The Golden Knights of Clarkson have shown some promise over the last few years since George Roll has taken over, but it never really has materialized. This season, there is hope that it just may.
Nick Dodge leads the forward attack of the Golden Knights this season, and many have said that he is the best player in the league. He could be the favorite for ECACHL Player of the Year. More than that, he is a force in the Golden Knights’ locker room.
“Nick Dodge is valuable in so many areas, not just on the scoresheet, but his commitment to the program,” said head coach George Roll. “I can’t say enough about him as a person. It is a lot for a young guy to be wearing a ‘C’ as a junior, but the guys respect him, There was no grey area — he was the unanimous choice, for captain.”
Dodge (16-25-41) leads a group of forwards that return seven of their top eight scorers. Not only that, but 12 of the top 14 return. Even more encouraging is that of the top seven returning, all of them had more than 21 points last season. Joining Dodge are David Cayer (12-22-34), Mike Sullivan (15-11-26), Shea Guthrie (9-17-26), Chris D’Alvise (8-17-25), Shawn Weller (14-10-24) and Steve Zalewski (9-13-22).
“We haven’t been able to roll lines in the past. We are four lines deep this year, so it’s not a matter of shutting down Nick’s line. That happened last year. I truly believe in our top three lines. They’ve got a lot of talent and skill,” said Roll.
“When we came back on board here, we wanted to return Clarkson to a high-energy offense, similar to the style that was played here in the 1990s.
“I think we have done a good job of recruiting guys with lots of skill and good skating ability. We want to play that up-tempo style. We want to go at teams with tremendous offensive pressure. We hope to be a fun, exciting team to watch. It will be awfully competitive up front with the guys coming in and the returning veterans all battling for a regular spot in the lineup.”
Nine, count them, nine, Golden Knights return on defense. The group is led by Grant Clitsome and Michael Grenzy.
“Defensively we had a lot of young guys on the blueline last year who were put into the fire and gained valuable experience,” said Roll. “With the talent we have among our forward lines, we will ask our defensemen to play a little more stay-at-home style this year. But that is not to say that we won’t give them the green light to jump in offensively.”
The Knights also return David Leggio and Kyle McNulty between the nets. And Matt Smith will come in to provide even more depth.
“As the season progressed, goaltending was not an area of concern for us last year,” said Roll. “David played awfully well down the stretch and Kyle had some very fine moments. With Matt Smith coming in to push both of those guys, I think that this is an area where we have also improved.
“After his performance in the postseason this past year, David has shown he can be the number-one guy, but he will be challenged by both Kyle and Matt, who have the capabilities of earning the starting nod. All three will have the opportunity to win the number-one position this season.”
The Knights return a lot, so the promise of a return to greatness at Cheel is not too far-fetched.
“Our expectations are pretty high,” said Roll. “We certainly made some strides in the right direction year to get back to being one of the top teams in the league and get national recognition.
“People around here do not expect a .500 hockey team. We had to go through that to get the program back in the right direction. People have been patient, but now it is time for some results.”
Thanks to Mike Volonnino for his contributions.