By CAP CAREY
POTSDAM — For a second straight game the Clarkson University men’s hockey team defeated a program that it had not beaten for several years.
The Golden Knights edged Union College 2-1 before 2,226 fans in an ECAC Hockey game Friday at Cheel Arena. It was Clarkson’s first win over Union since a 4-3 overtime win in Cheel Arena on Jan. 23, 2009, snapping a streak of nine straight losses to the Dutchmen. Last weekend Clarkson earned its first victory over Cornell since the 2007-08 season.
“We’re trying to evolve as a team and learn how to close teams out,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “Tonight was very important to us, because it got close at the end and we held on. That’s an important confidence booster. (Union) had their push in the third.”
Union (13-9-5 overall, 6-5-4 conference) had not merely won nine straight games against Clarkson, but had dominated the Golden Knights in that run, outscoring Clarkson 50-16.
The Dutchmen entered Friday’s game averaging 3.04 goals and owned the nation’s top power play at 26 percent.
Clarkson (7-13-7, 6-6-3) emphasized defense in practice this week and also limited its penalties, giving Union only three power-play chances.
“I think we took their time and space away, especially in the neutral zone,” defenseman Sam Labrecque said. “They didn’t get much transition play tonight. We were blocking shots. It was a pretty good game overall in the (defensive) zone. We did a good job on their power play to keep them outside. We knew right off the bat that their power play was pretty good. Discipline was one of the keys for us tonight.”
Labrecque got the scoring started for Clarkson with a goal at 7 minutes, 46 seconds of the first period on a shot from between the circles that beat Union’s starting goalie Troy Grosenick. Simon Bessette and Pat Megannety assisted.
“I remember Bessette had the puck down low and I saw an opening right between the hash marks, so I took it,” Labrecque said. “He made a great pass. I think (scoring first) is huge for us, especially at home against a good team like that.”
Union outshot Clarkson 10-6 in the opening period but was frustrated on the few scoring chances it managed by Clarkson goalie Greg Lewis, who finished with 27 saves.
The Golden Knights shut Union’s offense down in the second period, holding the Dutchmen to just six shots. After two periods Union’s top forward line of Daniel Ciampini, Kyle Bodie and Wayne Simpson combined for just one shot on goal.
Junior Allan McPherson gave Clarkson a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal on a three-on-one breakaway at 6:38 of the second period. McPherson kept the puck and put a shot between Grosenick’s legs, giving him a power-play goal in three straight games for Clarkson.
“It shows we’re moving forward,” McPherson said of the last two wins. “We’ve had tough times against those teams, but it’s a new year. The past is the past and that’s the way we look at it. I thought our (defense) was tremendous tonight. They were poised with the puck and had ability to avoid pressure and break the puck out. That helped the forwards a lot.”
Union coach Rick Bennett pulled Grosenick after McPherson’s goal, and Colin Stevens played the final 32:17 in net for the Dutchmen, stopping all 11 shots he faced.
“Definitely it wasn’t a Troy Grosenick issue tonight, it was our whole team tonight,” Bennett said. “They played harder than us. I thought they were capitalizing on our mistakes. We never established a forecheck tonight, and they did a great job of getting out of our zone.”
Union put only one shot past Lewis, when Josh Jooris put in a rebound at 13:37 of the third period while Lewis was still on his back after making an initial save.
The Dutchmen had one final chance to tie the game when Nik Pokulok was called for tripping at 14:50, but Clarkson killed all three of its penalties, allowing Union only six total shots. “It was a big kill, it’s something to build off of,” Lewis said. “The guys in front of me played really well, blocking shots and getting in lanes. It made it easy on me. It feels great.”