After the men’s hockey team’s schedule ignored upstate rival Colgate for the first two thirds of the season, the Red (9-7-3, 7-4-1 ECAC) will get a double dose of the Raiders (10-10-4, 4-5-3) at Lynah Rink tonight and then at Starr Rink in Hamilton tomorrow night.
“Over the course, you get familiar with their style and what they want to do and they’re very familiar with what we want to do,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “The players do change and their tendencies change, so it’s an opportunity to watch video and to see that. Obviously, [senior alternate captain] Tyler Burton and [senior captain] Jesse Winchester are their two best offensive players and they’ve got a nice combination of other guys on their team that produce offense and they’ve got their role players. It’s just a matter of watching the video and getting the tendencies for this year’s team.”
Although the Raiders are ranked eighth in the ECAC Hockey standings, they are not a team to be taken lightly. Winchester and Burton lead their team in points with 26 and 25, respectively. Senior goaltender Mark Dekanich also boasts a .924 save percentage in goal.[img_assist|nid=27165|title=Mugging for the camera|desc=Junior Tyler Mugford (21) pushes the puck last weekend, launching the Red into third in the ECAC.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The skilled, consistent Dekanich combines with offensive weapons, like Winchester and Burton, to make Colgate a viable threat — especially since the Red has so much to lose.
“With any kind of goaltender you have to have traffic in front of him and be able to capitalize on rebounds,” Schafer said. “He’s too good of a goaltender if he sees the puck from far out he’s going to make saves. Just like any other goaltender, we need traffic around him and guys hungry around the net for rebounds.”
Unlike most other weeks, however, playing the same team twice in one weekend is a situation that will present some unusual advantages and disadvantages that are typically only addressed during the playoffs. While the Red isn’t focused on the little details, it is preparing to treat this weekend with the intensity it would bring to playoff hockey. Since the outcome of every game represents the chance to stay in the top-4 or drop to the bottom-4, the team must treat this weekend and the rest of the season as though each matchup is its last chance.
“It’s a special rivalry,” said junior Michael Kennedy. “We have our fans throwing Colgate toothpaste, and they throw the big red gum. It’s an intense weekend but you are playing the same team two nights in a row, so you get a better feel the first night and make adjustments the second night. It’s always fun to play.”
Coming out on top against an archrival is not the only thing at stake in this weekend’s contests. Last weekend, the Red notched a win against Brown and narrowly avoided a loss to Yale in order to bump itself up to third place in the ECAC Hockey standings. With Quinnipiac sharing the third place turf and Union, Harvard and Yale in a three-way tie for fourth, the Red has no room for uncertainty or error. Sweeping Colgate this weekend is a goal the squad thinks is realistic, and the Red needs to make it a reality if it wants to catch up to second-place Princeton and first-place Clarkson.
“We control our own destiny,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had a couple chances to put ourselves in a bit of better position and we haven’t, but we are still in the position now where if we win our remaining games we’re going to be right up there in first or second place come the end of the season. That’s all you can ask for is to have your own fate in your own hands.”