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Mercer’s OT goal propels Clarkson women’s hockey, 3-2

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POTSDAM — Seventh-seed Rensselaer gave the Clarkson University women’s hockey team a scare in the ECAC hockey playoff opener Friday night at Cheel Arena.

But a tip-in goal in overtime by captain Carly Mercer gave the No. 2 Golden Knights a 3-2 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three quarterfinal series, which continues at 4 today.

If Clarkson wins, it will advance to the semifinals next weekend. If RPI wins, there will be a deciding game at 4 p.m. Sunday.

“I didn’t see a whole lot,” Mercer said of the play. “I just saw (Jamie Lee Rattray) throw it toward the net, and I just wanted to be there to set a screen and it just happened to hit me and go in. I didn’t even know it went in. I (had heard) it barely crossed the line.”

Clarkson (27-8 overall) beat RPI twice during the regular season, but the Engineers (10-21-4) never let the Golden Knights stay in a comfortable position throughout game one.

“This was a great game here tonight,” RPI coach John Burke said. “We knew this was going to be a long, tough series here, and our goal is to get to Sunday. I thought our kids did a really good job responding in those key situations. We are a very mentally tough team. We’ll be back (today).”

Clarkson struck first in Friday’s game when Vanessa Gagnon scored on a shot from the circle at 3 minutes, 42 seconds of the opening period.

But midway through the first period, Clarkson’s Shannon MacAulay was called for roughing, and RPI took advantage with a power-play goal by Alexa Gurschow, which was set up by a pass from Jordan Smelker, to tie the game 1-1 at 10:53 of the first period.

“Especially in playoffs the game is all about momentum, so you want to keep the momentum when you have it instead of giving it back to them,” Clarkson co-coach Shannon Desrosiers said. “It’s always easy to be the underdog. I think our team has handled it really well.

“We’ve kind of had the bulls-eye on the back since the first weekend. I think we handled it well in overtime and we just believed. We knew we’d get the job done,” Desrosiers added. The game remained in the 1-1 tie until 11:05 of the third period when Rattray scored a goal while lying on her belly. She was knocked to the ice in front of RPI goalie Kelly O’Brien, but still poked a shot between her legs to give Clarkson a 2-1 advantage.

“I have no idea (what happened),” Rattray said. “I kind of got tripped up and just put it to the net. I just heard the horn go off. I don’t know if the goalie thought I was going to shoot it after I fell. I’m glad it went in. I kind of got a lucky bounce there.”

Just as it did in the first period, RPI had an answer when Clarkson took a lead and it started with another power play as Olivia Howe was called for tripping at 14:02.

The Engineers scored exactly two minutes later on a shot from Taylor Horton, but it came a second after the power play had expired.

“I thought we did pretty good at being calm (in overtime),” Rattray said. “We got off to kind of a rough start in the beginning and then we kind of calmed ourselves down. We got back to our game and I think we got the momentum back through a power play there. All we have to do is stick to our game and that’s what we did and that’s what made us win the game.”

“I expect us to have more in the tank,” Desrosiers said. “I think that game could give us confidence. I’m looking forward to a good effort tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to a good effort from (RPI) too. They are playing for their lives.”



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