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Clarkson men’s hockey team ends break at UVM’s Catamount Cup

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POTSDAM - After a 20-day break, the Clarkson University men’s hockey team will look to pick up where it left off as the Golden Knights return to action at the Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup in Burlington, VT, this weekend.

Guided by third-year head coach Casey Jones and assistants Phil Roy ‘00 and Andy Jones, Clarkson will play a pair of Hockey East foes in the classic at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Knights face tournament host the University of Vermont in first-round action on Saturday at 7:05 p.m., and then battle UMass-Lowell on the second day with faceoff slated for 4p.m.

Clarkson will be bidding to close out a highly successful 2013 portion of the schedule with its first tournament title in seven seasons. Led by senior captain Ben Sexton (Kanata, ONT), the Green and Gold stand at 12-3-1 overall and hold down third place in the ECAC Hockey standings with a 6-2 league mark.

Picked to finish 12th out of 12 teams in the ECAC Hockey Preseason Coaches’ poll back in mid-September, Clarkson rolled into the December break with one of its best starts ever in the history of the 92-year-old program and is ranked 9th in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and USCHO.com national polls. A balance contribution throughout the lineup, and the ability and confidence to win close games has been the trademark for the Knights this season. Clarkson put those traits on full display in its final action before the break.

The Knights ran their conference unbeaten streak over St. Lawrence to eight games (7-0-1) by sweeping the Saints in a home-and-home series on December 6-7. Before the third largest crowd (3,965) ever at Cheel Arena in the Friday matchup, Clarkson outscored St. Lawrence 3-1 in the third period to gain a 5-4 victory. In the Saturday game in Canton, the Knights overcame a 2-0 deficit in the opening two minutes and skated to a 4-3 road win, knocking off the Saints for the fourth consecutive year at Appleton Arena.

Eight different Clarkson players scored a goal in the weekend sweep, 16 Knights recorded at least one point and both goaltenders picked up a win as the Green and Gold improved their record in one-goal games to 9-1-1.

With just one senior on the blueline, and one sophomore and two freshmen manning the Clarkson crease, the Knights boast one of the stingiest defenses in the country, allowing only 2.31 goals per games (12th in the NCAA). Sophomore Greg Lewis (Mars, PA) and freshman Steve Perry (Ligonier, PA) rank among the Top 20 goaltenders in Division I. Lewis, who has made the last six NCAA starts for the Knights, is tied for the seventh-best winning percentage in the nation (.800%) with an 8-2 record in 11 games. Perry, who is tied for seventh in the nation in shutouts (2), holds the third-best goals against average in the country (1.72), a .932 save percentage, and a 4-1-1 record.

Sexton paces a balanced offensive effort for the Green and Gold with 15 points, including a team-high 11 assists. The Knights’ captain is one of the nation’s best centers on faceoffs, winning .584% of his draws (198-141). Senior Allan McPherson (Kinburn, ONT) leads the team in goals with seven, and adds six assists for 13 points. McPherson and junior Joe Zarbo (Grand Island, NY) are tied for third in the country in game-winning goals (3).

VERMONT FRIDAY

Vermont stands at 8-6-1 overall and 4-5 in Hockey East. The Catamounts saw a five-game win streak come to an end in their last game, a 3-0 loss at home to Northeastern on December 17.

Clarkson holds a commanding 52-25-2 lead in the series against Vermont, which began with a 5-3 win for the Knights on January 13, 1971 in Potsdam. In their last meeting, on December 31, 2005, Vermont shut out Clarkson 3-0 in the championship game of the Catamount Cup. The teams are tied 2-2-1 over their last five meetings, and the Catamounts have gone 8-7-1 in games plays in the 2000s during the series. The Knights’ last victory against UVM was a 3-2 triumph in Burlington on February 11, 2005. Clarkson is 22-11-1 all-time at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

UMASS-LOWELL SATURDAY

Boasting the nation’s best defense (1.88 gpg), Lowell stands at 11-5/4-2. The River Hawks saw a six-game win streak come to an end it their last game before the tournament, falling 4-2 at Maine on December 8.

