DESERT HOCKEY CLASSIC: Clarkson’s Kielly earns MVP as the Golden Knights win title, defeat Minnesota Duluth, 3-1

 (Tim Brule)
Clarkson, behind two nights of near-perfect goaltending, captured the title at the Desert Holiday Classic with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota Duluth (Photo: Greg Cameron)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Another outstanding performance from junior goaltender Jake Kielly propelled the Clarkson Golden Knights to a 3-1 victory in the championship game of the third Desert Hockey Classic.

“He gave us a chance, and that’s what good goalies do,” said Clarkson head coach Casey Jones. “They give you a chance when you need it. I thought we defended really hard. That’s our game, that’s who we are, and I’m really excited for the guys.”

Eight minutes into the first, Golden Knights freshman center Nick Campoli won an offensive zone faceoff back to defenseman and 19th-skater Shane Kuzmeski fired a seeing eye point shot to open the scoring. It was the junior Kuzmeski’s first career NCAA goal in 34 NCAA games, his second career point, and a great moment for him and his teammates.

“I had to give him a hard time about that one,” joked Kielly after the game. “I think I had one or two more [points] than him for a year and a half, and he ended up getting a goal before me and I let him know.”

No. 19 Clarkson (11-6-0) added a second goal in the final five minutes of the first. Three seconds after a Bulldogs interference penalty expired, junior winger Haralds Egle worked the puck behind the cage of Hunter Shepard and passed back to the weak side to a wide open Nico Sturm. The co-captain Sturm buried it, and his team found themselves in the same 2-0 situation as Friday’s semifinal through one.

No. 4 Minnesota Duluth (11-5-2) stormed out of the locker room in the second period, scored almost instantaneously, and spent an exorbitant amount of time in the Clarkson zone to start the frame.

Less than a minute into the second, the Bulldogs cut the lead in half on a two-on-one net drive. Sophomore center Justin Richards found his senior winger Parker Mackay for Mackay’s team-leading eighth goal.

This marked the first goal Kielly allowed in the previous 146:22 of game time, a streak that goes back to the team’s 4-2 loss to St. Lawrence on December 7.

Jones noted that if there was one aspect of the weekend that the team could improve upon, it was the second period.

“I thought both nights, our second period starts weren’t very good,” said Jones. “It’s given us some troubles in the past, and just the urgency – we had such a focus going into the first period and we executed well, and it’s almost like we drop off our focal points in the game.”

Yet at some point in the latter half of the period, the momentum shift from the Bulldogs to the Golden Knights in the second period was sizeable and somewhat surprising. It may not show in the shot column or the faceoff department, but Clarkson got the puck to the middle of the ice much more frequently than in the first, where about half of their shot attempts came from the points or the perimeter.

Clarkson kept up their hot penalty kill in the third period, blanking the Bulldogs on two chances and limiting the chances of the Minnesota Duluth point men, something they could not do on even strength in the second period. The unit improved to 33-for-34 in their last nine games.

“We wanted to shoot to the side of the net and have some players there deflecting them back across the crease. We tried to get him moving,” said Bulldogs associate head coach Jason Herter about the approach to beating Kielly. “It’s up to our guys to get the puck through, and we came up with a couple plays late that ended up working. We just didn’t score.”

Sturm notched his second goal of the game on an empty net within the final minute to seal the deal. The Golden Knights have now won an in-season tournament three years in a row after going 10 years without one; they captured 2016’s Shillelagh Tournament title in South Bend and 2017’s Friendship Four championship in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Kielly was named the Desert Hockey Classic’s Most Valuable Player and finished the game with 29 saves. He relished the opportunity to take part in such a high-powered tournament and in particular, show well against the defending national champions.

“I thought tonight, we did a really good job of shutting it down defensively,” said Kielly. “I thought that was definitely one of the best teams we played all year, certainly in my college career as well.”

Both Arizona State head coach Greg Powers and Minnesota State associate head coach Todd Knott congratulated Jones in the hallway outside of the Clarkson locker room after the game, as Clarkson left for home shortly after the game’s conclusion.

Clarkson travels to Vermont to face the Catamounts next Sunday, and Minnesota Duluth hosts the United States National Under-18 Team in an exhibition next Saturday.

