POTSDAM A year ago Clarkson headed to road games at Dartmouth and Harvard on the final weekend of the regular season hoping to earn a top-four finish in the ECAC Hockey standings and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
But the Golden Knights gave up four goals in the first period and lost 6-4 to Dartmouth on Friday and then fell 3-2 at Harvard on Saturday to drop to the seventh seed in the playoffs, where it then fell in a three-game series at home against Rensselaer.
This season, Clarkson heads on the road for the final weekend with a slight chance of a top-four spot, but in control of its own destiny to earn home ice for a first-round series.
Instead of a trip to New England, Clarkson instead heads to the Capital District this weekend to play Rensselaer tonight and Union College on Saturday.
Were looking forward to the weekend, Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. Its an opportunity here. Its a situation where if we play well and take care of our own fate here we should be in a good situation to play at home. Who knows how everything will shake out as to how far we can climb?
Clarkson has gone 4-3-1 in its last eight games, and the Golden Knights have had just one conference road weekend where they scored no points, and that was in the first semester at Colgate and Cornell.
We took a lot from our experience last year going into Harvard/Dartmouth and we learned from it, captain Ben Sexton said. We banked the things that we need to work on. We have a different mentality this year. We are more of a confident group coming down the stretch. We are really looking forward to this weekend.
In addition to positioning itself to be at home, Clarkson is looking to avenge one of its more embarrassing defeats of the season tonight. Second-place RPI earned a 6-2 win at Cheel Arena on Feb. 9.
We owe them one for this year and last year too in the playoffs, Allan McPherson said of RPI. They came here and embarrassed us this year. We have to come out with a better effort. We didnt play very well in that game. We have to have some respect for them but play hard and be strong against them.
Clarkson can assure itself of a home playoff series by splitting this weekend.
The Golden Knights can finish as high as third, but also can finish as low as 11th place.
The top four teams in ECAC Hockey earn a first-round bye and then host best-of-three quarterfinal series. Teams five-through-eight host a first-round, best-of-three series.
So what happens with Clarkson? Heres a look at how Clarkson fares given all five possible scenarios this weekend, from best to worst:
Four points: This would give the Golden Knights 23 points but still may not assure Clarkson of a first-round bye. RPI has 23 points heading into the weekend and St. Lawrence University has 22, which means the Saints would have to go no better than 0-1-1 for Clarkson to tie them. Dartmouth and Yale have 21 points and both have two home games this weekend.
Three points: This places Clarkson at 22 points, which would tie SLU if the Saints go winless. If it was a two-way tie then Clarkson would have the tiebreaker for going 1-0-1 against the Saints. But given that Dartmouth and Yale have home games this weekend its unlikely Clarkson could earn a top-four finish without a sweep.
Two points: Just one win, either tonight or Saturday, means Clarkson returns home next weekend to host a first-round series. If Union were to lose both games this weekend then Clarkson would jump the Dutchmen with a win and would be in a three-way tie with Yale and Dartmouth if those teams dropped both home games.
One point: This gives Clarkson 20 points and could leave the Golden Knights in seventh place, but Brown would have to earn just one point this weekend and Clarkson would have to hope the best Cornell or Princeton do is split their games. Brown is currently one point behind Clarkson with 18 points and Cornell and Princeton have 17.
No points: A worst-case scenario for Clarkson that would require the Golden Knights to have a lot of help to stay at home next weekend. Brown has home games against Cornell and Colgate. The Bears are 3-1-5 in their last nine contests. Cornell could tie a winless Clarkson with just one win this weekend, as could Princeton, which plays at Dartmouth and Harvard. But the Tigers would lose a tiebreaker with the Golden Knights if it was a two-team tie because Clarkson swept them. Colgate, which has a tiebreaker with Clarkson, would need the Golden Knights to go 0-2 and would need to sweep Yale and Brown on the road to tie.
Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University for the Times. He can be reached at email@example.com