Yes, the game was on a Tuesday. Yes, many out of town alumni and fans were left to fend for themselves with a radio and internet video streams. Yes, the attendance was not a record breaker. But, with all of those things considered, this was a fun game to be a part of. I would personally like to thank all the students at WCKN who provided us with a high quality video feed of the game. This was a new experience for me and while there are still some bugs to be worked out, on the whole, this is a quality product in which the University can be proud of.
On to the game.
There were plenty of things going Clarkson's way on Tuesday night. A four game win streak, a hot goaltender, an even hotter penalty kill and the hype that surrounds this series. Clarkson could have come in an just expected to coast to a win. However, Saint Lawrence had other thoughts. The first period opened up with sloppy play on both sides and heading towards first intermission both teams would probably feel fortunate not to make the big mistake and go to the locker room 0-0. Shawn Weller changed that.
On their second powerplay of the night, Weller roofed a Zalewski rebound over Kain Tisi and the Knights were on the board. The thing is that the powerplay in it's previous chance looked a little disoriented. The second time around, however, the Knights were crisp with their passes and Dodge's initial shot from the left wing circle freed up Weller as he skated in from the bottom of the goal, collected the rebound and made no mistake on the shot. Tisi had no chance. End of 1, Clarkson up one, nil.
Goals in the last minute of a period are a coaches nightmare. The team has 15 minutes to dwell on the mistake they made. They can deflate a team. Joe Marsh is one of the best coaches in the country and St. Lawrence came out ready to work in the second period, and they out worked Clarkson for the first 10 minutes of the second. Clarkson was on their heels and got caught not moving their feet, resulting in a SLU powerplay at 1:13 of the period.
SLU could not get much going on the powerplay early on, but a high stick call against Chris D'Alvise gave the Saints a 50 second five on three advantage. This is where Clarkson's newly found defense stepped up. With Grant Clitsome and Phil Paquet manning the bottom of the triangle, Nick Dodge was allowed to aggressively attack the points of the SLU powerplay. Dodge would challenge the SLU point men with Clitsome sliding over to fill the void. Clitsome himself cleared the puck 3 times on the 5 on 3 and SLU never really got a quality look. Shots that did get through were stopped by David Leggio, who made 13 saves in the period and 31 in the game.
SLU kept working through the powerplay futility and was rewarded with three more powerplays through the period. SLU took one penalty on an obvious dive by Zach Miskovic. The dive was probably one of the more entertaining events of the evening as Miskovic went into the left wing corner with Mike Sullivan. The two bumped into each other and Miskovic leaped forward as if he was sprung from a cannon, landed on his stomach. Saw the refs hand in the air, and on his way to his bench was grabbed by an assistant ref and sent to the box.
A quick word about tonight's referee Peter Feola, he was excellent. Their has been quite a bit of complaining about the refs in this league calling too tight a game. With penalty minutes reaching the 40 minute mark in some games, I would be inclined to agree. Feola called what needed to be called and kept the pace of the game moving. There were no even up calls, or calls for phantom hits. When it came time to make a crucial call on a reviewable goal, I'll get to that in a bit, Feola made the right call. This was the best officiating crew I have seen all year in the league and I hope the ECAC takes notice.
As the second period wound down, SLU was awarded another powerplay. With Zalewski in the box for high sticking, the Saints looked to score their own last minute goal and tie up the game and let it be decided in the third. Clarkson penalty kill again was pro-active lead this time by defenseman Phil Paquet. Paquet has had a rough first semester. He's taken 79 penalty minutes and has been thrown out of three games for hits from behind. After the last ejection at St. Cloud he has cleaned up his act. Paired up with Clitsome they are the top defensive pairing right now and are a large reason Clarkson has only allowed 5 goals in the last 5 games. Paquet was a monster on this last kill and was a big reason the Knights went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
The third period started with a delay to fix the dasher between two pains of glass in front of section 11. This lead to everyone in the known universe asking how many engineers it takes to fix a pain of glass. The answer is apparently six. The delay didn't affect either team and the first powerplay of the period went to Clarkson. This did not bode well for the Knights.
David Leggio attempted a clearing pass that caught one of the dashers in the corner and the puck ricocheted right to Travis Vermeulen who made no mistake on the shot and tied the game at one. Bad bounces are something good teams overcome. Clarkson showed the crowd of 3525 why they are a good team in the second half of the period.
With Miskovic sitting for a holding penalty the Knights set up the powerplay once again. A flurry in front of the net appeared to go in of a Grant Clitsome deflection, right before the net was taken off it's moorings. The initial call from Feola was a goal, but he felt the need to have the goal reviewed, and rightly so. After about 4 minutes of review using the over head and behind the net cameras, Feola ruled that the net had come off it's pegs before the puck crossed the line. The game remained 1-1. When viewing the game through green tinted glasses, the call seems a bit dubious, but Feola followed procedure and got it right. The ultimate job of an official.
Clarkson would not be denied and just one minute later Shea Guthrie used all of his individual talent and scored his fourth goal of the year, easily his best of the season. Guthrie came down the left wing side and at the faceoff dot cut in towards net. As he cut in a Saint defender took a chance and tried to lay out Guthrie. He missed. Guthrie fought off the ill placed check, kicked the puck to his stick and snapped a shot top shelf that rattled the water bottles behind Tisi. For the second time in the contest Cain Tisi had no chance to stop the shot. Clarkson was back on top 2-1.
The Saints were not done, and they would not go away. A minute after the goal David Cayer took a tripping call that gave SLU their final powerplay chance. Once again, for the thirty-first consecutive time, the Knights were equal to the task. This penalty kill was highlighted by Dodge. Aggressively attacking the point and blocking shots Dodge killed off the first minute and a half of the man advantage nearly by him self. The ultimate team player Dodge took a hard shot to the leg after sprawling out to block the shot. He limped to the bench and returned later in the game, but that action alone speaks volumes to the team's commitment to defense.
As the clocked waned, the Cheel arena crowd could feel an immanent victory. A bad icing by Weller gave SLU a faceoff in the Clarkson zone with 1:17 left in the period. SLU could not execute the play they drew up in the time out and the puck ended up on Weller's stick again. This time the junior made no mistake and he carried the puck over the red line and rifled a shot into the empty net sealing the win.
The game of hockey is filled with streaks. Winning streaks, losing streaks, point streaks, hot streaks and cold streaks. Clarkson has been through a cold snap and has rebounded with five straight wins. The break comes at a good time for the team, headed into exams after defeating the school's biggest rival and a date with the defending national champion on deck. The Golden Knights control their own destiny right now and if they continue the level of play into February and March, they will be a team to watch into the playoffs.