Colgate knows what it’s like to deal with the pressure of playing in the ECAC Hockey tournament championship round — the Raiders are in the semifinals for the third time in four years.
But this is unfamiliar territory for Princeton. The Tigers haven’t been to this round of the tournament since 1999, when the event was held in Lake Placid. Plus, Princeton is now the top remaining seed in the tournament.
Eighth-seeded Colgate is hoping that its experience will be a factor in helping it advance to the final for the first time in 18 years. The Raiders (18-16-6) take on the second-seeded and 15th-ranked Tigers (19-13) in the 4 p.m. semifinal game today at the Times Union Center.
The winner faces the Cornell-Harvard victor in the final at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Although the Raiders, who upset top-seeded Clarkson last weekend, didn’t reach the final in their last two semifinal appearances in 2005 and 2006, senior goalie Mark Dekanich knows his team will be able to deal with the demands of the weekend.
“None of their guys played there, and we have for three seasons out of our four,” said Dekanich, who made a career-high 52 saves in Sunday’s 3-2 double-overtime victory over Clarkson in the deciding game of their quarterfinal series. “I think it plays a little bit of a factor, just dealing with the media and getting used to the atmosphere.”
Colgate coach Don Vaughan agrees, to a point.
“Once the puck drops, I
really don’t think it matters much,” Vaughan said. “These guys are great athletes, and very focused on what they need to do and very well prepared.”
Princeton junior forward Brett Wilson isn’t worried about his team’s inexperience.
“Hopefully, we just go in there and not know what to expect, and just focus on playing hockey and not worry too much about the other stuff,” said Wilson, whose Tigers needed three games to beat Yale last weekend. “Maybe not knowing what’s going on will work to our advantage.”
Colgate hasn’t been to a title game since winning the 1990 tournament. The only championship games the Raiders have played in at the TU Center have been in the first two Governor’s Cup tournaments, and they lost those to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Raiders senior forward Tyler Burton, who leads the team with 22 goals and 18 assists, would love snap that 18-year ECACH tournament title drought.
“We’ve got a lot of older guys who’ve been there,” Burton said. “Through our hard work, we kind of lead the way, especially some of us seniors. We have eight seniors where it’s our third time there. We all want to get back to the NCAA tournament. We want that chance to win the championship. I can guarantee that the eight of us will do everything we possibly can to win that game [tonight].”
In order to do that, the Raiders must do something they couldn’t do in the regular season — beat the
Tigers. Princeton won, 2-0, Nov. 3
at Starr Rink, and 7-2 Feb. 22 at Hobey Baker Rink. In the last game, Princeton ended Dekanich’s league-record scoreless streak of 217 minutes, 16 seconds, in a big way. They scored five goals, chasing Dekanich from the game.
“I don’t think they saw our best when we were down there,” Burton said. “I give them a lot of credit. They are an extremely hard-working team. They’ve got very skilled players that can punish you if you’re not on top of your game. I know they’ll be ready to play this weekend. They’re hungry to make their bid for the ECAC championship.”
Princeton junior forward Lee Jubinville, the team’s leading scorer with 12 goals and 26 assists, knows he will see a different Colgate team.
“When you’re playing a one-game showdown, I don’t think too much of the past works,” Wilson said. “We know they have a really good goalie who can be hot in a one-game series. Goaltending is going to be a huge factor. They have good offensive players, too.”