Lowell is enjoying a lengthy winning streak over the Knights to close the gap in the all-time series to one game, with Clarkson leading 11-10. Clarkson won the first meeting 10-2 in Potsdam on November 11, 1978, and was 6-2 against the River Hawks in the 1990s, but Lowell has dominated play in the 2000s winning all six meetings. In their last games, the River Hawks swept the Green and Gold at Cheel Arena, winning 2-1 and 6-2 last year on January 4-5. The Knights’ last win in the series was a 6-4 triumph in Potsdam on December 10, 1999. The teams have faced each other four times in tournament play with Clarkson winning each time. The Knights defeated the River Hawks 9-2 in the opening round of the 1994 Syracuse Invitational Tournament in their last neutral site meeting.

Allan McPherson and Will Frederick are the only current Knights to have scored a goal against Lowell. Pat Megannety has a team-high two points, on a pair of assists, in the series. Greg Lewis has started two games against the River Hawks and posts a .852 save percentage and a 2.77 goals against average.

KNIGHTS KNOTES: In-season tournament championship titles have been hard to come by for Clarkson. The Knights have won just two holiday tournaments over the past 23 years, claiming the 1995 RPI Invitational and the 2006 Badger Showdown. Since defeating Wisconsin (6-2) and Lake Superior (3-2) on December 29 and 30, 2006 at the Kohl Center in Madison. WI the Green and Gold have gone 3-9-2 in tournament/classic play during the regular season ... At 12-3-1, Clarkson has already surpassed its victory total from the 2012-13 campaign (9) and is off to one its best starts in decades and is tied for the fourth-best winning percentage in the country (.781) … Clarkson has gone 9-1-1 in one-goal games this year after winning just three times in 17 of those contests in 2012-13 … Four of this year’s one-goal victories have come in the final minutes of play – two by Allan McPherson. The veteran center scored his second consecutive game-winner late in regulation when he netted his team-high seventh goal of the year with 37.3 seconds left in the 3-2 victory over Cornell (11/15). He also scored with two minutes remaining in the 2-1 triumph at Harvard (11/9) in the previous game. McPherson has three game-winners on the year, having also scored the deciding goal in the 2-1 victory over Colorado College (10/25). He has 12 career game-winners … Freshman A.J. Fossen (Maple Grove, MN) tallied the game-winner with 1:53 left in 4-3 win at Brown (11/1) and junior Joe Zarbo (Grand Island, NY) scored with 9.9 seconds left in overtime to lift the Green and Gold to a 1-0 win against Colorado College (10/26). Joed Zarbo, who is tied with McPherson for the team lead in GWGs’, also netted the deciding goal in the 4-3 victory at St. lawrence (12/7)… Nineteen Knights have scored a goal this season and 20 players have accounted for at least one point … Jeff DiNallo extended his point-scoring streak to five games and his goal-scoring streak to three with a goal in each game against St. Lawrence. He posted his first multiple-point outing with a goal and an assist against Colgate (11/16). DiNallo has already surpasses his totals from last year (2-2-4) with five goals and five assists through 14 games this season ... Clarkson is getting ample scoring production from the blueline with the Knights’ six defensemen accounting for 26% of the offense with nine goals and 25 assists … Paul Geiger (Stouffville, ONT) leads the defensemen in scoring with nine points (2-7) … Freshman blueliner James de Haas (Mississauga, ONT) has scored six points (2-4), leading Clarkson’s rookies in scoring … Clarkson has outshot all but three opponents through the first 16 games ... After the Catamount Cup the Knights travel to UMass-Lowell to face the River Hawks in a weekend series. Although Clarkson has recently played the same opponent three straight times in the opening rounds of the ECAC Hockey playoffs, the consecutive games against UMass-Lowell will mark the first time the Knights have played the same opponent three straight times during the regular season since opening the 1946-47 camapign with three game against Princeton.

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