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Saints take series lead on Raiders


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 scored the game’s 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.

“It’s a good game for us — it’s a playoff win,” Flanagan said. “We’re happy about it, but we’re 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.

“It’s playoff hockey,” said Saints junior goalie Matt Weninger who finished with 29 saves, “and it’s the ECAC — nobody’s five or six goals better than the other team. We knew it wasn’t 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.

“We’ve been in this situation before where we’ve let teams back into games,” said Carvel, who recorded his first playoff victory as a head coach. “When I called the timeout that’s what we talked about — I said ‘we’ve been in this situation before and have we learned from this?’”

Colgate nearly closed within one, but Baun’s 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 we’ve to find a way to bring the game we’ve 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 — it’s 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.”

The Saints struck for three goals within a span of 12 minutes 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, they’re 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.

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