POTSDAM - Although the Clarkson University mens hockey team finished one game below .500 last season and narrowly missed out on a first-round bye in the conference playoffs, excitement around the program is high.
Many of the Green and Gold faithful believe Head Coach Casey Jones and his staff will revive the Golden Knights into the juggernaut that ruled ECAC Hockey in the 1990s.
Clarkson showed flashes of brilliance last season. The league sweep of archrival St. Lawrence, posting five shutouts and the triple overtime playoff victory against Rensselaer were among the highlights. The details of those games hint at what 2012-13 might be like in Potsdam this winter.
Entering his second year at the Clarkson helm, Jones, was a finalist for the 2012 Tim Taylor ECAC Hockey Coach of the Year Award. Jones along with assistants Phil Roy 00 and Andy Jones will look to build upon the successes of last season when the Green and Gold were the most improved team in the 12-team conference.
Eighteen lettermen return from last years squad which posted a 16-17-6 overall record and skated to a tie for sixth place in ECAC Hockey with a 9-9-4 league mark. The coaching staff has also brought in a talented group of nine players (six forwards, two goaltenders and one defenseman) who will be counted upon to help the Knights continue their move towards the top of the ECAC Hockey standings and back into national prominence.
Junior Ben Sexton (Kanata, ONT) will serve as the Golden Knights captain this winter as Clarkson competes in its 91st season of play. An 18-game home slate, a pair of weekend non-conference series against NCAA powerhouses, another trip to the Adirondack Mountains for a non-league battle against its archrival and the always competitive 22-game ECAC Hockey campaign highlight the 2012-13 schedule for the Green and Gold. Clarkson travels to Colorado College on October 12-13 to officially open the 34-game NCAA campaign. College hockey returns to Cheel Arena for the 22nd season on October 20 when the Knights host Holy Cross to open a three-game home stand. Clarksons battle for the Cleary Cup begins on November 9 when the Knights travel to New Haven, CT to face off against Yale to begin the ECAC Hockey campaign.
The Knights begin the season with an exhibition game against Carleton University on Sunday, October 7 at Cheel Arena beginning at 4:00 p.m. Clarksons annual Skate With A Knight will follow after the game.
Clarkson will look to retool its depleted offense and needs a consistent supporting cast to emerge to help Sexton and classmate Allan McPherson (Kinburn, ONT) for the Knights to be an offensive threat. With 11 veterans returning up front and with six talented freshmen looking to make their mark, competition among the Knights forwards for playing time will be intense.
Steady veterans Nick Tremblay, Louke Oakley, Jake Morley, Corey Tamblyn and Julien Cayer have graduated. Clarkson, however, returns experience in senior Adam Pawlick (Utica, NY) and an emerging junior class that provided 30% of the offense last season with 30 goals and 52 assists.
Opposing defenses will pay special attention to the superb play of Sexton, who, despite playing through a rash of injuries, has averaged close to a point per game through his first two seasons. In 39 games he has recorded 13 goals and 24 assists. Last season he tallied eight goals and 21 assists through 27 contests. McPherson put up 23 points and 11 goals, including a team-high five game-winners.
Steady right wing Will Frederick (Allison Park, PA) along with Matt Zarbo (Grand Island, NY), Jarrett Burton (Echo Bay, ONT) and Mike Garlasco (Mahwah, NJ) will also be counted upon to increase their offensive contributions in their junior campaigns.
The Knights can also expect contributions on the offensive end from sophomores Joe Zarbo (Grand Island, NY) and Patrick Marsh (Oakville, ONT), who played regular roles last season in their collegiate debuts. Classmate Mitch Zion (Manotick, ONT) saw limited action last year, but should push for playing time. Sophomore JD Carrabino (New Canaan, CT), will look to make use of his size (6-6, 230-pounds) and toughness to find a role up front.
There is plenty of size, skill and potential among the incoming rookies. Christian Finch (Claremont, ONT) was the RBC National Junior Tier II Player of the Year after scoring 104, points including an OJHL-high 67 assists, for the Stouffville Spirit. Christian Powers (Carlisle, ONT) played alongside Finch at Stouffville and scored 61 points (25-36) while helping to lead the Spirit to OJHL playoff title and a berth in the Dudley Hewitt Central Canada Junior A Championship final. Todd Christian (Norwalk, CT) was named the Most Valuable Forward for the Notre Dame Hounds after scoring 57 points, including 25 goals, in 57 SJHL games.
