College Hockey:
Gagnon, Mercer each score twice to lead Clarkson past RIT in frigid outdoor game

RIT mascot Ritchie helps clear the ice during a media time out. Clarkson defeated RIT 6-2 in the Frozen Frontier game at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY. (Omar Phillips)

RIT mascot Ritchie helps clear the ice during a media time out. Clarkson defeated RIT 6-2 in the Frozen Frontier game at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY. (Omar Phillips)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – When the right field digital thermometer dips below 40 degrees at an early-season Rochester Red Wings game, it’s considered a brutally cold night at Frontier Field.

Today however, despite a game time temperature of 14, it seemed like ideal conditions for college hockey at Frozen Frontier 2013.

Rochester Institute of Technology and No. 6 Clarkson braved the frigid temperatures and steady snow flurries as the Golden Knights downed the Tigers 6-2.

“It was an amazing time,” said RIT coach Scott McDonald. “Trains going by, honking their horns. Water bottles are frozen on the bench. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

“It was a great thing to be a part of; it was great all around,” said Clarkson co-head coach Matt Derosiers.

RIT junior forward Kolbee McCrae, who scored both Tigers goals, said the experience took her back to her childhood.

“As a kid, I always used to race home from school,” McCrae said. “The first one to the outdoor rink was the winner. Every day was like that. You come out to university and play on an outdoor rink and it’s just an amazing feeling and an amazing experience.”

Throughout the game, accumulating snow slowed puck movement.

“We had to change the game plan,” said Derosiers. “It was tough carrying the puck down the ice. We told the girls we’d have to get the pucks in deep and chase them down.”

“Direct passing wasn’t working for either team,” said McDonald. “So it was really kind of bearing down on the puck, using the glass, using indirect passes to each other. Really putting it into space and skating to it and trying to find it in a pile of snow on the ice.”

Extra time was taken during TV timeouts midway through each period to clear the ice.

In the middle of the first period, even the players got involved in the extra maintenance. RIT’s Erin Zach and captain Celeste Brown and Clarkson’s Vanessa Gagnon pitched in with the pusher shovels while the Zamboni did a dry scrape of the ice.

After a scoreless period and a half of RIT withstanding sustained Clarkson pressure — including two power plays — the Knights scored twice in 34 seconds.

Unmarked in front of the RIT net, Carly Mercer tapped a loose puck past Ali Binnington to give Clarkson a 1-0 lead at 9:25. Jamie Lee Rattray then roofed a wrister from the hash marks for her 15th goal of the season.

Mercer scored her second goal of the game – and the eventual game winner — at 12:45, faking left and going right at the corner of the crease and sliding it five-hole under Billington, opening up a 3-0 lead for Clarkson.

“We watched the [Rochester Americans] game last night and they said the same thing,” said Desrosiers. “We’d have to get the puck down low and crash the net.”

McCrea cut the Clarkson lead to 3-1 at 17:29 of the second period, tapping in a pass out of the right corner from Marissa Maugeri beyond goaltender Erica Howe.

In the third period, McCrea reached out to jam a rebound underneath Howe for her second goal of the game and 10th of the season at 1:31. That cut the Clarkson lead to 3-2, the closest the Tigers would come for the rest of the game.

“Not once did we ever think the game was out of reach,” said McCrae.

“I was really happy the team responded the way they did,” said Derosiers, as the Golden Knights exploded with three third-period goals.

A turnover in the RIT zone while the Tigers were on a power play allowed Clarkson to regain a two-goal lead as Vanessa Gagnon walked in on Billington.

Seconds later, Clarkson went up 5-2 when Mercer fed a goal-mouth pass across to Olivia Howe that she tipped above Billington.

Gagnon tallied her second of the game on a pass from behind the net from Shannon MacAulay at 16:53 of the third.

Clarkson (14-4-2) next has a home exhibition with McGill on Jan. 3 before resuming ECAC Hockey play with a home-and-home series with St. Lawrence the following weekend. RIT (9-10-1) travels for a pair at Union on Jan. 3 and 4.

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