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Power play connects at prolific rate for SLU hockey

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CANTON — Special teams for St. Lawrence University, particularly its power play, have been special of late.

The Saints have stood out as a highly skilled man-advantage unit in recent years, drawing the praise of opposing coaches across the country.

St. Lawrence’s power play has risen to No. 1 in the country in both goals (22) and in efficiency (28.6 percent).

“The power play has been good,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “We’re skilled and we’re also opportunistic — we were fortunate and fortuitous enough on Friday night to get three goals on the power play. Two of them started with Greg Carey just getting real solid shots on the net and we banged in the rebounds. So we have good confidence right now on the power play.”

While senior winger Greg Carey continues to impress on the national stage and has the statistics to back it up, fellow senior winger Jeremy Wick not only tops the team in power-play goals with five — he’s tied for third in the country in man-advantage tallies.

“It’s just nice having a bunch of guys out there who handle the puck real well and we have a good systems,” said Saints senior defenseman Justin Baker, a key contributor on the power play. “So as long as we don’t get off the page, we have a recipe for success.”

The Saints (8-6-2, 2-2-2) will try and keep up their special teams surge when they play at Clarkson (10-3-1, 4-2-0) at 7 tonight in ECAC Hockey play, the first game of a rare home-and-home series between the archrivals.

“We move the puck well and we can play a couple different ways on the power play,” Carey said. “It always helps when you can get pucks to the net and get a couple crazy ones and not just tic-tac-toe goals.”

St. Lawrence has also exhibited plenty of balance with its power-play scoring as freshman Matt Carey has four man-advantage goals, while Baker, freshman defender Gavin Bayreuther and Greg Carey have generated three each.

“Coach has a good system for us,” said Carey, who leads the nation in points (29), points per game (1.81) and assists (18) and is tied for fifth in the country in goals (11) with three others. “We have good guys on the power play and we have good guys with good skill. Both units are skilled — on the first unit we’ve got my brother, Jeremy Wick and Justin Baker ... and Gavin has stepped up as a freshman and he’s fit in real well.”

Meanwhile, the Saints’ penalty killing has struggled at 78 percent efficiency, although has recently improved. St. Lawrence ranks last in the ECAC in penalty killing, having allowed seven power-play goals over its first six league games, and is 47th in the country.

“I think it’s been much better the last four games,” Carvel said.

RIVALRY ONE-SIDED OF LATE

Besides getting back on track in league play, the Saints will try and put their recent woes against the 10th-ranked Golden Knights behind them.

“I know we’re not too happy with our record against Clarkson the past three years here, so there would be nothing nicer then get a sweep this weekend to try and even things out a little bit,” Baker said.

Clarkson has built a six-game (5-0-1) unbeaten streak against St. Lawrence in ECAC play and has fared 7-1-1 against its archrival over the past three seasons, including 2-0-1 last campaign.

“Anytime you play Clarkson and certainly with the rivalry you want to beat them,” Carey said. “They’ve kind of got the best of us in league play, so the seniors are going to be chomping at the bit and the juniors are going to be as well.”

The Saints earned their first point over this stretch against the Golden Knights in their last meeting Jan. 19. But, Clarkson rallied from a three-goal, third-period deficit to tie St. Lawrence, 3-3, in Potsdam.

The Golden Knights own a 20-6-2 record against the Saints in Postdam, with Saints’ last win on Dec. 5, 2009.

WENINGER STILL THE MAN

After struggling over two weekends, Saints senior goalie Matt Weninger showed signs of returning to form against North Dakota last weekend.

Weninger stopped 21 of 23 shots faced in a 5-2 St. Lawrence victory last Friday and he also made 21 stops in a 3-2 loss to UND the next night.

Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence hockey. He can be reached at cfitzgerald@wdt.net.

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