Clarkson gets the nod

Players on the 2012-2013 All-USCHO D-I Women's teams (Erin Ambrose). (Tim Brule)
Erin Ambrose will be important to Clarkson’s fortunes. (Clarkson Athletics)

Clarkson Golden Knights
USCHO prediction: First
Coaches’ prediction: Second
Last season: First (tie) (24-11-3, 16-4-2 ECAC)

The names
Clarkson’s season in defense of its ECAC and NCAA titles was in some ways more impressive than the national-championship season itself. The Golden Knights roster was at its peak for the 2013-14 season, leaving last year’s squad with some additional hurdles to clear.

“The class we graduated after the national championship season, they had some pretty spectacular accolades, the seven of them there,” coach Matt Desrosiers said. “So obviously, we knew that we were going to have to get some players to step up in some big roles and fill the shoes of those graduating players. We knew that we had a good core group of players coming back as well, and then obviously the experience that they gained, not only winning the ECAC league, but obviously winning the national championship. We knew that was going to bode well for us, too; they knew what it takes. We just needed to make sure that they brought that same intensity that they had that previous year into last season. We didn’t want that kind of national-championship hangover.”

One who stepped up in a big way was freshman goaltender Shea Tiley.

“Obviously, she had a great season as a freshman,” Desrosiers said. “It’s usually difficult for freshmen to come in and play the way she did, but one, she’s a competitor, two, she’s always looking to get better, and she just has a level head on her shoulders. She didn’t take anything for granted. She’s going to continue to keep working hard and trying to improve and have another great season.”

While the Golden Knights didn’t lose as heavily to graduation in this off season, they did graduate two from the blue line.

“Obviously, the two D that we lost, [Jennifer Shields and Daniella Matteucci], were more stay-at-home, defensive-style defensemen, but they played an important role for us throughout their careers,” Desrosiers said. “They were really solid, they didn’t make many mistakes, and they were integral parts of the team winning that national championship when we were only four deep down the stretch. They’re going to be tough to replace, but we have two pretty good freshmen coming in Emma Keenan and Josaine Pozzebon. They have a lot of experience, they can add a little bit to the offense, and they play some pretty good defense, too. But I think the core group that we have in place, the other four returning D, are in a good spot to kind of mentor those two, kind of help bring them along quickly.”

The numbers
As a freshman, Tiley turned in a save percentage of .939 with a goals-against average of 1.40. While that didn’t quite match Erica Howe’s stats during her championship season (.941, 1.10), it was an improvement on Howe’s career marks (.932, 1.57).

While nobody approached the 66 points that Jamie Lee Rattray put up in winning the Patty Kazmaier Award two years ago, four forwards did exceed 30 points: Cayley Mercer (44); Shannon MacAulay (33); Geneviève Bannon (32); and Olivia Howe (31). They’ll all be back.

Clarkson also got good production on the back line from the returning trio of Erin Ambrose (23), Savannah Harmon (21), and Renata Fast (18).

The prognosis
The Golden Knights look better positioned than their competition to hit the ground running.

“We have a lot of our team returning, a pretty good group of freshmen on paper and that, so hopefully we can get them up to speed quickly here and get them adapted to college hockey,” Desrosiers said. “I think if we can do that, it will really add to the success of our team.”