CANTON, N.Y. — Before an ECACHL regular-season record crowd of 2,136, No. 1 St. Lawrence fended off North Country rival No. 8 Clarkson by a 3-1 margin. Although the Golden Knights got on the board first, the Saints came back with three unanswered goals and just five shots allowed in the final two periods.
Appleton Arena isn’t usually bustling on a Wednesday, but tonight it was packed as Clarkson (10-4-1) and St. Lawrence (12-0-2) squared off for the first time as nationally ranked teams.
“Teams aren’t used to the crowd, unless they have played games at Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota or in the Frozen Four,” said St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan. “A crowd like this gets the adrenaline going for both teams. It’s a fun atmosphere, but a bit nerve wracking for a coach, being on the bench. A game like this in front of such a large crowd can really promote women’s hockey in the North Country. The people here have two phenomenal teams only ten miles apart.”
When the puck dropped the Saints appeared to be the more sluggish of the two squads, and the Golden Knights didn’t waste any time taking advantage. Just ten minutes into the game the Golden Knights scored after Saint netminder Jess Moffat attempted to play a puck five feet out of the crease. Moffat could not corral the puck, and as she retreated a scramble ensued, and the puck wound up in the back of the net.
“[Clarkson] came out and did an excellent job bottling us up in the first period,” Flanagan said. “They executed their game plan very well. By no means did we expect to waltz through the first period. [Clarkson] really fed off their first goal and was able to keep some momentum going after that.”
Although the Golden Knights held the 1-0 advantage after one frame, the Saints still had their fair chances. With 1:49 to go in the first period the Saints got the puck past Clarkson junior goalie Kira Hurley on a rebound off of a slap shot from the point, but the puck came to a dead stop in a pile of snow at the far post, preserving the Knights’ lead.
“Coach came in and said some good words, we have some great leaders on the team, and they just reinforced positive things,” said Saints freshman forward Alison Domenico. “There was no sense of panic.”
The momentum started to shift in the second period after junior forward Crystal Connors netted the equalizer for the Saints on the power play. Connors won the puck out of the corner, drove to the net and roofed a backhanded shot as she fell down, over Hurley’s glove short side at 8:48 of the second period.
Flanagan was very pleased by his team’s success in drawing and converting power play opportunities against a team as disciplined as Clarkson.
“[Clarkson] came into the game as the least penalized team in the country,” he said. “As important as performing on power plays is, what’s just as important is drawing them. The key to drawing the penalties is by keeping the feet moving, and we did an excellent job of that tonight.”
In the third period the Saints flew out of the gates and took control of the game, a much different look than from the first period. Eight minutes into the period Domenico netted her sixth goal of the year on a seeing-eyed wrist shot from the point that Hurley could not get a good read on.
“I was just trying to throw it on net, hoping for a rebound and when it found the net I was so surprised,” Domenico said of her game-winner.
Once the Saints got the lead they did not relinquish it, adding an insurance goal less than three minutes later as another freshman, Marianna Locke deposited a rebound past Hurley at 11:18 of the third.
“Mariana’s goal put it away; she’s really making a living for herself in front of the net,” Flanagan said.
Saints netminder Jess Moffat improved her record to (9-0-0) with her 13 save performance.
The Saints will try to improve their NCAA leading fourteen-game unbeaten streak Friday night as they travel to Clarkson to play the second leg of the North Country home and home series.
Flanagan announced sophomore Meaghan Guckian will start in net for the Saints Friday against Clarkson. He has alternated Guckian and Moffat ever since Guckian returned from injury.