The Clarkson Golden Knights are rolling pretty well, but as first-year head coach Casey Jones puts it, they have been flying blind along with their opponents.
The team is 4-1-1 overall, and its power play is clicking at 29.4 percent (10-for-34, good for third nationally). However, in this early, non-conference schedule, the teams don’t exchange video for scouting purposes, making it tough for opponents to get a read on their man-up tendencies.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have one unit clicking right now, and they’re moving around pretty well. We have a lot of guys scoring on the power play. We haven’t been too predictable,” said Jones. “We haven’t done video exchange with any teams, so they haven’t tried to take things away. When we do begin exchanging video and teams do try to take things away from us, that’ll be the telltale sign of how well we can play.”
None of the Golden Knights’ first five opponents this year had a winning record in 2010-11 (then again, neither did Clarkson). Nonetheless, Jones dismissed any notion of an easy non-conference schedule, playing mostly Atlantic Hockey schools.
“Anybody can beat anybody in college hockey,” Jones said. “That’s been proven already this season. Every team we’ve played so far plays hard. We’re learning to win games and close out games. We’re focusing on the energy level and how hard we’re working. Pucks are going in for us, guys are working hard and we’re trying to create an identity.”
Jones takes special satisfaction in seeing 16 of his players already having scored points through just six games. ECAC Hockey player of the week Allan McPherson had three goals this weekend, including both game-winners over American International.
Seven of the 16 players split the 10 power-play goals, including freshman Sam Labrecque, an invaluable piece of the extra-man puzzle. Every one of his five points thus far has come on the power play.
“Sam is further ahead than we expected,” said Jones. “He has good awareness, and he’s really afforded us an opportunity to keep him at the top.”
Kevin Tansey and James Howden were also praised for their “good size, physical play and consistency” as freshmen on the young Golden Knights’ defense.
The team has the confidence to go for broke, offensively, in part because of senior Paul Karpowich’s play in the net.
“We’ve given up a lot of shots, so we can be better at puck possession, but Paul came into his senior year in tremendous shape,” Jones said. “With a young D corps in front of him, he’s doing a really good job of not only making the first save, but not leaving a lot of pucks laying in the crease.”
On that note, Karpowich is 614 saves away from tying Dan Murphy’s career school record of 3,375, set in 1998.
On the spot: Colgate’s Austin Smith
Colgate senior forward Austin Smith is on a mission to completely turn the page on a forgettable 2010-11 season.
The Raiders finished 11-28-3 and Smith, always a dependable scorer going back to juniors with Penticton (BCHL), didn’t finish anywhere near a point per game (31 points in 41 games).
This year, his dedication to making sure the Raiders are in full bounce-back mode has been on full display through all five of Colgate’s games. He has helped the team put together a 3-1-1 record early on.
Smith was fourth in points per game among all ECAC players (non-conference stats only, so far) with 1.75, scoring five goals and seven points through five games. He hasn’t yet been silenced in a game.
USCHO.com caught up with Smith as he was just two goals away from the 50 milestone, standing with a 48-62–110 line in 119 career games.
USCHO: What do you think of the season thus far?
Smith: It’s obviously a dramatic turnaround from where we were last year. We won our first tournament [the Mutual of Omaha Stampede], as we wanted to get rolling. We didn’t want to be right back where we were last year. The next weekend, Miami won a game, but I thought we outplayed them the whole weekend.
USCHO: How much does it matter to the team to be nationally ranked [No. 16 in USCHO.com poll on both Oct. 17 and 24]?
Smith: We wanted it; we expect that of our team. It’s one thing to be there in the beginning of the season, but it’s got to be where we are midseason and where we end up that matters. It doesn’t really mean anything right now. We’ve got to keep putting wins on the board. Our out-of-conference schedule is tough and there are good teams in our league, obviously.
USCHO: How does it feel to be two goals away from 50? What are previous memorable goals?
Smith: I didn’t even realize where I was at. I reached 100 points last year, I knew that, but last year wasn’t even close to the year I should’ve had. I’ve changed my focus to doing what I need to do in practice, and the points will come. Last year, I was more expecting the points to come.
I remember my first goal pretty well. It was a home game [Oct. 17, 2008] and I threw it into the goalie’s pads with my hands — if it went in, it wouldn’t have counted — but then, the rebound was there and I knocked it in. It was a weird way to score my first goal.
That same year, I scored an overtime winner in the playoffs against Quinnipiac — we were down 3-2 and I scored three goals, including in OT, to help us come back.
USCHO: How do you rate your growth as a player under coach Don Vaughan, who is two wins away from 300?
