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Clarkson meets another struggling program in RIT

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POTSDAM — Instead of the traditional two-game weekend the Clarkson University men’s hockey team is only focusing on one contest this weekend, a game tonight at the Rochester Institute of Technology that will be televised live by Time Warner Sports.

Clarkson (2-5-4 overall) is starting a stretch that will see it play five of its next eight games against nonconference opponents, though one of those nonconference contests will be a game against rival St. Lawrence University in Lake Placid.

“It’s the way it is,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “It’s a situation where teams take some breaks over Thanksgiving. Then all of sudden we are heading into New Year pretty quick. It’s a stretch that’s important for us in terms of finishing out the first half on a good note. We have some tough games coming forward starting with (tonight) to set ourselves up for the second half.”

RIT (2-7-2) enters tonight’s game on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1). The Tigers started off the season with a 5-4 overtime win at Michigan, but followed that by going 0-4-1. RIT has not defeated Clarkson since it became an NCAA Division I program and its last win against the Golden Knights was a 4-3 decision at the Syracuse Invitational in 1986.

“You look at the whole season there, they went into Michigan and beat Michigan, so they are very capable,” Jones said. “They are very good at home and have great fan support. We are looking forward to a great environment. I heard it’s sold out and we have a large alumni contingent coming, so it should be an exciting place to play. It should be a good game in terms of two teams going at it.”

Clarkson played Niagara University twice earlier in the season and fans can expect to see more nonconference games in the future against the upstate schools.

“They are teams that really put a good product on the ice every year and they are competitive and they are in state and great areas for us in terms of where our alumni base is,” Jones said. “We do have them on the schedule here for the next few years. It should be good over the next two or three years playing these guys.”

THE ENEMY WITHIN

Norwood native Alex Boak has been performing a lot of key roles for Clarkson so far this season.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound defenseman leads the team with 18 blocked shots and he is third on the team in plus/minus at plus-five.

“He just continues to get bigger and stronger and he’s physical and he’s playing with some jam,” Jones said. “I still think his best hockey is ahead of him. His big thing now is he’s moving his feet and he’s getting difficult to play against. The thing about Alex, no matter what rink we go in, he’s ready for battle and he looks out for guys. He’s a tough competitor. As a coach you like to tone someone down versus having to convince someone to play hard and get after it.”

Boak is an intense player. He’s already picked up a major penalty this season and has 29 penalty minutes through 11 games. Last year, he had 102 penalty minutes.

He’s also one of the most unpopular Clarkson players among opposing fans.

“I’ve kind of grown to be like that,” Boak said. “The guys always get on me. That’s kind of what my job is, to stick up for my teammates and kind of be that physical presence out on the ice. I don’t think I’ve made very many friends (on other teams) over the past two years. I’m nice off the ice but I don’t make very good friends no the ice.”

FIRST GOAL FOR CHRISTIAN

Freshman Todd Christian, a Norwalk, Conn., native, scored his first career goal just 57 seconds into Clarkson’s 7-2 win at Princeton last Saturday.

Christian is a third-generation Clarkson student. His grandfather, Eugene, graduated in 1951, and he had an uncle named Phillip who graduated in 1984.

“It felt good to finally get the first one,” Christian said. “It was a while before I got in the lineup, but once I did I just tried to play my role as best I could. It worked out. Hopefully there’s more to come.”

Christian led his team last year, the Notre Dame Hounds, in scoring with 57 points in 57 games, including a team-best 25 goals.

NOTEBOOK

Former Golden Knight goalie Andy Kostka died in his sleep at the age of 32 last Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. Kostka was part of the program from 1998-2000 and then spent his final two years at Clarkson as a student. He was a backup goalie on Clarkson’s 1999 ECAC Championship team and competed as an inline skater. His memorial service was Wednesday. ... Clarkson will be missing captain Ben Sexton for about a month after he was injured late in Saturday’s game against Princeton. Clarkson had several players out of practice though their injuries are not as severe. Those who could possibly miss Saturday’s game include Joe Zarbo, Mike Garlasco and Patrick Marsh. Sam Labrecque has also missed the last five games with an injury. ... Clarkson hopes to raise about $3,000 in November by participating in Movember, which is named for mustache growing geared toward awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer.

Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at ccarey@wdt.net

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