BUFFALO, N.Y. — Six periods, two overtime sessions and a pair of ties later, Clarkson coach Casey Jones and his counterpart at Canisius, Dave Smith, learned some valuable lessons this weekend.
Now, with conference play looming, the question is how those lessons will be applied.
The Golden Griffins (1-4-3) and the visiting Golden Knights (0-4-3) battled to a draw for the second consecutive afternoon on Sunday, a 2-2 affair that was decided in a 6:15 burst of offense in the second period.
Trailing 1-0 after the first period following a power-play goal by Canisius winger Tyler Wiseman — his third tally of the weekend — Clarkson tied the score with a power-play goal of its own by junior forward Jarrett Burton at the 4:50 mark.
Burton, who entered the season with five career goals, then scored his fourth of the year 3:31 later. Stationed at the top of Griffs’ goaltender Tony Capobianco’s crease, Burton buried a point-blank one-timer from junior wingman Will Frederick to give the Knights a 2-1 edge.
The lead did not stand for long, though.
Canisius forward Doug Beck knotted the score at 2-2 after taking a beautiful cross-ice, point-to-post pass from defenseman Ben Danford that found the sophomore alone behind Clarkson netminder Greg Lewis.
Beck deposited the puck in a wide-open net and effectively ended the scoring for the day.
Capobianco finished with 29 saves on 31 shots. Lewis knocked away 35 of 37 attempts, including four in overtime.
“I thought the teams battled pretty hard,” Jones said. “I thought we did a good job of keeping [Canisius'] shots to the peripheral. It didn’t feel like we gave up 37 shots during the span of the game — it just didn’t feel like that type of game. I thought we played really well in spurts. I thought we were more physical. I thought we played a better game today than we did yesterday.”
Jones can take some encouragement from the two draws. The Clarkson coach got solid goaltending from two freshmen, Lewis on Sunday and classmate Andrew Hunt on Saturday. After skidding to 4-for-25 start to the season on the power play (and three of those goals came last Saturday against Niagara), the Knights connected for goals with the man-advantage in both games of this road trip.
Clarkson also remained composed under pressure. The Knights pocketed a goal with 28 seconds remaining to force overtime on Saturday and held off a determined Canisius squad in the final minutes of the extra period on Sunday to get the second tie.
But the season’s first win remained elusive and with a rough ECAC schedule that includes games at Yale and Brown next weekend and home contests with Quinnipiac and Princeton to follow, life is not getting any easier for Clarkson.
“We just want to get out of the gate here quickly,” Jones said. “All the teams in our league are good. Every team we’ve played in the past month has been good, all with their own identity, an identity that makes them hard to play against. But obviously, going on the road here this weekend, it’s going to be a test for us. I think the pace is going to be pretty tough. [Yale and Brown are] a couple good-skating teams, but we’re looking forward to it. We’re ready to turn the page to ECAC play.”
The Griffs now prep for their first two-game weekend of Atlantic Hockey competition. Robert Morris will visit Buffalo on Friday and Canisius will make the short Rochester road trip to face Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday.
After scoring five goals in the first six games on the schedule, Canisius recorded five over the past two games — proof of life in what had been the nation’s most anemic offense. A Sunday benching of 2011-12 scoring co-leader Kyle Gibbons and veteran forward Ryan Bohrer also showed that experience does not equal safety in Smith’s system.
“Right now, every player on our roster is capable of playing important minutes,” Smith said. “We used all four lines out there [today]. Even in overtime, everybody played. We’ve got four lines and we altered them a little bit as the game went along, but there’s guys who understand who we want to play and they should be rewarded with ice time.”
The young Griffs, with only three seniors on the roster, knew their ninth-ranked defense was sound. Maybe, finally, the scorers are waking up.
“When our power play is so good, like it was tonight (1-for-2, five shots), it builds confidence,” Smith said. “Those guys who have a belief in what we’re doing. We’ve seen it coming here for a few weeks. We had five this weekend. You’d have liked to have 10, but I really think that we have the building blocks that we need on offense in our lineup. There are guys that can score.
“Sometimes, all it takes is for one guy to get hot and the others can follow him.”