. But they find each other on the ice, in traffic, and in situations where two other guys just wouldn't do. So that's kind of fun to do. It's hard to explain to people unless you see it first hand. Their work ethic is phenomenal.
“They bring it every day.”
A key to Colgate’s success on Friday afternoon at the NCAA Midwest Regional against Ferris State will be the play of the Spinks’ line with Baun, as Hobey finalist goaltender C.J. Motte and the Bulldogs defense will likely pay particular attention to that line.
Keeping track of the twins – on and off the ice – has even been a challenge for their own coach.
“Some days I can [tell them apart],” said Vaughan. “It's interesting. If they're together, I can. One of them's got a little bump on the nose from back in juniors. But when they're on the road, it's still tough for me sometimes. It's interesting — when they come into the locker room, they'll each grab their stick. I haven't talked to them about this, but I think they do that to sort of alleviate any embarrassment that may come from someone not knowing which one's which. One’s a left shot, and one’s a right shot.”
Certainly, on Friday in their first career NCAA game, the Spinks won’t be too difficult to spot. A win against Ferris State – something they’ve accomplished twice this season already – will put the Raiders in position to play for a Frozen Four berth on Saturday night.
And why not?
After all, this year’s Frozen Four takes place in Philadelphia – the city, of course, of brotherly love.