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Clarkson men look to keep strong start going at Ice Breaker Tournament

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POTSDAM - Coming off an impressive weekend sweep on the road to open the 2013-14 campaign, the Clarkson University Hockey team will look to build upon its early momentum as it travels out to the Midwest for the Ice Breaker Tournament in Minneapolis.

The Golden Knights, guided by third-year head coach Casey Jones and assistants Phil Roy ‘00 and Andy Jones, will battle nationally-ranked University of New Hampshire in the first round at Mariucci Arena on Friday at 5 p.m. EST. On Saturday, Clarkson will play either the University of Minnesota or Mercyhurst College.

After a long offseason the Knights hit the ice in full stride at Niagara University this past Saturday and Sunday by snapping the 20th-ranked Purple Eagles’ lengthy 22-game home unbeaten streak. In the season’s first game, Clarkson overcame a 1-0 second-period deficit to gain it first season-opening victory since 2008 with a 2-1 triumph at Dwyer Arena in Western New York. The Knights surrendered a 5-on-3 man-advantage goal early in the middle frame (the only goal they would allow all weekend), but came back with a quick power-play score of their own to tie it. The Green and Gold then went ahead with a late third-period tally.

Last year’s MVP, senior Allan McPherson (Kinburn, ONT) tallied the Knights’ first goal of the season at 10:19, a power-play marker just three minutes after Niagara had scored. Classmate Jarrett Burton (Echo Bay, ONT) connected for the game-winner at 14:17 of the third. Sophomore Greg Lewis (Mars, PA) finished with 19 saves while back boning a solid defensive effort by the Green and Gold. Clarkson outshot the Purple Eagles 40-20 and dominated faceoffs, winning 53 of 82 draws.

Freshman Steve Perry (Ligonier, PA) made a memorable debut in goal for Clarkson on Sunday afternoon as he backstopped the Golden Knights to a 2-0 victory. Making his first collegiate appearance, Perry was composed throughout the game and finished with 30 saves to become the first Clarkson netminder to record a shutout in his opening start in 27 years. Perry kept the Niagara power play off the scoreboard with 12 saves in shutting down all five of the Purple Eagles man-advantage opportunities. Last year’s leading scorer, junior Joe Zarbo (Grand Island, NY) scored the only goal the Knights would need, a power-play marker at 8:03 of the middle frame. Late in the period, sophomore defenseman Paul Geiger (Stouffville, ONT) connected on a shot from the point for the insurance tally.

CU vs. UNH

The University of New Hampshire, guided by long-time head coach Dick Umile, is always regarded as one of the top teams in the country, and this season is no different. With 22 lettermen back from last year’s squad which skated to a 20-12-7 overall record and a berth in the 2013 NCAA Northeast Regional final, the Hockey East Wildcats are ranked 12/13 in the national polls. UNH tuned up for this weekend’s games with a 6-3 exhibition win over Acadia on Saturday at the Whittemore center in Durham.

The Knights and the University of New Hampshire have not played each other since December 3, 2004 when the Wildcats defeated the Green and Gold 3-1 at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH. UNH has won nine of the past 10 games and four straight over Clarkson, and holds a slim edge in the all-time series 23-21-2. The rivalry began on January 28, 1964 with the Knights skating to a 14-2 win at Walker Arena. Clarkson’s last victory in the series was an 8-5 triumph at Cheel Arena on December 7, 2001. The teams last met in tournament play at the 2002 Denver Cup with UNH winning 4-2 in the opening round.

CU vs. MINNESOTA

Veteran head coach Don Lucia will look to get fifth-ranked Minnesota off to a quick start in non-league play to prepare the Gophers for action in the newly formed six-team Big 10 hockey conference. In its final season in the WCHA, Minnesota posted a 26-9-5 mark in 2012-13 and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers defeated Lethbridge 5-1 in exhibition play at Mariucci Arena on Saturday.

Two traditional NCAA programs, Clarkson and Minnesota have only met three times in their lengthy histories with the Gophers winning each time. The teams last played over 20 years ago with Minnesota eking out a 2-1 victory in the NCAA East Regional in Worcester, MA on March 27, 1993. The Gophers also swept Clarkson in the first-round series of the 1990 NCAA Tournament, winning 6-1 and 5-1 on March 16-17 at the old Mariucci Arena.

