Going nearly three weeks without a game in the stretch run of the season usually isn’t ideal for most teams, but it appears to be working out well for Clarkson.
The Golden Knights stopped all team activities and postponed two games against St. Lawrence last month after the university put a pause on all in-person activities as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.
After recording two regulation wins in nine games prior to the stoppage, Clarkson matched that total with a home-and-home sweep of Colgate last weekend.
“It let us take a deep breath; we weren’t on the ice for over 12 days,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “The guys have been here since the summer. Sometimes, mental breaks are as good as anything.”
The Golden Knights scored three goals in both games against the Raiders, a mark that Clarkson had reached only twice during its previous nine games.
“I thought we were pressing,” Jones said of the Golden Knights’ offensive struggles. “We were grinding, playing really well. The possession game and shots for and against were all there.”
Despite graduating forwards Haralds Egle and Devin Brosseau last spring, the Golden Knights entered the season with a veteran groups of forwards.
However, that depth took a hit with injuries to Chris Klack and Josh Dunne. Klack hasn’t played all this season while Dunne missed the start of the season due to an injury and only has two goals after scoring 13 last year.
But that has given several other players the chance to step up. Jones said the coaching staff is encouraged by the development of sophomore Mathieu Gosselin, who has six goals this season after scoring twice as a freshman. Junior Anthony Callin scored the game-winning goal Saturday against the Raiders and has almost as many goals this season (9) as he did in his previous two seasons (10). Sophomore Anthony Romano has also surpassed his career high in goals, while freshman Alex Campbell is third on the team in scoring.
“We’ve got some good young players that are in good spots and are starting to pop for us,” Jones said. “We’re hoping that will be something down the stretch.”
While Clarkson’s offense is starting to come around, it was the defense that struggled early in the year. The Golden Knights regularly skate three freshmen on defense and it was a bumpy start, as Clarkson allowed 24 goals in its first seven games of the season. But the Golden Knights have tightened up defensively since then and haven’t allowed more than two goals in a game since Jan. 9.
Senior Kris Oldham saw most of the time in goal early in the season, but freshman Ethan Haider has started all but one game since New Year’s and has a .938 save percentage in league play.
“Timing is everything, we started getting a little more structured and started getting a little bit better when he took the reins,” Jones said of Haider. “We feel good about Ethan and Kris. We’re confident going into games that we are getting the goaltending that we need and are playing a bit freer.”
Last weekend’s sweep kept Clarkson alive in the hunt for the Cleary Cup and put some distance between them and the third-place Raiders. The Golden Knights play St. Lawrence in four consecutive games to close the season. The teams will meet this weekend as part of their scheduled series and then will make up the two postponed games from last month on Mar. 10 and 12.
That’s just one of the quirks of the league’s schedule, where each of the four teams plays each other six times during the regular season, meaning there’s not a lot of surprises left by the end of the year.
“There’s only so many tricks in the bag,” Jones said. “You know if you have success with one thing the first night, the coach over there is a good coach and they’re making adjustments to make sure their team is prepared.”
Around the league
— Union forward Josh Kosack was announced as one of the three finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award last week. The award is presented annually to college hockey’s “finest citizen” for leadership in community service. The winner will be announced on April 9 at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
— Quinnipiac senior forward Odeen Tufto was named the league’s player of the week after posting a goal and eight assists in three games. His 125 career assists are tied with current Dartmouth coach Reid Cashman for the program record. Teammate Ty Smilanic was named the league’s rookie of the week, while Haider was honored as the league’s goalie of the week.
The Bobcats swept the league’s monthly awards, as Tufto and Smilanic were the league’s player and rookie of the month, respectively, while Keith Petruzzelli was honored as the league’s goalie of the month after recording a .938 save percentage in February.