CANTON In the pressure cooker of playoff hockey, St. Lawrence University held firm on this night.
With senior captain Kyle Flanagan back in the lineup, the Saints didnt miss a beat from the start in scoring the games first four goals and then held off a charge by Colgate in the third period to prevail 4-2 on Friday in Game 1 of an ECAC Hockey first-round playoff series before a turnout of 1,407 at Appleton Arena.
Its a good game for us its a playoff win, Flanagan said. Were happy about it, but were not satisfied.
Sixth-seeded St. Lawrence (17-14-4) can clinch the series with a victory in Game 2 over the 11th seeded Raiders (14-17-4) at 7 tonight in Canton.
Its playoff hockey, said Saints junior goalie Matt Weninger who finished with 29 saves, and its the ECAC nobodys five or six goals better than the other team. We knew it wasnt going to be easy and maybe this will benefit us in the long run. But at the end of the day, a win is a win.
With the return of Flanagan, who was sidelined last weekend after he underwent an appendectomy 11 days ago, the Saints came out flying by scoring three times in the opening period on a goal each from Patrick Doherty, Gunnar Hughes and Jeremy Wick.
That broke the ice, Doherty said of the Saints quick start. But I think we can definitely ramp it up even more. We have a great game plan we just have to stick to it.
Greg Carey followed with a power-play goal early in the second period to stake St. Lawrence to a 4-0 advantage.
Undaunted, Colgate mounted a rally attempt on a pair of power-play goals in the first three minutes, 16 seconds of the third period.
We let them get a chance to get back in the game, which is frustrating to me, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. But we showed a lot of character, I thought we settled down and took it from there and got a win. There are no bad wins, especially in the playoffs.
After freshman Kyle Baun scored on a redirection 55 seconds into the third, freshman Tylor Spink beat Weninger on a backhander as the Raiders pulled within 4-2.
Weve been in this situation before where weve let teams back into games, said Carvel, who recorded his first playoff victory as a head coach. When I called the timeout thats what we talked about I said weve been in this situation before and have we learned from this?
Colgate nearly closed within one, but Bauns rebound goal with 3:39 left in regulation was waved off with officials citing a high stick and the call was upheld by video review.
We found our legs in the third period, but it was too little, too late, Colgate coach Don Vaughn said. It was good to see some signs of life in the third and hopefully we can build a little momentum from that. .... But weve to find a way to bring the game weve got in the third period to start the game.
Flanagan, who underwent surgery on Feb. 26 and returned to practice eight days later on Wednesday, was in the starting lineup and played most of the game.
It felt good, Flanagan said. After the first period, my energy dropped off just a little bit its kind of to be expected since I was taking regular shifts. This was a good game for me because it gave me a chance to work on my timing, my mechanics and finding my rhythm.
Kyle Flanagan is the leader of this team, Doherty said. Hes our captain, hes one of our senior and when he gets it going, it just electrifies everybody.
The Saints struck for three goals within a span of 12 in the first period.
We had a couple of major breakdowns in our coverage in the first period, Vaughn said. And against a really good team like that, theyre going to finish on those and they did. We dug ourselves a hole early.
Doherty got things started for St. Lawrence as he snapped his own rebound past goalie Eric Mihalik 8:53 into the game. The Saints followed with two goals in the final minute as on a rush, Gunnar Hughes one-timed a centering feed from brother George Hughes, scoring from just outside the right faceoff circle with 49.2 seconds remaining in the period.
Kyle Essery then took the puck away from a defender behind the net and sent a pass to Wick, who scored on a one-timer to beat Mihalik from in close with 4.3 seconds left.
Carey provided the Saints with a 4-0 advantage as he scored a power-play goal by taking a pass from Flanagan and wristing a shot which spun off the goalies pads 10:56 into the second period.
Weninger was sharp early on as he stopped all 13 shots faced in the opening period, including a save on Bauns backhander early in the game.
Matt was real good, Carvel said. I always say when hes playing well, he just battles to make saves, he was very good tonight.
■ NOTES: Carey continues to lead the nation in goals (27), power-play goals (13) and points (49) and has eight goals in nine career playoff games. ... Doherty and Gunnar Hughes each recorded their first career playoff goal and Wick scored his first postseason goal. ... Essery, who left the game with an apparent injury in the first period, returned just several minutes later and registered his first playoff assist by setting up Wicks goal. With an assist each, Justin Baker and Sean McGovern posted their first playoff point. ... St. Lawrence recorded its first victory as a No. 6 seed.