Team of the Week: Colgate
by Nathan Wells/CHN Reporter
Colgate head coach Don Vaughan had last weekend circled on his calendar for a long time. Junior defenseman Spiro Goulakos did not.
Goulakos, who last season stepped away from the Raiders for a month to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma, saw the six month anniversary of his final treatment go by Saturday. It isn’t something he is celebrating. In fact, Goulakos more than anything would rather not look back on the experience.
“As I’ve told (Vaughan) before, I’ve moved on from that chapter of my life and am looking forward from here on out,” the Montreal native said Saturday.
He will have to something else to remember, though.
The Raiders entered last weekend’s Mariucci Classic 7-9-2 overall and left Minneapolis with the tournament championship. Goulakos scored the opening goal in a 3-0 win against Ferris State, whose 16-game unbeaten streak dating back to Oct. 18 was snapped. The night before was just as memorable as the ECAC team tied host Minnesota before beating the Gophers in a shootout to advance to Saturday afternoon’s championship game.
All of this was enough for Colgate to earn the College Hockey News’ Team of the Week.
Vaughan knew that last weekend would be important for a young team which suits up 13 freshmen and sophomores. Coming off the holiday break, one which last saw the Raiders swept at home by Massachusetts could lead to rust. Playing against Minnesota in Mariucci Arena can be intimidating and battling through it would be a good challenge for the Hamilton, N.Y.-based college.
“It’s a great hockey environment,” the Colgate coach said Friday night about Mariucci Arena. “I said to our guys before the game, ‘If you can’t get up for a game at Mariucci, it’s probably time to take up chess or something else.’
“The energy in that building was phenomenal (Friday). I thought our young team really answered the bell and it was an entertaining game. They fired a lot of pucks at our goaltender. I thought he played well.”
Colgate’s goaltender for both games was freshman Charlie Finn. The North Vancouver, British Columbia, native, whom his coach called a “calming effect to the team,” earned both the ECAC Rookie and Goaltender of the Week honors for his performance, which saw Finn make 36 saves against a high-scoring and speedy Minnesota offense playing on an Olympic ice sheet. Against Ferris State, Finn earned his first career shutout.
To him, however, the weekend was a team effort.
“I was just really proud with how we stayed composed not only in the first period (of Friday’s game), but throughout the entire game,” Finn said.
Still, if Finn, whose .907 save percentage is bolstered by allowing just seven goals in his last five games, represents the growth so far, then the Raiders are building to something. Sophomore forward Darcy Murphy scored a goal in both games last weekend and the team’s top five scorers are all underclassmen.
It’s important as the second half of the season sees the Raiders, currently fourth in the ECAC standings with a 5-3-1 conference record, play each of the three teams ahead of it. While Vaughan believes last weekend could help define a young team working and searching for its identity, Goulakos can see progress.
“The first half year was definitely a learning experience, but it’s been a steep learning curve for all our underclassmen,” said the Colgate captain. “They have done a great job in handling that pressure and big minutes and stuff. They’re a big part of this weekend.”
The same goes for Goulakos. His power-play goal in the second period Saturday afternoon came at the right time for the Raiders, but it was his defense which shut down a Ferris State team that averages 3.52 goals per game. Finn wasn’t pressed to make many challenging saves as the defense, focusing on cutting down second and third chances, made things easier for its freshman goalie.
“(Goulakos) is our leader, and the guys were really happy to see him score and today is six months to the day he had his last chemotherapy treatment,” Vaughan said. “We know that it’s out of his system now and we are seeing him get back to the way we know he can play."
Saturday was also the second time Colgate defeated the WCHA-leading Bulldogs, who have only lost three games this season.
That is impressive. So is defeating Minnesota in a shootout at Mariucci Arena. Instead of seeing a weekend where the top two teams in the nation looked to meet one another to decide who was truly the best, a young ECAC team found confidence. Neither the Gophers nor Ferris State walked away with the Mariucci Classic title and bragging rights.
It was the team from Hamilton, New York.
That is something which, regardless of a second half that next sees Colgate face Vermont on Saturday, will make last weekend rank highly for Spiro Goulakos.
“It’s definitely going to be one of the more memorable ones in my college career, for sure, especially given the circumstances playing the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country,” he said Saturday. “Especially last night in the hostile environment of Minnesota, it’s pretty big for us.”