POTSDAM, N.Y. — Sophomore Tristan Lush picked up the game-winning goal on the power-play to cap off a two-goal second period for Clarkson, as the Golden Knights came from behind to defeat Princeton, 3-2, in a hard-fought battle at Cheel Arena on Friday evening.
From the opening minutes of the game, Princeton played as if to prove the critics wrong. The Tigers took control of the contest just 1:48 in, when freshman Mike Patton skated into the Clarkson zone with the puck from the left side. As he drove towards the net, goaltender Mike Walsh committed to a shot that never came. With Walsh down and out of the net, Patton skated behind the Golden Knights goal and scored on the unprotected net, giving the Tigers the lead 1-0 and giving Patton his first goal as a Tiger.
The goal sparked something for Clarkson, as the Golden Knights kept the puck bottled up in the Princeton zone midway through the first. Tigers netminder Dave Stathos turned aside the barrage from Clarkson, but the Golden Knights found a crack when at 13:02 Clarkson broke onto the score sheet.
A Princeton penalty for high-sticking gave Clarkson the man-advantage. Randy Jones took a shot from the blue line along the left side that went wide. However, as the puck bounced back off the dasher, it went over Stathos as he was trying to cover it up, and Trevor Edwards skated in and stuck the puck into the net, picking up his first goal of the season, and tying the game, 1-1.
The Tigers rebounded, regaining the lead just over a minute later. Mike Nagai was whistled for high-sticking, and Princeton made the opportunity count. David Del Monte took a shot from the point that Walsh saved. But Walsh couldn’t control the rebound, as the puck bounced away from him and to a waiting George Parros. Parros took the puck and skated around the prone goaltender to give Princeton back the lead 2-1 at 14:22.
Momentum seemed to be in favor of Princeton at the start of the second period, as Clarkson continued to be on the penalty kill. The Golden Knights had an opportunity to tie the game with a 5-on-3 man advantage, but Clarkson couldn’t seem to find the back of the net, as the closest chance by Kerry Ellis-Toddington ringed off the post and out of the net.
It was only a matter of time, though, before Clarkson tied the game, when at 10:15 Ian Manzano ended his dry spell at 47 games with his first goal of the season. Chris Blight sent the puck up the left side to Manzano on the blueline. Manzano floated a shot at net that beat Stathos high, knotting the game at two. Minutes later, Manzano missed on a connecting pass in front of the net on a two-on-none opportunity.
“It’s nice to see him get a goal because he’s obviously capable of scoring more goals,” said Clarkson coach Mark Morris. “That was a timely one for us, he shot the puck at the right time where it needed to go.”
Even with the missed opportunity, the Golden Knights were able to take the lead for the first time in the contest on a power-play goal by Lush at 13:00. David Evans took the puck to the net from the left side, and fed it across the crease to Lush. With Blight obstructing the movement of Stathos, Lush had the easy opportunity to score, and Clarkson had the 3-2 lead.
Princeton had an opportunity early in the third to tie the game, when it had a 5-on-3 power-play of its own for 1:20, but the Tigers could not convert. Down the stretch in the third period the Golden Knights turned up the intensity, holding the puck in the Princeton zone for over a minute on one occasion. In the end, the score remained the same as it did at the end of the second, Clarkson 3-2.
“Our defense did a pretty nice job tonight, even though it wasn’t our best team effort, and we didn’t produce a lot of goals” said Morris. “Our defense played relatively well, we were in control most of the game in our own zone.”
Walsh made 18 saves and allowed two goals on the evening for Clarkson, as the junior netminder’s confidence seems to be returning, while Stathos held the Tigers together, making 31 saves and allowing three goals. The power play benefited both teams, as the Golden Knights went 2-for-6 with the man advantage, and Princeton picked up a goal on seven tries.
“Stathos gave us a chance to win the game,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “When he does that, you have to be as good as your goaltender. When he gives us a chance to win, we need to make sure that we’re capitalizing on our chances.
“Momentum is a real interesting thing, you either have it, or you don’t. We had it first period, and lost it in the second period. I think emotionally we didn’t keep ourselves in check, and I think that was the biggest difference. We didn’t allow ourselves to keep momentum, and we lost our composure at times during the game.”
The bad blood between the two teams surfaced at the end of the game, when a scuffle ensued. Neil Stevenson-Moore for Princeton along with Ellis-Toddington and Kevin O’Flaherty for Clarkson were given questionable disqualifications for fighting. Already weakened by injuries to key players early in the season, the loss of two top players for the Golden Knights could prove severe Saturday night.
“The win is tarnished,” said coach Morris regarding the disqualifications. “We’re shorthanded as it is, and this is a tough pill to swallow. There wasn’t that much that happened that merited that type of infraction. We’ll review it with the powers-that-be, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Tomorrow Princeton will travel to face St. Lawrence, while Clarkson will host Yale.