The Colgate men’s hockey team travelled to Lowell, Massachusetts for a two-game series against the No. 18 UMass-Lowell River Hawks. After starting the season 0-3-0, the Raiders looked to bounce back against the River Hawks and try to salvage something from the weekend road trip.

Friday, October 18 marked the first of the Raiders’ two games against UMass. Expectations were high heading into this game for UMass, especially considering the fact that they are ranked within the top 20 teams in college hockey. 

The River Hawks capitalized on the momentum of home ice with an early goal to start the game off. 

However, Colgate rallied and eventually erased the one-goal deficit behind senior forward Jared Cockrell’s first goal of the season with 6:56 remaining in the first. Following a spinning shot from junior forward Paul McAvoy, Colgate found itself with a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

Coming out of the break, the River Hawks responded with yet another quick score, this time quick rebound off a shot from the blueline just 1:35 into the second period. However, junior forward Trevor Cosgrove would not let this goal by UMass go unavenged, as he was able to find the back of the net for the Raiders just 2:24 later.

With a 3-2 lead heading into the third period, Colgate sophomore netminder Mitch Benson continued to fend off the River Hawks’ shots, ultimately finishing with 33 saves on the night.

However, after a costly penalty midway through the period, the Raiders found themselves once again tied with UMass.

The game remained knotted at 3-3 until the end of the period, resulting in the Raiders’ first overtime action of the season. Colgate wasted no time during the extra period, either, as senior forward Ben Sharf scored the game-winning goal found the back of the net off helpers from senior Tyler Penner and junior Nick Austin just nine seconds in. 

The Raiders were understandably thrilled to record their first win of the season, and especially against a top-20 ranked team in the nation. After the game, coach Don Vaughan lauded his team and Sharf for their tenacity on the ice.

“It’s never a bad idea to put pucks on net and that’s exactly what Ben Sharf did in overtime. His preparation, attitude, and work ethic have been excellent this fall and he is getting rewarded for that right now,” Vaughan said.

The following evening, the Raiders squared off yet again versus the River Hawks, and the second game could not have been more different than the first. Rather than a heated contest featuring back-and-forth scoring, Colgate and No. 18 UMass struggled to find the back of the net.

The Raiders played hard during the first period, trying to create opportunities for themselves to ride the momentum from their win the day before. Sophomore forward Griffin Lunn even found the back of the net about midway through the first period, though the goal was eventually waved off due to offsides. 

Both teams had several changes throughout the period, but neither was able to light the lamp and the game stood at 0-0 after one.

The second period featured more of the same for both teams. The Raiders found themselves on the penalty kill a couple times throughout the period, but neither side was able to break the tie.

Much like the second, the third period also featured a lot of penalties without a lot of scoring. Games like these usually get a little chippy towards the end, as both teams get so frustrated about not being able to score. 

That is exactly what happened on Saturday night, too, as skaters from each side were sent off, resulting in a 4-on-4 opportunity for both teams and a chance to finally get on the board. However, like the rest of the game, neither side was able to get much of anything going, and the contest would ultimately end with a scoreless tie.

Though the Raiders were unsuccessful offensively on Saturday, Benson notched yet another strong performance, registering a 35-save shutout, as well as his second 30+ save game of the season. Coach Vaughan was extremely impressed with the play from his netminder against such a formidable opponent.

“It was just a great effort by the guys tonight. We created a lot of scoring changes and when we needed some big saves, Mitch Benson was there to answer the call. Both goalies were very good tonight,” Vaughan said.

Though the Raiders did not win the second game, a 1-0-1 record against No. 18 UMass is certainly a step in the right direction for Vaughan and his team. Colgate will square off next against Miami University (Ohio) in a back-to-back series in the Class of 1965 Arena at 7:00 p.m. on October 25 and 4:00 p.m. on October 26.

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