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Winning the close games propels Golden Knights

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POTSDAM — A key reason the Clarkson University men’s hockey team has gotten off to a 9-2-1 overall record to start the season has been the team’s success in tight games.

Clarkson, which is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season, is 6-0-1 this season in games decided by one goal. Last year, the Golden Knights were 3-8-7 in the same situations.

“Two things that stick out for me are confidence and maturity,” Clarkson captain Ben Sexton said. “I think we’re a lot more mature than we were last year, and it’s amazing what a little more confidence can do for guys in the room. We never doubt ourselves when we are in one-goal games, or close games.”

Said senior Allan McPherson, “It’s our mentality, we believe we can win every game. We’ve been in a lot of close games and we feel we can win those games no matter what.”

Clarkson’s will was tested last weekend in close games at Dartmouth and Harvard.

The Golden Knights blew a two-goal lead in less than two minutes at Dartmouth, but Sexton scored a power-play goal 1 minute, 58 seconds after Dartmouth tied the game to give Clarkson a 3-2 win.

“It’s a little killer-instinct that we have this year and I think it comes back down to confidence,” Sexton said. “We’ve had some success early, and we’ve continued that on.”

Clarkson struggled on the power play Saturday against Harvard, going 0-for-7 before McPherson scored a power-play goal with two minutes remaining to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 victory.

“Both teams kind of struggled on the power play a little bit, but that was attributed to both (penalty kills) playing well,” McPherson said. “We just kept to what we do best with the puck movement and we got one late.”

Clarkson’s continued success in close games could be a key in how the squad finishes in ECAC Hockey play, because the conference appears to be tight this season.

“I think we’re in the realization that we’re going to be in a lot of close games,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “That’s the way it’s going to go. We’re getting more comfortable in them. I just think it’s the league and it’s who we are. We have to defend and play well.”

CORNELL, COLGATE OUTLOOK

Traditionally, the central New York teams have given Clarkson trouble in recent years, but both have struggled early this season.

Cornell (3-2-1 overall, 1-2-1 conference) is 0-2-1 in its last three games and lost 6-3 to a nine-win Clarkson team last season in Cheel Arena. Colgate (4-6-1, 2-2-0) has gone 6-1-3 in its past 10 games against Clarkson.

Cornell has not featured its usual stingy defense this season, giving up 2.83 goals-per game. Colgate’s defense is worse, allowing 3.72. The Raiders are 1-6 if they allow more than one goal.

Big Red goalie Andy Iles has not played up to his numbers from last season, with a .904 save percentage. Last year it was .916.

Cornell, which has seven players who are National Hockey League draft picks, has played well on the power play, scoring 28.1 percent, though the Big Red have killed 79.3 percent of its penalties.

Colgate has not played well on special teams, scoring on 15.7 percent of its power plays and killing penalties at 80.8 percent.

n NOTES: Clarkson sophomore Greg Lewis was named the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week after allowing only three goals last weekend in road wins at Dartmouth and Harvard. ...Senior forward Will Frederick has scored a goal in three of the last four games. ... Clarkson leads the nation with 442 faceoff wins and Sexton leads individually with 149. The Golden Knights have won 55 percent of their faceoffs and Sexton has a 59.6 percent win rate. ... Clarkson ranks sixth nationally allowing just 2.0 goals per game. Clarkson has outshot the opposition in 10 of 12 games and Clarkson’s defensemen have produced 27 percent of the team’s offense with seven goals and 17 assists. ... Clarkson has scored first in nine of its 12 games and is 7-1-1 when it scores first. The Golden Knights, who have trailed only 14.6 percent of the time this season, are 9-0-1 if they are tied, or ahead, after the first period.

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

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