POTSDAM, N.Y. — Throw out the polls. Throw out the fact that one team is the ECAC regular-season champion, and the other is the ECAC tournament champion. Throw out all predictions. One of the most storied rivalries in all of college hockey produced a classic opening game for the ECAC, as Clarkson outlasted archrival St. Lawrence 7-6 in overtime in front of a record 4,115 fans at Cheel Arena Saturday night.
“My linemates tonight, Jay Latulippe, Matt Poapst, they played great,” said junior Kevin O’Flaherty. “They made some great passes, and we had some lucky breaks. Hopefully we can build on this.” O’Flaherty finished the evening with three goals and two assists, one of which came on the game-winning goal.
The win gives Clarkson 100 victories over a team for the first time ever. The series between the two dates back to 1925, and the Golden Knights hold a 100-50-7 advantage over the Saints.
The two teams started the game with back and forth hockey. Clarkson (2-2-1, 1-0-0 ECAC) began to take control of the flow of momentum early when the Golden Knights broke onto the score sheet at 2:59.
Freshman Jay Latulippe had the puck in the right corner, and he fed it back to O’Flaherty. O’Flaherty lifted a wrist shot from the faceoff circle that beat goaltender Kevin Ackley stick side, giving Clarkson a 1-0 lead.
Clarkson kept up the pressure, and at 8:23 the Golden Knights opened up their lead to 2-0 when freshman Chris Blight picked up his first collegiate goal. Linemate Mac Faulkner fed the puck into the center of the ice from the right side. As Blight was skating in from the left, he took a shot that Ackley saved. However, Ackley couldn’t control the rebound, and Blight’s momentum carried himself into Ackley and the puck into the goal.
The Golden Knights didn’t stop there, as they picked up their third goal of the contest just 14 seconds later. Co-captain Kerry Ellis-Toddington received a pass on the blue line and fired a shot from the right side. The puck redirected up off of O’Flaherty’s stick and into the net.
St. Lawrence regrouped at the end of the period, when they ended Clarkson goaltender Mike Walsh’s clean sheet at 19:17. A penalty to Dave Reid for interference gave the Saints their opportunity, and they used it to their advantage. Ray DiLauro passed the puck to teammate Jim Hakewill on the blue line, and Hakewill fired a shot that beat Walsh, picking up his first collegiate goal and closing the gap to 3-1.
The celebration was short lived, as Clarkson picked up its fourth tally of the game just 35 seconds after the Saints picked up their first goal. O’Flaherty skated in looking for the hat trick, but Ackley made the save. Latulippe crashed the net and took two Saints defenders with him, knocking Ackley down. As the puck slid up open ice, David Evans skated up the left side and buried a shot into the prone net, giving Clarkson a 4-1 lead. At the end of the period, the Golden Knights had outshot St. Lawrence 21-4.
“You can never let the lows be too low. You can never let the highs be too high,” said coach Joe Marsh. “It’s a message we kept saying to them, it’s something that our captain Robin Carruthers hit on, and he knows what to say when. He’s one of the best captains I’ve ever had, he’s a born leader.”
The tournament champions from last year didn’t seem to have a problem with the score, as they came out gunning in the second frame. The Saints put up three unanswered goals to knot the game at four.
At 5:31 in the second, Andy Marchetti sent the puck up ice to Josh Anderson along the left side. Anderson skated in from the blue line and took a shot from the face off circle that nicked off the pads of Walsh and found its way into the net, giving him his first tally as a Saint and cutting the lead to 4-2.
St. Lawrence kept up the pressure, as they had another opportunity with Walsh down and out of the net, but the Saints could not find the back of the net. However, St. Lawrence found itself on the power play after the incident, and used the man-advantage to chip away at the Clarkson lead.
A call on defenseman Dave Reid for roughing put Clarkson back on the penalty kill. DiLauro fired a shot from the blue line, and the puck grazed the skate of Charlie Daniels and into the net past Walsh.
The third St. Lawrence goal of the frame also came on the power-play, when Blair Clarance lifted a rebound over Walsh and into the net at 17:59.
Clarkson coach Mark Morris made a change in net to start the third period, putting in Karl Mattson in hopes of stopping the flood.
“We made a decision to try and change the momentum by going with Karl Mattson,” said coach Morris. “I looked at him, he kinda had a lowly look on his face, I said ‘Will you smile?’ and it kinda cracked up the whole room. Everything got a little lighter, we rehashed what we had talked about earlier before we went out onto the ice in the third.”
The Golden Knights stormed out of the locker room with the same intensity they had in the opening minutes, reclaiming the lead just 28 seconds into the frame.
Latulippe fed the puck from the left side down low to a waiting O’Flaherty in front of the net. O’Flaherty’s quick shot beat Ackley, giving O’Flaherty a hat trick and Clarkson back the lead 5-4.
The Golden Knights extended their lead to two goals when Faulkner got his first collegiate goal. Faulkner skated from behind the net and put in a wrap-around tally, sticking the puck between the right post and Ackley’s leg.
St. Lawrence, however, was far from being beaten. In classic comeback style, the Saints once again rallied to tie the game at six apiece.
With the puck in the Clarkson zone, Jimmy Ball sent the puck from the low left corner up to Jim Lorenz. Lorenz fired a shot from just below the blue line that beat Mattson at 11:09.
The Saints picked up their second goal of the third frame when Anderson picked up his second goal on the evening. Anderson skated out to the faceoff circle from the left corner and fired a shot that found a home in the back of the net, a power-play goal at 13:23.
The contest went down to the wire, with the Golden Knights missing opportunities to end the game late. Chris Line fired a shot that rattled off the post and crossbar, and Evans missed an open net shot.
As the game progressed into overtime, both teams battled for control of the puck before Ellis-Toddington sealed matters 2:04 into the extra period. O’Flaherty sent the puck up to Ellis-Toddington at the blue line along the right side, and he sent a shot at net that found its way past Ackley, ending the game.
“I don’t think I’ve been more excited after a one-goal overtime loss than now, especially here,” said Marsh. “I saw some real good thing here tonight, and there’s a lot to build on. We don’t have time as a young team to beat ourselves up over this, we’ve gotta get right back up and learn how to fight back, and we saw a lot of that tonight, and I’m confident that we’ll keep getting better.”
“We bounced back, after losing the lead,” said Morris. “We had a solid first period. Credit St. Lawrence for bouncing back the way they did. When it seemed that they were getting close, we’d score and pull away again, when we tripped up, we fought back. That’s very encouraging.”
Walsh finished the evening with 10 saves and allowed four goals, while Mattson ended the evening for Clarkson with 11 saves and two goals allowed. In the loss, Ackley ended the evening with 26 saves and seven goals allowed. The power play worked to St. Lawrence’s advantage, as the Saints went 4-for-9 with the extra man, while Clarkson was still struggling with the man-advantage, going 0-for-5 on the evening.
Next weekend St. Lawrence and Clarkson will host Princeton and Yale in ECAC action.