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ECAC Hockey: Quick start lifts Colgate past Harvard

Colgate is in fourth place after a four-point weekend on the road.

Bright Arena
Bright Arena
Jeff Cox

Cambridge, Mass. -- Don Vaughn said he has been harping on his team the importance of getting off to fast starts all season. His young team got the message in a big way with a three-goal outburst in the first period on Saturday night as Colgate skated away with a 4-2 victory over Harvard at the Bright Arena.

"It's something we preach a lot. Especially on the road if you can get off to a good start it sets the tone. This team has responded to that the last three weeks. We've had good starts to games. We didn't early and it's why we've been working on it. It's tough to play from behind," said Colgate head coach Don Vaughn.

"Our start today obviously cost us the hockey game," said a frustrated Ted Donato. "We need to be able to put a complete game together. It's a good sign that we battled back, but playing from behind is not a recipe for success. Certainly falling behind 3-0 at home makes a deep hole to get out of," added the Harvard coach.

Colgate's fourth line started the scoring 2:54 into the game with some solid cycling and puck possession in the offensive zone. After getting the puck from Derek Freeman, John Lidgett zipped a puck out to Mike McCann in the slot who fired a shot quickly into the back of the net.

"Lidgett's line with Mike McCann and Derek Freeman did a great job tonight as they did last night. They are playing strong on the puck," said Vaughn.

The Raiders extended their lead midway through the opening frame when Tylor Spink connected from the right circle after picking up a feed from twin brother Tyson.

Later in the first period Colgate scored again to jump out to a 3-0 lead on a goal from Daniel Gentzler. Ryan Johnston and Brendan Corcoran assisted on the marker.

"[Colgate] put a lot of pucks to the net. Their power play didn't score in the first, but it certainly changed the momentum of the game. They had some great scoring chances. I give them a lot of credit. They move the puck well and skated well," said Donato.

Kyle Criscuolo scored two power play goals, one in the second and one in the third with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, to draw the Crimson within one, but that was as close as Harvard would get.

"The coaches have done a really good job making sure we know what their penalty kill will be like. We knew what was coming. Luckily I was in the slot for both of them. One coming from the goal line, I've really been working on that shot. It was a great pass from [Alexander] Kerfoot and [Luke] Esposito. I got it along the ice far side. The second one was a great look from [Jimmy] Vesey looking off the defenders," said Criscuolo.

Johnston added an empty net goal to seal the victory for the Raiders with 13 seconds to play.

"Ryan Johnston made an unbelievable read inside the blue line on the empty net goal. He picked up the [Harvard player's] eyes and stepped in front of that pass," said Vaughn.

Colgate freshman goaltender Charlie Finn made just 23 saves, but several of them were crucial to keep his team in the lead. Two in particular were big saves late in the game that preserved the lead.

"Huge. I say to our goalies 'You don't have to make all of them. You just have to make the right saves.' They were clearly the right saves. Harvard was coming hard and had the extra guy on the ice. [Charlie] tracks the puck so well. That saved the game right there," said Vaughn.

"I thought our defense just did a fantastic job allowing me to see the puck. They made it really easy for me to be honest. They were solid all night, the forwards, too, with the back check," said Finn.

With the win and four points on the weekend Colgate (11-9-3 overall, 7-3-1 ECAC) sits alone in fourth place. The Raiders will host north country foes Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend.

"Obviously [four points] is huge for us, especially with the ECAC standings being so tight right now. Harvard and Dartmouth are two very good teams. They weren't easy wins, but we found a way to grind it out. Especially on the road that is always a good thing," said Finn.

Harvard (5-10-3 overall, 3-7-3 ECAC) plays a solo game at Union next weekend.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.