The Colgate Scene
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|Young McDonald had a dream|
|by John D. Hubbard|
Andy McDonald '00 has become a better hockey player each of the last three
Now the past is prelude and McDonald, who wears the captain's C for the Red Raiders, is recognized as one of the elite players in the ECAC and the acknowledged leader of a team preseason prognosticators have penciled in for home ice.
"Andy is the hardest worker I have ever coached," said Colgate head man Don Vaughn. "He is driven. He's made himself the player he is now."
McDonald came to Colgate as a Western Ontario Junior "B" Player-of-the-Year but he hardly rested on his laurels. As a freshman, the forward played in all 33 games and led his classmates with nine goals and 19 points. In his second year, McDonald was an Honorable Mention all-ECAC selection and was second on the team scoring list with 13 goals and 19 assists.
Last season, McDonald made second team all-ECAC and helped Colgate make it to Lake Placid (site of the ECAC tournament) while leading the team in scoring with 20 goals and 26 assists.
The statistics don't begin to record the myriad contributions McDonald makes on the ice and per-formances in games hardly reveal all that has gone into his explosive speed, strength on the puck and rink savvy.
"The college atmosphere is a lot different from playing in small towns," said McDonald, who had left his mark in London, St. Thomas, Elmer and Sarnia when he played Junior "B."
"I was in awe when I skated out for my first game. I think it was a big jump. The game is a lot faster, the guys hit a little harder and move the puck quicker." McDonald, not even 160 pounds then, knew he would have to gain strength while maintaining his speed and quickness. So he went to work.
In McDonald's second year Col-gate opened the season with a win at Michigan but frustrations mounted as winter deepened. "It was a frustrating year, but a learning year, too. I think we learned what it takes to move on, to be a top team."
Last season the Red Raiders finished the regular season in fifth place and qualified for a Final Five preliminary game on the Olympic ice. Princeton ended up winning 3-2 when Colgate blew a second period lead for the first time all season, but the experience was enticing.
"We definitely want more. We want to win a championship," said McDonald, who realized in addition to his speed, puck handling and scoring he would be counted on to supply leadership.
Looking at the returning players -- a good group of freshmen and two veteran goalies -- McDonald is im-pressed. "Hopefully we'll have four lines that can skate with anyone and an experienced defense, guys who have played and know what it takes."
As a senior McDonald "has taken on a real leadership role," according to Vaughn. "Because Andy is so driv-en he could have a tendency to push people, but he's worked to channel that energy in a positive way."
That all comes on top of McDonald's offensive expectations, his presence on the ice in crucial situations and his role as a defensive player, especially killing penalties.
"I try to get Andy on the ice as much as I can," Vaughan. "I love watching him practice. He makes it look so effortless." It is the fruit of McDonald's labors, and now he fine-tunes an already complete game. The idea now is to be able to shoot on the fly, work the puck in traffic, win contests in the corner, all at top speed. No wonder coaches stop and stare.
For McDonald the season is an evolutionary process. While an ECAC championship is the goal, it can only be attained incrementally.
"We don't want to focus on the end, but keep each day in front of us and get one day better at every practice."
"I wouldn't say things have come easily for me." McDonald, who is reserved, spoke matter-of-factly but with the slightest hint his pride is not so much in where he is but how he got there.
The forward is quick to cite his teammates and coaches and the contributions all have made and he acknowledges, yes, he is driven.
It takes sweat -- early morning workouts with only McDonald's breathing and his skates cutting the ice under him making Starr Rink come alive. It takes growing up -- facing the media after a hard loss in Lake Placid unflinchingly and carry-ing the mantle knowing all eyes are on you.
It takes a love of the game -- the speed, the hitting, the boys in the locker room.
"I am determined to get to the next level," said Andy McDonald, speaking for the team. That would be the championship stand at Lake Placid, and from there, who knows.
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