Simon Bessette (St. Jean, QUE) was team captain for the Wellington Dukes and scored 34 points (11-23). Jeff DiNallo (Aurora, ONT) scored 38 points (14-24) for the Newmarket Hurricanes. Patrick Megannety (Oakville, ONT) skated for the Georgetown Raiders and tallied 46 points (26-20) in 41 games, and played alongside DiNallo for Canada East in 2011-2012 World Junior A U19 Championship.
While Clarkson looks to increase its scoring up front and stabilize the inexperience in the crease, the Knights will rely heavily upon the blueline brigade which returns all six starters from last years squad. The Knights, however, will have to make do without the services of sophomore Kevin Tansey (Hammond, ONT) for at least the fall semester as he recovers from injuries he suffered in an assault in Ottawa this past summer.
A young Clarkson defense gained valuable experience last season. As the 2012-13 campaign progresses and the Green and Gold gain a little more seasoning, the Knights blueline play should be an area of improvement when postseason action rolls around. Seven veterans, who have all seen considerable playing time, and a talented rookie present Clarkson with size, skill and depth in its own zone.
Andrew Himelson (Monroe, NY) and Nik Pokulok (Vaudreuil-Dorion, QUE) provide veteran leadership entering their senior campaigns. Himelson was Clarksons most improved player last year and developed into the Knights most reliable defenseman. He skated in 38 games and scored two goals, recorded six assists and was a team leader in plus/minus at +6. One of the biggest players on the roster, at 6-5, 222-pounds, Pokulok has played in more career games (101) than any other current Golden Knight.
Juniors Alex Boak (Norwood, NY) and Chase Fuchs (Severna Park, MD) displayed steady improvement through their first two seasons. Boak, who has good size at 6-1, 203-pounds, is a physical player who frustrates opposing forwards with his antagonistic style of play. He has accumulated 168 penalty minutes the past two seasons, including a team-high 102 in 2011-12. Fuchs, who came to Clarkson as a walk-on candidate in 2010-11, finally got his chance to play last year and responded with a solid effort posting a +6 rating and three assists in nine games.
A trio of sophomores, who made key contributions in their rookie campaigns, has the potential to dominate on the blueline this winter. Sam Labrecque (Granby, QUE) was selected as the Knights Rookie of the Year after a standout performance in 2011-12 when he was Clarksons top offensive producer from the blueline. His 23 points, on eight goals and 15 assists, were the most by a Clarkson defenseman since 2002-03. He was a main component on the power play with 16 points (5-11) on the man-advantage.
James Howden (Edgeley, SASK) and Tansey both big, physical, hard-hitting defensemen, were mainstays on the Clarkson blueline in their first collegiate campaigns. Howden, 6-1, 203-pounds, played in 37 games and posted a team-high +7 plus/minus. He led the Knights in scoring from the blueline in conference play with eight ECAC Hockey points (2-6). The only Clarkson rookie to skate in all 39 games last year, Tansey, 6-3, 207-pounds, scored nine points on two goals and seven assists.
At 6-3, 200-pounds and the OJHLs Best Defenseman in 2011-12, freshman Paul Geiger (Stouffville, ONT) should be a force on the Clarkson defense this winter. He was a top scorer in the OJHL from the blueline for the Stouffville Spirit with 1.25 points per game with 54 points, including 41 assists (fifth overall in the league).
When the strengths of the Clarkson program were discussed the past four years, the steady play of Paul Karpowich was always at the forefront. Now that Clarksons all-time save leader (3,735) has graduated and is pursuing a professional career in the St. Louis Blues organization, the Knights, who also graduated Richie LaVeau, will look for a reliable starter to emerge from a group of three untested netminders.
The lone goaltender with any collegiate experience on the roster, senior Cody Rosen (Kingston, ONT) will look to make the most of his senior campaign. Playing behind Karpowich the past three years, the 2010 NY Islanders draft choice (7th rd, 185th) saw limited action, playing just 140 career minutes through five games, including two starts.
Freshman Andrew Hunt (Surrey, BC) and Greg Lewis (Mars, PA) will also battle for the starting position. A tall goalie, at 6-2, Hunt was a BCHL Coastal Conference First-Team All-Star for the Surrey Eagles. He started in 52 games in 2011-12, posting a .913 save percentage and a 2.92 goals against average en route to a 30-19-1 record. Lewis played in 26 games for the Wenatchee Wild in the NAHL last season, recording a .923 save percentage and a 1.77 GAA. He posted a 12-11 record with four shutouts.