POTSDAM, N.Y. — At 5:45 of the first period Saturday night, at the tail end of a Golden Knight man advantage, Clarkson winger Jay Latulippe was crosschecked from behind near the Mercyhurst Lakers’ goal.
Latulippe hit the boards, fell hard, and didn’t get up. Once the play was whistled dead, Clarkson’s medical staff hurried onto the ice and carried their injured player off on a stretcher.
The hit on Latulippe by Laker defenseman Marc Varteressian, which resulted in only a minor penalty, had 2,509 onlookers at Cheel Arena wondering how Clarkson would react. Would the Golden Knight coaching staff become incensed, demanding a more substantial penalty? Would Clarkson forward Gasper Sekelj be given the nod to rough up a few of his opponents? Would the Green and Gold simply fold?
As the game unfolded it became clear how the Knights planned to respond. They revved up their offense, scoring seven unanswered goals between the time of the hit and the end of the second period.
When the final buzzer sounded, Clarkson found itself on top, 8-1.
What’s more, the Knights scored in nearly every conceivable fashion. Rebounds, pretty one-timers, long-range blasts, crafty stickwork, and passing plays all resulted in goals for the home team. Clarkson’s Ian Manzano was even credited with a goal that was batted into the Laker net by the glove of teammate David Evans.
No report on Latulippe’s condition was available following the game, but he was seen moving his arms and legs while being transported to a local hospital for a precautionary examination.
Much of the evening’s offensive success can be attributed to the Knight’s top line — Kevin O’Flaherty, Matt Poapst, and Rob McFeeters. O’Flaherty coupled a hat trick on the night with two assists. Poapst had a goal and four assists, while McFeeters scored one goal and registered three helpers.
The Knights are held as one of the most offensive teams in college hockey, but Saturday’s outburst may not have been expected given their opponents. Friday night, Mercyhurst fell to Clarkson 2-0, but was backstopped by an excellent defensive effort on the part of goaltender Peter Aubry. In the first period of Friday’s contest alone, Aubry managed to turn away 20 shots while giving up only a single goal.
Saturday, however, Aubry faltered against the determined Knights, giving up seven goals on 31 shots before being replaced by backup Matt Cifelli midway through the game. Both of Clarkson’s backup goaltenders also saw action on the night.
Both Clarkson and Mercyhurst return to conference action next weekend. The Lakers (9-7-2 overall, 8-0-2 MAAC) return home to host Canisius on Saturday, January 12. Meanwhile, Rensselaer and Union will make the trip to Northern New York to face the Golden Knights (7-7-3 overall, 3-0-2 ECAC) and traveling partner St. Lawrence.