Smith: I’m mentally stronger, mentally tougher — maybe that’s because of the seasons we’ve had. [Vaughan] has been a good teacher in terms of understanding the game and helping me defensively. He’s made me more of a two-way forward. I can play left, center and right, which will help me when I turn pro at the end of the year. I’ve always been a pass-first player, and he’s gotten me to shoot, which has helped me add a new element to my game.
Elsewhere around the league
Brown: It may not have meant anything in the standings, but Brown’s 2-0 shutout win over Waterloo (Ontario) on Sunday helped to reestablish some order to the usual dynamic of American schools beating Canadian schools in the preseason, especially after Waterloo beat No. 10 Yale the night before.
Cornell: It remains to be seen if Cornell will be fashionably late to the Division I party (i.e., win games early on). The Big Red are the second-to-last Division I team to start their 2011-12 schedule, opening Saturday against Mercyhurst at Lynah Rink. Harvard is last to open, starting Nov. 4 in ECAC play against Princeton.
Dartmouth: The Big Green had an interesting weekend. First was a 4-2 exhibition win over Western Ontario, then a 3-1 scrimmage win over Norwich. Canadian Interuniversity Sport followed by NCAA Division III. Certainly not your average weekend for a D-I team.
Harvard: Conor Morrison, Luke Greiner and Alex Killorn each had two-goal games in Harvard’s 7-4 win over Western Ontario on Friday. That is the Crimson’s only action against opposition before they jump right into league play in their Nov. 4 season opener against Princeton. They hope to avoid cobwebs before then.
Princeton: The Tigers will do whatever is needed to avoid the 0-2 start from last year’s Ivy Shootout, where it fell in 2-1 games to both Dartmouth and Brown. This year, they draw Yale (Friday) and Brown (Saturday). Yale is 5-0 in the teams’ last five meetings, while Princeton has won three out of its last four meetings with Brown.
Quinnipiac: The Bobcats joined St. Lawrence as the only two ECAC Hockey teams to be defeated by Atlantic Hockey squads when Robert Morris upset Quinnipiac on Friday. Matthew Peca was honored with the ECAC Hockey rookie of the week award for his two goals against the Colonials, including a one-timer for the game-winner in Saturday’s 4-1 victory.
Rensselaer: The Engineers are looking to break out of a three-game losing streak. Their 1-4-0 record is their worst start since 2008-09, when they started 0-4-1 after the same amount of games. Their 17 shots on goal marked the second time in three games they’ve put fewer than 20 on an opposing goalie. Compare that with their opening weekend, when they shelled Minnesota State with 74 shots in two games.
Union: Troy Grosenick earned his first career shutout victory in a 5-0 win over Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday, giving him his first league honor of goalie of the week. After a Friday night game at New Hampshire, the Dutchmen will return to Messa Rink on Saturday and celebrate the 2010-11 Cleary Cup championship and NCAA tournament appearance with a banner ceremony before facing American International.
Yale: The Elis faced a talented goaltender in Keaton Hartigan when the Waterloo goalie turned away 41 of Yale’s 42 shots in a 2-1 defeat of Yale on Saturday. The loss came five years and a day after their last loss to a Canadian university, when they fell to McGill 3-1 on Oct. 21, 2006.
Top three recruit performances
First prize: Kevin Roy (Brown, ’12-’13), Lincoln (USHL) — After a quiet first two games, he scored a hat trick in Game 3 against Sioux City and has seven points in his last three contests.
Second prize: Ryan Hitchcock (Yale, ’14-’15), New Jersey Rockets (MJHL) — OK, people, it’s time to bring this kid up to a higher-level league, such as the Met League’s affiliate Atlantic Junior League. He has 26 points in his first 12 games with N.J.
Third prize: Connor Dempsey (Dartmouth, ’12-’13), Westside (BCHL) — It’s a long way from his hometown in Winthrop, Mass., to Kelowna, British Columbia, but with nine points in his last three games (20 points in 12 games overall), Dempsey is making the best of the trip.
Top three alumni performances
First prize: David Jones (Dartmouth), Colorado Avalanche — He’s put in five goals in five games, good enough to tie for sixth in NHL goal scoring.
Second prize: Chris Higgins (Yale), Vancouver Canucks — His three goals have him ranked tied for second on the team after the first eight games.
Third prize: Harry Zolnierczyk (Brown), Philadelphia Flyers – He was up only for a game (Oct. 18), but the first career goal for last year’s Bears captain made it to No. 2 on the NHL Network’s Top 10 goals of the week.
This just in: Allen York, last year’s Rensselaer goalie extraordinaire, made his NHL debut for Columbus in the Blue Jackets’ 4-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday, Columbus’ first win of the season. York’s appearance was a formality, as he played just 2:33 and didn’t see any shots.