This will be the biggest test of the 2010-11 season for the Golden Knights (10-5-2). Clarkson has already improved on its win total from last season, but now faces the fourth-ranked Bulldogs (12-4-3) in games tonight and tomorrow (7 p.m. both days) at Cheel Arena.
Clarkson has played only one team that is currently ranked in the Dec. 13 edition of the U.S. College Hockey online poll, and that was No. 8 Nebraska-Omaha in the season opener on Oct. 8, which Clarkson lost 8-0.
The Bulldogs have played nine games against teams in the top 20 and are 4-4-1 in those contests. Minnesota-Duluth is 8-0-2 against unranked teams.
Clarkson does enter this series as the hotter team. The Golden Knights have won four straight games and are 6-1 in their last seven contests. Minnesota-Duluth is 1-3-1 in its last five games.
The Bulldogs are also missing two defensemen, who are competing at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo. Justin Faulk is playing for the U.S. and Dylan Olsen is playing for Canada. Olsen will not be returning as he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks last week.
Stat of the Night:Clarkson is a much different team this season when it has a lead. If Clarkson scores first it is 9-0-2 but just 1-5 when the opposing team scores first. If Clarkson has a lead or is tied after the first or second periods it is 10-0-1, but 0-5-1 when it trails after either period. Minnesota-Duluth is 7-0-1 when it scores first and 5-4-2 when it does not. The Bulldogs have shown more come-from-behind ability, going 4-2 when they trail after the first period.
Who to watch
Clarkson:Brandon DeFazio has scored three goals in each of the last two games, becoming the first Golden Knight since Mike Prestidge in the 1979-80 season to record consecutive hat tricks. He leads the team with nine goals and eight assists. Matt Zarbo has six goals and seven assists. Scott Freeman has six goals and six assists and Jake Morley has five goals and seven assists. Goalie Paul Karpowich is 10-4-2 with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.
Minnesota-Duluth:Jack Connolly leads the Bulldogs with eight goals and 17 assists. Mike Connolly has 11 goals with 12 assists and Justin Fontaine has nine goals with 14 assists. Travis Oleksuk has nine goals and nine assists. The Bulldogs have rotated goalies. Kenny Reiter is 6-2-2 with a 2.67 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage in 12 games. Aaron Crandall has played in 10 games and is 6-2-1 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.
Special Teams Watch
Clarkson:The Golden Knights are 8 for 68 on the power play (11.8 percent) and 84 of 96 on penalty kills (87.5). No player has more than one power-play goal so far this season. Clarkson has five shorthanded goals and has allowed none. Jake Morley leads the team with two shorthanded goals.
Minnesota-Duluth:The Bulldogs are 22 for 100 on the power play (22 percent) and 68 of 84 on penalty kills (81 percent). Justin Faulk, who is missing this weekend at the World Junior Championship, leads the team with five power-play goals. Justin Fontaine has four while Jack and Mike Connolly each have three. The Bulldogs have scored five shorthanded goals and allowed one. Mike Connolly leads the team with two shorthanded goals.
Last Meeting:Minnesota-Duluth hosted Clarkson last season, winning 4-1 and 4-2 on Oct. 30-31, 2009. Jack Connolly had two goals and two assists in the series and Mike Connolly added two goals. Minnesota-Duluth leads the all-time series 4-2.
Stats and Notes:Clarkson is only 4-3-2 in games at Cheel Arena this season and the Bulldogs are 5-2-3 in road games. ... Clarkson has scored 19 goals in its last three games. ... Corey Tamblyn leads the Golden Knights in faceoffs this season with a 170-155 record (.523). ... Four Clarkson defensemen are in the plus category in plus/minus. Bryan Rufenach leads the blueliners at plus-five. Mark Borowiecki is at plus-four and Nik Pokulok and Dan Reed are each at plus-three. ... Clarkson has gone 5-for-18 on the power play in its last four games (27.8 percent). ... Goalie Paul Karpowich has stopped 90 percent of shots, or better, in six straight games. ... Clarkson has taken more penalties than the opposition in 13 of 17 games this season.