ALBANY, N.Y. — Rookie defenseman Matt Curley scored his first collegiate goal and Dustin Traylen made 27 saves to lead the Clarkson Golden Knights to a 2-1 win over the top-seeded Colgate Raiders in their ECAC semifinal.
With the victory, the Knights advance to their 12th championship game appearance all-time and their first since 1999.
“For 60 minutes, I thought we played well,” said Clarkson head coach George Roll. “I thought we were good below the goal line and established a forecheck.”
That strategy allowed the Knights to dominate territorial play in the contest and control the overall flow.
“We played back on our heels,” said Colgate’s interim head coach Stan Moore. “We were not the team we’ve been all year in the first ten minutes. It might be a case of nerves and with a lot of battles down low, it left us tired.”
Clarkson’s performance was similar to those in the team’s recent hot streak — a first-round sweep at Union and a shocking two-game comeback at Cornell last weekend.
“We’ve had a lot of one-goal games,” explained Traylen, “so it’s not a surprise to us that we’re making this run.”
Friday’s contest featured an action-packed first, with Clarkson jumping on the board first just three minutes into the game. With a delayed penalty against Colgate, Curley took a cross-ice pass, skated in from the point to the top of the left circle and ripped a slapshot by the Raiders’ Steve Silverthorn. It was the blueliner’s first goal as a Knight.
“Even a squirrel finds a nut sometimes,” joked Curley. “More than anything else, it’s more important that the team is moving on to play for the ECAC championship.
“I had a separated shoulder earlier this year so it was sore to shoot, but, lately, its been feeling good.”
Clarkson had the chance to extend its lead at 17:02 of the first when, while shorthanded, Chris Blight was awarded a penalty shot after he was pulled down from behind on a breakaway by Colgate defenseman Rob Brown. The Knights’ leading goal scorer skated in one-on-one against Silverthorn with the hope of faking the netminder down to the ice, but Silverthorn had other plans, sticking out his right pad to make a momentum shifting save.
“I wasn’t really thinking about anything,” said Silverthorn when asked what went through his mind on the play. “I just knew I couldn’t let it in and get into a bigger hole.”
Just over a minute later, Colgate knotted the game at one when sophomore Kyle Wilson streaked down the right wing, stopped, faked defenseman Ken Scuderi to the ice and fired a wrist shot by Traylen at 18:20. It was Wilson’s 14th goal of the season and it put Clarkson on its heels for the first time all night.
The Raiders built off that goal as they controlled play for the first ten minutes of the second period. The Knights received their first power play of the evening at 11:28 and while they couldn’t connect, they were able to return to their aggressive style. The work paid off just over a minute after the penalty expired.
After winning a lengthy battle behind the Colgate net, sophomore Jeff Genovy centered the puck to a wide-open Michael Grenzy to the right of Silverthorn, and the freshman blueliner one-timed a shot by the goalie.
The goal, which came at 14:34, was the second of the season for Grenzy, who missed the first ten games of 2004 with an ankle injury.
“I was as surprised as anyone else,” he said about his tally. “We’re not two of the most offensive defensemen, but it was great to score and know that we can contribute in a tough game against a team like Colgate.”
Asked what he was doing parked at the side of the net, Grenzy was honest.
“I might have been lost, to tell you the truth. When the puck stayed low, I stayed there and Genovy made a beautiful pass.”
Colgate’s best chance to tie the game came at 11:10 of the third period when the ECAC’s leading scorer Jon Smyth walked through the slot, faked Traylen to the ice and was left with a wide-open net. Traylen, however, didn’t give up on the play and, while on his back, managed to reach back with his glove and block the shot.
“That was a bit of a Hail Mary save,” said the sophomore netminder, “a [Dominik] Hasek thing. I just threw the glove back and hoped for the best … and he hit me.”
Smyth also thought he had Traylen beat on the play.
“To be honest, yes, I did. I would have gone upstairs had I known.”
Clarkson (18-17-5) advances to the championship game against the winner of the evening’s Harvard-Dartmouth matchup. Colgate (21-12-5), meanwhile, will play in the third-place game Saturday, hoping to still be alive for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“That’s a difficult discussion to have at the end of a game,” said Moore. “The players are upset and some need to be consoled, but we play again tomorrow. I don’t know what will happen [with the NCAAs], but if we win we can make it difficult for those making the decision.”