POTSDAM The Clarkson University mens hockey teams offense is waking up at the right time.
After struggling on the power play the last two weekends Clarkson had its best special teams game of the year Friday night, defeating Princeton 3-1 before 2,240 fans in an ECAC Hockey game at Cheel Arena.
Clarkson, which had gone 1 of 15 with the man advantage for the last four games, scored three power-play goals on four chances Friday against the Tigers. The Golden Knights (18-14-3 overall, 11-9-1 ECAC Hockey) also have scored five goals in their last two games after going through a three-game stretch where they only scored one goal.
Its just a matter of generating chances, Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. For the most part I thought the power-play won us the game tonight. I thought what we had tonight, that we hadnt had for a bit, we had some sustained offensive shifts, and thats what were looking for. Were looking to stay around the net and have some net-front presence.
The win over Princeton (5-23, 4-17) also keeps alive Clarksons hopes for a top-four finish in the conference standings and an automatic bye in the first round of next weekends ECAC Hockey playoffs.
Clarkson closes the regular season with a game against Quinnipiac at 7 tonight. If Clarkson wins, and Cornell loses or ties its game against Harvard, the Golden Knights would finish in fourth place. Clarkson could also earn fourth place with a tie and a Cornell loss.
The Golden Knights got their first power-play chance early in the game when Princetons Alec Rush was called for interference at 4 minutes, 5 seconds.
Just 15 seconds later Allan McPherson gave Clarkson a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal off assists from Jarrett Burton and Paul Geiger.
We just seemed to be moving the puck well tonight, McPherson said. We found seams and passed the puck around. Guys were making plays, thats all it was.
The Tigers tied the game late in the first period when a turnover near the blue line gave Princetons Andrew Calof a breakaway opportunity, which he used to score against Greg Lewis with 1:13 left in the first period.
But Clarkson got another power-play chance just 3:24 into the second period on a boarding call to Princetons Eric Carlson, which temporarily injured Clarkson defenseman Kevin Tansey.
The Golden Knights took advantage on a nice passing play which saw McPherson send the puck to Jeff DiNallo, who then sent a pass right in front of the crease which Will Frederick one-timed for the game-winning goal at 5:18.
I think our puck movement on the power play tonight was second-to-none that Ive been a part of, Frederick said. We were whipping it around pretty good. We kept their penalty kill guessing. (DiNallo) found me alone in front there and it was a wide-open net.
Princetons next penalty came at 9:46 of the second period on a tripping call to Ben Foster and the Golden Knights scored their final power-play goal of the night at 10:32 on a shot from Jarrett Burton, with Frederick and DiNallo assisting.
I think a big thing was we were hounding pucks all night, Burton said. We were trying to make some plays and stay calm out there.
It was a frustrating night for Princeton coach Bob Prier, a former St. Lawrence University player and assistant coach, who saw his team lose for the 23rd time in 28 games in what has become a long season.
Their power play was lights out today, Prier said. When you prepare for a team like that, you know what they are doing on the power play, but their execution was outstanding and they moved it around quick. We just couldnt get back to that seam in time there on a few occasions.
Clarkson clinched its first winning record since 2007-08 with the win and is guaranteed no worse than a sixth-place finish in the standings. The Golden Knights will host a first-round series next weekend unless they move into fourth place tonight.