Potsdam, NY — The curtain opened on a new season at Cheel Arena but it was referee Frank Murphy who stole the show. The veteran ECACHL official whistled a prodigious sixty-one minutes in penalties, resulting in a contest that more closely resembled a controlled scrimmage rather than a compelling college game, and left the raucous crowd with few glimpses of five-on-five hockey.
In the end, it was the Clarkson’s power play, big men up front, and a solid low key performance by David Leggio that carried the Golden Knights to a 7-3 triumph over the Purple Eagles.
“I thought the difference in the game was goaltending,” Clarkson coach George Roll said. “Of course, it was a special teams game, but David (Leggio) made some great saves at key moments that kept our composure. We kept moving our feet tonight and I really liked our energy on special teams.”
“They were better in transition,” Niagara center Les Reaney said. “That was the big difference. We just weren’t together defensively on the back check and it hurt us.”
After surrendering an early Niagara power play goal by Sean Bentivoglio, Clarkson embarked on a four goal assault of the Purple Eagle net. Knight forward Shawn Weller started the onslaught with the first Clarkson foray into the Niagara zone, resulting in a Dan Tuttle goal.
Clarkson struck for two goals in the opening stanza from Matt Beca and Max Kolu.
Tuttle pushed Clarkson’s lead to 4-1 on his second shot of the evening. In all, Niagara net minder Scott Mollison faced twelve shots in the opening period, but the first two found twine and it appeared that his confidence had been shaken.
Niagara finally stopped the bleeding toward the end of the period. Ted Cook controlled a loose puck with his feet, and with a defender draped on him, was able to set up Reaney for Niagara’s second goal of the night.
Clarkson wasted no time on capitalizing on the power play early in the second period. Senior Knight captain Nick Dodge deftly deflected a low wrist shot from defenseman Grant Clitsome.
“We’re into the third year of the NCAA’s point of emphasis on cracking down on all types of interference. I think they are really going to call a lot more all the way through the season. We’re just going to have to learn to keep our sticks off the opponent,” Roll said.
“The shot clock shows we played a pretty even game,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “But we gave them too many chances in transition and we lost the special teams game.”
Niagara pulled to within two midway through the second when Pat Oliveto’s rising wrist shot from the point gave the Purple Eagle’s their second power play tally of the evening.
But Clarkson responded moments later on a bang-bang play from Steve Zalewski to Shawn Weller to push the lead to 6-3.
Clarkson cemented the game with a final power play marker from Philippe Paquet from Beca.
Tomorrow night Niagara heads 11 miles Southwest to nearby Canton to take on St. Lawrence while Clarkson stays home to host RIT.