PROVIDENCE, RI — Clarkson may have struggled to a woeful 3-15 record on the road last year, but it was hard to see any evidence of a carry-over to this season. The Golden Knights scored two goals in each period to defeat Providence 6-1, in the process running their record to 3-0.
“This wasn’t a must-win game; it was a statement game for us,” Clarkson coach George Roll said. “We haven’t had a lot of success in Hockey East buildings in my short [four-year] tenure. This is a tough building and a quality team to play. It was a great effort for us to play the way we played.”
Ironically, Clarkson (3-0-0) got three points from defenseman Michael Grenzy and a goal from fellow blueliner Matt Curley while defeating Providence (0-1-0), a team known for its defensemen jumping into the play. The two were the number one and two stars of the game, respectively. Curley’s goal marked the second of his 90-game collegiate career.
“It was nice to score the goal, but if I cared about scoring goals I would have quit halfway through my freshman year,” Curley said. “What’s important is that we got a good one tonight, we’re off to a good start and hopefully we’ll get another tomorrow night.”
David Leggio stopped 34 of 35 shots, perhaps none more important than those in the opening seven minutes when Providence had two power plays and a shorthanded breakaway.
“There’s no question that [Providence] could have had the early lead, not only 1-0, but maybe 2-0 or 3-0,” Noll said. “That’s where our goaltender has been this year. He’s in a zone. He’s seeing the puck well. The save on the shorthanded attempt was a momentum-changer.”
Steve Zalewski and Chris D’Alvise scored two goals each.
The loss opened the season for Providence (0-1-0), although not on the right foot.
“Sometimes in your first game you play tight,” PC coach Tim Army said. “It’s magnified when you play at home. You want to play so well.
“There’s things we need to do better, but its the first game of the year. We’ve got 33 more to go. The objective is to get better each and every game. We certainly can play better and we’ll play better tomorrow night.”
Clarkson needed only a period to show that its 2-0 record and 17th spot in the USCHO/CSTV poll was no fluke. After killing two early penalties and then surviving a shorthanded breakaway attempt by PC’s Jamie Carroll, the Golden Knights got on the scoreboard at 11:13 off a two-on-one rush. With a Friar defensemen racing back to try to tie up Curley, David Cayer fed the senior defenseman who put it away for the early lead.
Clarkson then made it 2-0 at 18:22 on the first of two power-play goals. The Golden Knights worked the puck around until Grenzy got it from the point to D’Alvise, open on the right where he could put his shot into the open side.
Cayer almost put a backbreaker in with four seconds remaining in the period after getting a step on the Providence defense, but goaltender Tyler Sims got enough of the shot to maintain the two-goal margin.
Eight minutes into the second period, Clarkson took further command on a Zalewski goal. The reigning ECACHL Player of the Week worked with Shawn Weller to outnumber PC down low, and Zalewski took Weller’s pass and buried it from the low slot.
Four minutes later, Providence shot itself in the foot with a too many men on the ice penalty while already down a man. It was the Friars’ second such infraction and gave Clarkson a 59-second five-on-three. Cayer stuffed it home just after the first penalty expired, sparing PC from having to kill the second infraction, but still putting the game further out of reach, 4-0.
Army gambled in the closing minute of the period and it paid off. With his team trailing by four goals and on the power play, he pulled Sims to make it six-on-four. The advantage effectively became a brief six-on-three after a Clarkson attacker raced for a loose puck in the offensive zone, but then was checked behind the net. PC skaters collected the puck, raced up ice, and made the most of the three-man edge. Jon Rheault slid the put to Colin McDonald on the left where the senior tipped it home.
After closing the gap to 4-1 going into the second intermission, however, Providence couldn’t get any closer. With seven minutes remaining and still trailing by three, Army tried again to find lightning in a bottle. With a four-on-four underway and PC in the offensive zone, he pulled Sims. This time, however, it backfired.
After the Friar penalty ended and they went on a brief five-on-four, Clarkson’s D’Alvise shot from the defensive zone and put it in the net for the dominating 5-1 lead. With nothing to lose, Army again pulled Sims on the next power play and kept the net empty after Clarkson went back to full strength. At 17:53, Zalewski finished off a two-on-one for the final 6-1 score.
On Saturday, Clarkson travels to Massachusetts while Providence hosts St. Lawrence.