Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Colgate

The Class of 2016 at Colgate has been one of the most dynamic and powerful single recruiting classes in the ECAC in a number of seasons when you consider their overall team impact and just how much of an engine they have been for the Raiders. The names are familiar by now. Baun. Borkowski. Murphy. The Spinks. All well known across the league for their abilities with the puck. Defensemen Lough and Johnston have been a key components for the Raiders on the blue line. But a quick look at the calendar shows that this outstanding group of classmates is running low on time - and that may have Colgate among the most urgent of the "win now" squads in the league.

Nickname: Raiders
Location: Hamilton, NY
Founded: 1819
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2014
Last Frozen Four: 1990
Coach: Don Vaughan (23rd season)
2013-14 Record: 22-12-4 (11-7-4 ECAC, 4th place) 
Series: RPI leads, 61-57-4
First Game: February 19, 1916 (Hamilton, NY) 
Last RPI win: January 16, 2015 (Troy, NY)
Last CU win: February 21, 2015 (Hamilton, NY)

2014-15 games: January 16, 2016 (Troy, NY); February 26, 2016 (Hamilton, NY)

Key players: F Michael Borkowski, sr.; D Kevin Lough, sr.; F Darcy Murphy, sr.; F Tylor Spink, sr.; F Tyson Spink, sr.; D Brett Corkey, jr.; G Charlie Finn, jr.; F Tim Harrison, jr.; D Jake Kulevich, jr.; F Mike Panowyk, so.; D Kenny Citron, fr.; D Rory McGuire, fr.;  F Hunter Racine, fr.

Key losses: F Kyle Baun, F Joe Wilson, D Spiro Goulakos, F John Lidgett, D Brendan Corcoran, D Ryan Johnston, F Daniel Gentzler

Previous KYE installments:
Colgate's uber-talented senior class will be lighter this season by two - Baun signed with Chicago in March (appearing in 3 NHL games) after a third consecutive stellar season in Hamilton, and Johnston signed with Montreal in July after impressing the Habs at their annual prospect camp. Baun's departure was mostly expected, while Johnston's defection was a bit of a surprise and may ultimately hurt the Raiders more in the short term (for a similar RPI example, see the Haggerty and Zalewski departures in 2014).

Those losses don't leave the motor pool empty for Colgate's offense at all, really. Baun was the team's second leading scorer last season, but Tyson Spink and Murphy were first and third with 31 and 26 points respectively, and assuming Borkowski and Tylor Spink can stay healthy this season, one should expect the Raiders' attack to be pretty strong once again, even when factoring in the loss of the graduated Wilson (24 points).

The defensive losses are a bit more grating, especially considering that Johnston's loss was relatively late. Goulakos and Corcoran alone were big blows, but the loss of a third regular starter makes Colgate's defensive picture look a bit more tenuous. The deferral of recruit Adam Dauda, a strong two-way defenseman from Slovakia, hurts a bit, too (he suffered an undisclosed injury and will arrive in a year). Fortunately, the three returning blue liners are upperclassmen all, which should make for at least a little bit of continuity, and Finn backed up his solid freshman campaign in the nets with an even better one as a sophomore.

But in terms of strength, the Raiders may not get themselves back to where they are now for a couple of seasons at least following the graduation of their remarkable seniors. For all of their accomplishments on the ice, the sum total of their hardware consists of a Mariucci Classic title in 2013 and a Three Rivers Classic title in 2014. They've been to two straight ECAC championship games, losing both.  They've played in one NCAA tournament game, being shut out 1-0 by Ferris State in 2014. They've got all the motivation they need to put together a strong final act even before considering the institutional motivation to strike while the iron is hot.

As long as the defensive turnover doesn't sting too much, Colgate should still find itself among the elite of the conference. They may not be as deep as teams like Yale and Quinnipiac or as well rounded as teams like St. Lawrence, but they've got enough pep offensively to be a threat every time they take the ice. As with several different ECAC teams in the last few years, the Raiders had a summer tour of Europe this year, playing three games in Switzerland and Italy last month.

With all that Colgate's seniors have done for the Raiders, they haven't had an awful lot of success against the Engineers, holding just a 1-4-1 record against RPI, the lone win coming in the last game between the teams at Starr Rink this past February. So in the recent past, Colgate has been kind of a sneaky avenue for "extra points," given how well the Raiders have done in the last two years. But there's certainly no guarantee that the trend is necessarily going to continue; expect two very hard fought games, especially for the season finale in Hamilton, which will be the final regular season game in Starr Rink.

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