POTSDAM, N.Y. — Rookie Max Kolu scored his first collegiate goal and sophomore Dustin Traylen made 36 saves to lead the Clarkson Golden Knights to a 3-1 victory over the St. Lawrence Saints in front of a Cheel Arena crowd of 3,817.
“It’s incredible to get this win,” Traylen said. “It would have been overwhelming to have lost.”
“For me, this was very nerve-wracking,” said Clarkson coach George Roll of his first experience as head coach in the North Country rivalry. “It is a relief that it’s finally over.”
In the other locker room, a veteran of many a Clarkson-St. Lawrence battle knew what to expect.
“It was an awesome hockey game,” said Saints coach Joe Marsh. “There was a lot of emotion. It was a fast game, a hard working game.”
Despite 13 combined power plays, seven in the first period, the game was scoreless through 20 minutes, with few scoring opportunities. However, two things became crystal-clear right away — the netminders were sharp and referee Tim Kotyra was going to call everything.
“There were a lot of penalties,” Marsh said, “but it wasn’t nasty. There was a lot of discipline. It was a good effort — a clean game.”
“It was a struggle,” said Roll, “to get any flow with all of the penalties. It was not chippy, but that’s the way he chose to call it.
“The calls were hockey calls and not about being undisciplined. Last Friday we had [Tim] and he let things go. Tonight he called a lot more. I think we thought that because of last week, he’d call it the same way tonight. But he didn’t.”
And Kotyra would be heard from again before the game was decided.
Clarkson (5-3-3, 2-2-1 ECAC), meanwhile, jumped on the board first at 13:45 of the second period when Kolu, the Finnish native, notched his first with the Knights on an excellent setup by linemate Tristan Lush.
After Jean Desrochers poked a loose puck into the left corner, Lush picked it up and skated behind the St. Lawrence net. Instead of continuing around the cage, however, he centered the puck back to the left side where Kolu was set up at the bottom of the circle. His one-timer, at 13:45, beat Saints’ netminder Mike McKenna, who like all others in the arena, had not expected Lush to make the pass.
St. Lawrence (3-8-3, 2-3-0) had a fantastic opportunity to tie the game later in the period when Kotyra became the center of attention.
The Knights were on the power play and preparing to line up for a defensive zone faceoff when they realized they had only four men on the ice. As the forwards stood signaling the bench for an additional skater, rookie defenseman Matt Nickerson jumped over the boards only to have Kotyra wave him away and whistle Clarkson for delay of game.
After a brief stint of four-on-four play, St. Lawrence took control of the action while on the ensuing power play. With just over a minute to go in the period the Saints’ leading goal scorer, T.J. Trevelyan, found himself alone to the left of Traylen with a wide open net. Unfortunately for St. Lawrence, the puck bounced as it approached Trevelyan’s stick and his shot rolled wide.
“We’re getting better at it,” said Marsh about the Saints’ power play. “We need to find ways to do more. It’s been our Achilles’ heel.”
Entering the third period with a lead would normally make a team feel somewhat at ease, but not Clarkson. Going into this contest, the Knights were 2-2-2 when leading after 40 minutes.
Just 1:05 into the period, however, Clarkson gave itself some breathing room when Mac Faulkner redirected Mike Nagai’s point shot off the far post for his seventh of the year.
The endless trips to the penalty box finally came back to haunt the Knights at 4:44 when St. Lawrence’s John Zeiler notched his fifth of the season. Trevelyan attracted the attention of three Clarkson skaters at center ice before dishing an excellent outlet pass across the ice that hit Zeiler’s stick in full stride. The sophomore faked his way around a Clarkson defenseman before making a move on Traylen that allowed him to wrist the puck into the net.
Traylen was up to the task on every other shot he faced, though, making some key saves in the third period as St. Lawrence increased its pressure on the Knights.
“He’s been pretty good all year,” said Roll, “but he was outstanding tonight. Without him, we don’t win. He was the best player out there.”
The game remained 2-1 until late in the third period when Kotyra once again made his presence felt. With McKenna pulled for an extra attacker and St. Lawrence controlling play, the Saints prepared for a faceoff deep in the Knights’ zone. As a fresh player hopped onto the ice for a late change, Kotyra waived him away and called St. Lawrence for delay of game at 19:10.
“I feel pretty bad about that,” said Marsh. “I have to take the blame. Apparently, our bench had been warned, but I didn’t realize that. It’s my fault. It’s important that if I’m running the bench, I should have been told. But I’ll take the blame.”
The penalty took all momentum away from St. Lawrence and, 36 seconds later, Desrochers skated in alone from the red line for the empty net power play goal — his fourth tally of the year.
McKenna finished the game with 29 saves. The Knights were 1-6 on the power play, while the Saints were 1-7. Clarkson, which beat the Saints for the first time since the 2002 ECAC playoffs, and St. Lawrence return next weekend to being travel partners as they visit Harvard and Brown.