CU vs. MERCYHURST

A preseason favorite to contend for Atlantic Hockey supremacy, Mercyhurst has a veteran team returning from last year’s squad that finished 19-17-5. In his 27th year with the Lakers, head coach Rick Gotkin will lead Mercyhurst in an exhibition game against Guelph on Tuesday before the Ice Breaker.

The Golden Knights and Mercyhurst have faced each other six times, all in Potsdam, with Clarkson winning five. In their last meeting, the Lakers handed the Green and Gold a 3-1 loss on December 15, 2012. Clarkson swept Mercyhurst in a weekend series in Potsdam, winning 4-3 in overtime and 8-2, on January 2-3, 2004. Clarkson also defeated Mercyhurst 2-0 and 8-1 on January 4-5, 2002, and edged the Lakers 2-1 in their first meeting on October 21, 2000. Senior Allan McPherson and sophomore Pat Megannety are the only current Knights to have a point against Mercyhurst with one assist each.

KNIGHT KNOTES: Clarkson is off to its best start since opening the 2006-07 campaign at 3-0 … The Knights’ two victories at 20th-ranked Niagara was the first time the Green and Gold have earned a weekend sweep since defeating AIC (5-2, 5-0) at Cheel Arena on October 21-22, 2011, and was Clarkson’s first weekend sweep on the road since knocking off Princeton (5-3) and Quinnipiac (5-3) on December 3-4, 2010 … The Knights struggled in close games last year, winning just three times in 17 one-goal contests, but allowed only one goal over the weekend in winning 2-1 and 2-0 … Steve Perry became the first Clarkson goaltender to earn a shutout in his collegiate debut since Jason Poirier blanked RIT on October 25, 1986. Perry made 12 of his 30 saves while the Purple Eagles were on the power play … Last year’s starting goaltender Greg Lewis was strong between the pipes in the season-opener on Saturday, making 19 stops while allowing just a 5-on-3 power-play tally … The Knights had a balanced scoring effort in the two victories with four different goal scorers and nine different players recording at least one point … The Zarbo brothers, Matt and Joe, playing close to their Grand Island, NY home, were difference makers in Sunday’s 2-0 victory. Joe scored the game-winning goal on the power-play and Matt set up the second goal by winning a faceoff back to the point … Allan McPherson scored the Knights’ opening goal in Saturday’s win and picked up an assist on Sunday … Paul Geiger also enjoyed a two-point weekend with an assist on Saturday and a goal on Sunday … Geiger was one of the standouts on the Clarkson blueline that limited Niagara to a combined 50 shots over two games, including just 33 shots even strength … Along with their strong defensive play, the Knights’ blueline corps also contributed offensively with one goal and three assists … Playing in his first game since March 2012, sophomore Kevin Tansey (Hammond, ONT), who missed all of last season recovering from an Summer 2012 assault in his hometown, had the primary assist on Friday’s game-winning goal … Junior Sam Labrecque (Granby, QUE) also recorded an assist in the season-opening win … Four freshmen played in the series against Niagara – defenseman James de Haas (Mississauga, ONT) and forward A.J. Fossen (Maple Grove, MN) skated in both games, while forward Troy Josephs (Whitby, ONT) and Perry played in one game each … The Knights were especially strong at the faceoff circle against Niagara, winning 93-of-151 draws (62%) ... Clarkson opens up a four-game home stand at Cheel Arena after the trip out to Minnesota, hosting RIT in a two-game series on October 18-19, and Colorado College in a another weekend match-up on October 25-26 … The Knights open ECAC Hockey play to start November with four straight league road games, beginning with Brown in Providence on November 1 … In-season tournament championship titles have been hard to come by for Clarkson. The Knights have won just two holiday tournaments over the past 22 years, claiming the 1995 RPI Invitational and the 2006 Badger Showdown. Since defeating Wisconsin (6-2) and Lake Superior (3-2) on December 29 and 30, 2006 at the Kohl Center in Madison. WI the Green and Gold have gone 3-9-2 in tournament/classic play during the regular season … Three former Golden Knights were on NHL opening-day rosters – Grant Clitsome (Winnipeg), Erik Cole (Dallas) and Willie Mitchell (Los Angeles) … Several former Clarkson standouts are on AHL rosters – Mark Borowiecki (Binghamton), Brandon DeFazio (Utica), David Leggio (Hershey) and Nick Tremblay (Oklahoma City).

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