POTSDAM When Saturday nights game against Mercyhurst concludes, the Clarkson University mens hockey team will officially be halfway through the 2012-13 season, with 17 games completed and 17 to play before the ECAC Hockey playoffs begin.
Clarkson (4-7-5 overall) got off to a bad start, losing its first four games and following that with three ties. But things have picked up for the Golden Knights of late, who enter Saturdays contest on a two-game win streak against rival St. Lawrence University.
We found a compete level daily in practice and nightly in games, Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. We are really competing hard, and that affords us an opportunity every night.
Even though this was expected to be a development season, Clarkson is actually outperforming last years squad in a few areas.
The Golden Knights are averaging 2.88 goals per game, compared to 2.69 a year ago. Clarkson has already matched last years total of two shorthanded goals and is taking 1.3 less penalties a game than it did a year ago.
But Clarkson has struggled a bit on defense and special teams. Last years squad allowed 2.79 goals per game and this year the Golden Knights have allowed 2.93. Clarkson scored on 17.9 percent of its power plays last year compared to 16.4 so far this season and the Golden Knights have killed 75 percent of their penalties this year, compared to 82 percent a year ago.
But the biggest difference in the two seasons has been injuries.
Clarkson lost 46 player games to injuries in 39 games last year, when counting the number of games each individual missed. So far this year, through 16 games, Clarkson has lost 36 player games to injury.
If you are going to get injured, you might as well get injured early in the year, Jones said. What has set us back was the fact it was some veteran guys.
Senior Adam Pawlick has missed 10 of Clarksons first 16 games to injury. Sophomore defenseman Sam Labrecque, a key factor in Clarksons power play, has missed nine games and captain Ben Sexton and forward Mike Garlasco have each missed five.
I feel bad for Adam Pawlick, Jones said. He had a great summer. Hes finally coming back into a shape a bit. Hopefully this will make us better in the second half. Some guys got thrust into roles they might not have, initially.
A big bright side for Clarkson during its first half has been the play of the freshman class, which is accounting for 25 percent of the teams overall scoring and has produced 14 goals and 16 assists.
The only class that has done more this season has been the junior class, with 19 goals and 30 assists and accounting for 42 percent of Clarksons scoring.
The leading scorer among the freshmen has been Pat Megannety, with five goals and three assists. Simon Bessette has four goals and two assists, including two goals last week against SLU.
Jeff DiNallo did not play early in the season, but has scored two goals in six games, including one Saturday against the Saints in Lake Placid.
Getting that goal was huge for me to build my confidence up, DiNallo said. I was kind of disappointed (when) I wasnt playing, but I knew if I kept working hard and improving my practice habits I was going to get in the lineup sooner or later.
Also standing out in the freshman class is goalie Greg Lewis, who stopped 59 of 61 shots last week against the Saints and was the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week.
ODDS AND ENDS
Clarkson is expecting to add two players to the roster for the second semester. Freshman forward T.J. Moor will join the program. He played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the U.S. Hockey League last year and produced 14 goals with 23 assists in 53 games. Also returning to school will be sophomore defenseman Kevin Tansey, who played in all 39 games last year and had two goals and seven assists. Tansey was the victim of an assault last summer in Canada and has been recovering. It is not known when he will actually be able to play for Clarkson.
Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @CapCareyWDT. Video interviews and highlights can be found on the Knights Tales blog: http://watertowndailytimes.com/section/blogs04