POTSDAM Satisfied with how the start of nonconference play began, the Clarkson University mens hockey team is looking to carry over its success to ECAC Hockey play, which starts this weekend with games at Brown and Yale.
Clarkson (6-1-1 overall) is ranked No. 17 in this weeks U.S. College Hockey Online poll. Its the first national ranking for the Golden Knights since the 2007-08 season.
I thought we got a good assessment of our roster and our guys in our lineup and different ways we can utilize guys, Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. Thats the most important thing going in, that we dont have a lot of unknowns. We have a good, comfortable feeling there and we came through rather healthy.
The Golden Knights earned a national ranking after sweeping Colorado College 2-1 and 1-0 last weekend at Cheel Arena.
But the challenge theyll face this weekend as conference play opens could be the toughest of the season.
Brown (2-0), has gone 8-2 since last seasons ECAC Hockey playoffs started. The Bears swept Clarkson in two games and wound up reaching the conference title game before losing to Union College.
You dont like having your season end. We know how Brown is and we know a lot about them and how their year is and how theyve started off pretty well, Clarkson forward Jarrett Burton said. Its going to be a tough test for us. They are a quick team. They like to be a transition team and get pucks on net early. We have to try to play our best defensive game against them.
Brown opened the season last weekend at the Liberty Invitational in Newark, N.J., playing in the home rink of the National Hockey Leagues New Jersey Devils. The Bears won a tournament of Ivy League schools, beating Yale 4-1 on Friday and Dartmouth 5-3 on Saturday.
Bears sophomore Mark Naclerio got off to a fast start, with three goals and four assists, scoring the game-winner in both games. Nick Lappin, the son of former St. Lawrence University standout Peter Lappin, scored two goals with two assists. Brown also got solid play from both of its goaltenders. Marco DeFilippo stopped 31 of 32 shots against Yale, and Tyler Steel made 28 saves on 31 shots against Dartmouth.
(Brown) started catching stride and they have a very dynamic first line, probably the best line weve seen so far this year with (Matt Lorito), who is extremely dangerous and very hot, Jones said. They are finding ways to win on special teams and ways to win games with their best line. Theyll be excited to play at home. Its going to be a challenge well have to match up with their top line and hopefully take it from there.
After Brown the next task for Clarkson will be to defeat defending national champion Yale on the road, though the Golden Knights did blank the Bulldogs 1-0 at Ingalls Rink last season.
We love playing (at Yale), Burton said. They are always buzzing and always looking to transition as well.
The top statistical defense in NCAA Division I hockey at the moment happens to be the Golden Knights, who have allowed opponents an average of 1.50 goals per game.
Clarkson has shut out two opponents in its first eight games and held three other foes to one goal.
Weve been real steady, had guys collapsing to the net, (defensemen) blocking shots and forwards blocking shots, defenseman Paul Geiger said. Weve all been paying the price at our own end to get the job done. I think we have five defensemen over 6 feet, so were big and strong down low. Its tough for teams to roll off of us.
Geiger has been one of the keys to the unit. He ranks eighth in the nation with 14 blocked shots.
I think weve done a good job limiting teams scoring chances throughout the season, defenseman Sam Labrecque said. Its something weve been working on in practice really hard. The biggest difference is were not giving the other team a lot of scoring chances and were limiting shots on goal, blocking more shots and finishing hits in the zone.
Another area where Clarkson leads the nation is faceoffs, with a team win percentage of 57.7, just ahead of SLU at 57.1.
Senior Ben Sexton leads the nation with 101 faceoff wins and is second among players with at least 50 faceoffs with a .669 win percentage. Senior Allan McPherson is second in wins with 99 and another senior, Matt Zarbo, leads the nation in win percentage at .677 (42-20).
We have one freshman (center) and a lot of our draws are taken by seniors, so you have some experience back there, Jones said. Any time you have experience at a position it bodes well for you. Theyve done a good job from that perspective. Its a way to control the game, another time you have the puck that another team doesnt.
Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org