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Colgate holds off St. Lawrence, 2-1, in ECAC Hockey quarterfinals

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HAMILTON — The Colgate University hockey team has been riding stalwart defensive play down the stretch of the regular season and its playoff opener was no exception, this time at the expense of St. Lawrence University.

The No. 17-ranked and second-seeded Raiders scored two power-play goals in the first six minutes of the game and fended off the eighth-seeded Saints, 2-1, to win Game 1 of an ECAC Hockey quarterfinal playoff series before 1,914 at Starr Rink.

“The score was in my mind pretty indicative of the game,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “It was a really close game and our goaltender made three spectacular saves. ... I thought we had a good start, we were able to sustain it and we were able to hang on at the end.”

Though the Saints were held scoreless for much of the game, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel didn’t fault his team’s overall effort.

“I thought we fought back and played very well,” Carvel said. “But unfortunately we took some bad penalties and had a couple breakdowns on our penalty kill, which was unfortunate.”

Sophomore forward Tyson Spink scored a man-advantage goal 2:29 into the game and then set up sophomore defenseman Kevin Lough’s power-play tally at 5:09 for Colgate (18-12-5), which can close out the best-of-3 series with a victory at 7 tonight. Game 3, if necessary, will be played Sunday night.

St. Lawrence (15-18-4), which finally broke through with senior defenseman Justin Baker’s goal with 5:40 left in regulation, now faces an elimination game tonight.

“Losing is always tough, especially in the playoffs,” Baker, an assistant captain, said. “But the mood is pretty positive, no one is discouraged or has lost confidence that we can get this done.”

After allowing the two power-play goals, St. Lawrence shut down the sophomore-laden Raiders team the rest of the way.

“It was a good playoff hockey game, both teams played hard,” Carvel said. “But we’ve got to find ways to score some ugly goals.”

Baker drew the Saints within 2-1, tapping in a cross-ice feed from Greg Carey, who scored at 14:20 of the third period.

“If you give Greg Carey that kind of time and space with the puck, something’s going to happen and he made an unbelievable play,” Vaughan said.

But St. Lawrence, which was outshot 31-24, would get no closer.

“We’ve got to score where we throw pucks to the net and get bodies in front. We need to win battles to get to the net,” Carvel said.

Finn finished with 22 saves for Colgate, which has allowed only six goals in its past five games.

“We’re a little frustrated, but there’s definitely positives to take out of this game,” Saints senior assistant captain Jeremy Wick said. “I really felt like we took it to them for most of the game.”

The Raiders also blanked St. Lawrence’s nation-leading power play, but the Saints were limited to only two man advantages.

“I think holding their power play off the ice was important because it’s so dangerous,” Vaughan said.

Colgate, which converted on two of three power plays, in turn has excelled on the penalty kill, and has allowed only one-man advantage goal over its past 10 games.

The Raiders pounced on the Saints by converting on their first two power plays.

Spink took a pass from twin brother Tylor Spink and sent a wrister from the right faceoff circle past senior goalie Matt Weninger (29 saves) 2:29 into the game.

Tyson Spink set up Lough’s tally with 13 seconds left in Colgate’s second man advantage.

“With the bye, sometimes it scares guys, but we just kept our heads straight from the start and used that to our advantage,” Tyson Spink said.

Only one game doesn’t make a playoff series — but St. Lawrence, which swept Colgate in the first round of the playoffs last year, needs a win tonight to avoid being swept in the quarterfinals for the second straight year.

“Hopefully (tonight) we’ll have a little more urgency to get to the net,” Carvel said.

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