CONSOLATION: Arizona State 2, Minnesota State 2 (F/OT, ASU wins shootout, 1-0, 5 rounds) 

Johnny Walker’s rebound goal with 29.4 seconds remaining in regulation forced overtime and a 2-2 tie for Arizona State and Minnesota State in the Desert Hockey Classic’s consolation game.

Max Balinson’s goal in the fifth-round of the shootout gave Arizona State third place in the tournament. The game will be recorded as a tie for NCAA purposes.

Things looked dire for the hosts, which were poised to finish the weekend winless. But strong pressure with the goaltender pulled led to a shot from the right point, a bobbled puck at the right post and a seeing-eye rebound to Walker, who scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season.

The Sun Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Jordan Sandhu’s second goal of the season at 14:42 of the first.

The Mavericks evened the score at 11:49 of the second on Walker Duehr’s fourth goal. Dallas Gerads’ goal in the final minute of the second period broke a 1-1 tie and put the Mavericks in a position to win until Walker’s late-game heroics.


AROUND THE NATION

CATAMOUNT CUP: Vermont 4, Rensselaer 2; Northeastern 2, Alabama Huntsville 0

The host Catamounts took home the title at their own holiday tournament, the Catamount Cup, posting a 4-2 win over Rensselaer.

Vermont, which defeated Alabama Huntsville, 4-1, on Friday, won the tournament on goal-differential in the pre-determined pairings event. Northeastern, which also won both of its games beating RPI, 3-2 in overtime on Friday and UAH, 2-0, on Saturday. finished with a +3 margin in goals scored.

The Catamount’s +5 goal margin was enough to take home the trophy.

LEDYARD BANK CLASSIC: Dartmouth 5, Army West Point 2; Providence 3, Brown 1

Dartmouth and Providence each posted victories on Saturday and will meet on Sunday with the winner taking home the Ledyard Bank Championship.

Another tournament with a pre-determined field, this event aligned perfectly to set up a day two championship game.

Providence needed three third-period goals to overcome a 1-0 deficit against the Bears. Kasper Bjrokqvist led the Friars with a goal and assist.

The Providence win was coach Nate Leaman’s 300th collegiate victory.

The host Big Green fell behind 1-0 to Army West Point but scored the next five goals before posting a 5-2 final in the tournament’s nightcap. Joey Matthews, Jeffrey Losurdo, Alex Jasiek and Carl Hesler all tallied two points in the game.

No. 5 Quinnipiac 6, Colgate 0

The Bobcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead through one and a 3-0 advantage through two en route to a 6-0 whitewash of Colgate in a non-conference game between ECAC foes played at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, N.Y.

The win was the 500th career victory for Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. Pecknold, who began his coaching career at Quinnipiac in 1994 as a Division II independent, has built a path of success for the Bobcats, taking them to Division I and multiple championships in the MAAC and Atlantic Hockey.

Pecknold was crucial to moving the club to the ECAC, where it has won three regular season titles, one postseason championship, reached four NCAA tournament appearances and twice made it to the national title game.

The Bobcats improve to 15-3-0 on the season.

No. 8 Denver 4, UMass Lowell 1

Two power play goals by Denver’s Jarid Lukosevicius just 2:04 apart opened up a tight 1-0 game early in the third as the visiting Pioneers skated past UMass Lowell, 4-1.

Combined with a 3-1 victory at Merrimack on Friday night, Denver sweeps the two game series in Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley.

The River Hawks held Denver to just 17 shots on goal on the night, but the efficiency of the Pioneers offense proved deadly, particularly its ability to finish on grade ‘A’ opportunities.

Filip Larsson finished with 20 saves in the victory.

No. 7 Ohio State 5, Mercyhurst 4

In a wild back-and-forth affair, Ohio State overcame deficits of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3, scoring the game’s final two goals to post a 5-4 win over Mercyhurst.

Carson Meyer scored twice including the tying goal late in the second period, while Sasha Larocque netted the game-winner with 9:26 remaining to earn the victory.

Spoiled in the game was a 45-save performance by Mercyhurst goaltender Stefano Cantili, 15 saves more than his previous career high.

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