PRINCETON, N.J. — A defensive struggle through two periods turned decidedly offensive in the final 20 minutes of play as No. 9 Princeton edged Clarkson, 5-3, before a crowd of 1,675 in an ECAC Hockey League matchup at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
Princeton captain Brandan Kushniruk tallied two goals as the Tigers (18-6-0, 12-5-0 ECAC) won their fourth straight game while Clarkson (8-15-6, 6-8-3 ECAC) saw its three-game unbeaten string end.
The contest, which featured six third-period goals, was delayed following the introductions and anthems so that repairs could be made to the ice behind the visitors’ net.
“This is the second game in a row we’ve had a delay,” said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky. “We’re pretty used to it.”
Both teams took a five-minute warm-up just before facing-off. A moment of silence was also held for Princeton University athletic department employee Lorin Maurer, who died in yesterday’s Continental Connection Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo.
“It was kind of a shock,” said Kushniruk afterwards. “We heard we lost one of our own, and hockey doesn’t seem quite as important after something like that. We tried to stay focused and play the best we could.”
It took the visiting Golden Knights just over two minutes after the puck was dropped to take the lead. Louke Oakley won a faceoff back to Tom Pizzo in the middle of the blue line and the sophomore’s wrist shot went in on Zane Kalemba’s stick side at 2:11 for Pizzo’s first goal of the campaign. Clarkson nearly made it 2-0 with seven-and-a-half minutes left in the opening period when Jon Marshall hit the right post off a scramble.
The Tigers had a chance with 46 seconds left before intermission when Brett Wilson picked off an errant clearing pass at the Clarkson blue line, only to see his feed to Lee Jubinville in front go wide.
Clarkson fired wide a few times on a pair of power plays in the first half of the middle stanza, while several other shots were blocked by Princeton players or turned away by Kalemba, who finished with 27 saves.
The Golden Knights went on a third consecutive man-advantage after Princeton’s Cam MacIntyre was called for boarding when he hammered Tyrell Mason in front of the penalty boxes, but Shea Guthrie’s try at the left post was stopped by Kalemba before Clarkson’s Bryan Rufenach was subsequently whistled for hooking.
The Tigers then got several in-close scoring opportunities of their own before knotting matters just four seconds after Rufenach’s penalty expired.
Wilson whipped a wrist shot from the right circle that hit Clarkson goalie Richie LaVeau (35 saves) up high, but the puck dropped down behind him and slid towards the goal line before Jubinville knocked it home with one hand at 17:13 for his seventh of the season, with Dan Bartlett also assisting.
The Tigers took their first lead of the long night just 41 seconds into the final frame when Kushniruk took a short pass from linemate Kevin Lohry, skated into the left circle and wristed a shot through LaVeau for his fifth goal of the season.
That lead lasted exactly three minutes, as Clarkson’s Brandon DeFazio came out of the right corner in the Princeton zone, skated through the slot, and swept the puck between Kalemba’s right pad and the post at 3:41.
The host Tigers responded almost immediately. Bartlett passed across the slot down low to Wilson, who was standing all alone at the right post. The senior then made it a 3-2 game with his one-timer at 5:28, his seventh goal of the year.
“I give our guys credit,” said Gadowsky. “We haven’t put the puck in as much as we’d like, and it was nice to finally break through.”
The Golden Knights almost tied things up again just under two minutes later when Kalemba was sprawled out following a save, but Rufenach’s attempt hit the outside of the net.
The Tigers then went up by two goals at 15:08 off a solo effort by Tyler Beachell. The junior forward carried down the right wing, avoided a sliding defender, and then threw the puck in front from behind the goal line where it deflected in off a Clarkson player for his third of the campaign.
A resilient Clarkson squad came back yet again, as Guthrie’s centering feed glanced in off Scott Freeman’s shin with exactly two minutes remaining in regulation and LaVeau pulled for an extra attacker.
“I’m happy with the way we played,” said Clarkson coach George Roll. “We had a lot of Grade-A chances like they did, but we had a couple of turnovers and they’re a good club in their own building. It could have gone either way.”
Kushniruk closed out the scoring with 1:05 left when he picked up a loose puck from a diving Kevin Kaiser and then curled a backhander from the red line into another empty Clarkson net.
“I’ve give a lot credit to my linemates,” said Kushniruk. “Kevin Kaiser did all the work, and it bounced funny and went in.”
The Tigers host St. Lawrence tomorrow in a matinee affair, while the Golden Knights will visit Quinnipiac tomorrow night.
“We expect almost every game to be a one-goal game in this league, and it’ll be even tighter now that we’re getting down to the playoffs,” said Kushniruk.