Combined career goals for Clarkson freshman defensemen Matt Curley and Michael Grenzy entering Friday’s ECAC semifinal:
Combined career goals for Curley and Grenzy after Friday’s ECAC semifinal:
Clarkson defeated Colgate, 2-1. You do the math.
“Every blind squirrel finds a nut,” said a smiling Curley after the No. 9 Knights became the lowest seed to reach the ECAC championship game. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The same could be said of Grenzy’s serendipitous scoring. His only goal before the weekend came Feb. 14 against Dartmouth
“I’m just as surprised as anyone else,” he admitted. “I’m not the most offensive defenseman.”
Unexpected though the goal scorers were, it was fitting that two wet-behind-the-ears backliners kept Clarkson alive in its quest to topple demons of its playoffs past.
Already this playoff season, the Golden Knights shrugged off previous first-round failures (think Vermont) with a convincing sweep of host Union by a combined 13-5 score. And last weekend, they emerged from Ithaca with only the third and fourth road playoff wins in Lynah Rink history.
Now, after toppling the top-seeded Raiders, they’re standing on the precipice of making ECAC history as the lowest-seeded champion.
Pretty heady stuff for a couple first-year players.
“When they get opportunities to jump in, they have the green light,” said Clarkson coach George Roll. “Tonight, they made the best of their opportunities.”
Curley and Grenzy were two of seven freshmen in the lineup for the Knights on Friday. These are young players, led by a first-year coach, none of whom were on campus during the Mark Morris/Zach Schwan incident that put the Knights’ 2002-2003 season on the fast track to nowhere.
Grenzy committed to Clarkson early last season. For months, he was the Knights’ only verbal commit listed on recruiting websites.
“Even through all the drama last year, I knew I wanted to stay,” Grenzy said. “I’ve never felt more welcome on a team. The upperclassmen have led the way, and we freshmen have followed.”
Friday brought quite the role reversal: It was the freshmen doing the leading and the upperclassmen doing the following.
Curley scored the tone-setter three minutes into the game. On a delayed penalty, he crept in from the right point, took a pass from Jamie McNiven (another freshman defenseman), and snapped off his first collegiate goal from just inside the right circle.
Curley sustained a separated shoulder earlier this season, and admitted his shot has only recently started to come around. “It’s something Coach wants me to work on this summer,” he said.
Well, summer is at least one more day away for Curley and his Clarkson mates. Because after Colgate seized momentum later in the first with an unsuccessful Chris Blight penalty shot and Kyle Wilson’s stop-and-pop goal, Grenzy put the Knights ahead to stay with 5:26 remaining in the second.
The goal came after a fairly harmless Clarkson power play (one shot) expired — harmless, that is, except that the Raiders weren’t able to clear the zone for more than a minute after Justin Spencer left the box.
“When a team gets tired like that, and they only have one guy fresh,” Grenzy said, “that’s a big time to take advantage.”
And that was when sophomore Jeff Genovy pounced on a loose puck behind the net and found Grenzy lurking at the left post.
Actually, it was more “wandering” than “lurking.”
“Truth is, I was lost,” he admitted. “I’m not the kind of guy who usually gets low in the zone. But it was a beautiful pass. The net was wide open.”
So was Clarkson’s path to the final, after Dustin Traylen — he of the no-look, slinky-spined, left-glove-on-the-deck stop of All-ECAC forward Jon Smyth midway through the third — made the lead stand.
The Knights are already the first ECAC team to win two road series and make the semifinals. And, thanks to a couple rookies, they’re one win away from carving their names into the Scotty Whitelaw Cup.
“It does feel good,” Curley smiled.