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Clarkson men open ECAC playoffs with home series against Princeton

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POTSDAM - By taking three of four points in ECAC Hockey play to close out the regular season, the Clarkson University men’s hockey team finished in a tie for fifth place in the league standings with an 11-9-2 conference mark.

The Golden Knights, who tied with Yale for 24 points in the league, earned the fifth seed in the playoffs by having more wins than the Bulldogs. Clarkson finished just shy in its bid for a top-four finish and a coveted bye in the opening rounds as Cornell won on the final day of the regular season to lock up the fourth spot.

Guided by third-year head coach Casey Jones and assistants Phil Roy ‘00 and Andy Jones, Clarkson will host 12th-seeded Princeton in a best-of-three game first-round series at Cheel Arena this weekend. Game times are p.m. Friday night, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 7p.m. on Sunday if necessary in the deciding third game.

In the other first-round series, No. 9 seed Brown is at No. 8 St. Lawrence, No. 10 Dartmouth is at No. 7 Rensselaer and No. 11 Harvard is at No. 6 Yale. The winners of the first-round series advance to the quarterfinal round in another best-of-three game series. The top four seeds, No. 1 Union, No. 2 Colgate, No. 3 Quinnipiac and No. 4 Cornell, who all received a bye this coming weekend, will host a quarterfinal series beginning on March 14. If Clarkson defeats Princeton in the first round, the Knights will travel to Ithaca to face the Big Red at Lynah Rink in the quarterfinals. The ECAC Hockey Tournament semifinals and championship game will take place on March 21-22 at 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.

After struggling during a three-game stretch in mid-February when they managed just one goal, the Knights finished strong to close out the regular season and enter the playoffs with a three-game unbeaten streak. This past weekend in Potsdam, the Green and Gold skated past Princeton 3-1 and battled one of the top teams in the country, Quinnipiac to a 1-1 draw. Clarkson started its current unbeaten streak by twice overcoming one-goal deficits to gain a 2-2 tie on the road at Rensselaer on February 22. The Knights, led by senior Ben Sexton (Kanata, ONT) and his six veteran classmates, are skating to their best season in six years with an 18-14-4 overall record.

Clarkson has been a force in the ECAC since the league was formed at the start of the 1961-62 season. The Knights have participated in 52 of the conference’s 53 postseason tournaments, winning five league championships (1966, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2007). Clarkson owns an 82-69-5 record in the conference playoffs, and is 3-6 in first-round series (8-13). The Knights are 6-2 against Princeton in conference postseason action. Clarkson has a 9-9-2 postseason record as the fifth seed.

After winning the 2007 ECAC Tournament title, Clarkson has been knocked out of the playoffs in its first postseason action in each of the following six years. Last season, Clarkson lost its first-round series at Brown 2-0 (3-0, 4-3). The Knights also lost first-round series at Cheel to Rensselaer in 2012 (5-1, 3-4 3ot, 4-1) and Harvard in 2011 (2-1, 6-4). Clarkson lost at St. Lawrence in 2010 (3-2ot, 3-4ot, 3-2) and fell in Schenectady to Union (5-3, 7-2) in 2009. Colgate edged the Green and Gold in the 2008 quarterfinals at Cheel (0-1, 4-3, 3-2 2ot).

The Knights have advanced to 31 league championship tournaments and have skated in 13 title games, winning its fifth in 2007 with a 4-2 victory over Quinnipiac in the championsip game at the Times Union Center in Albany.

Princeton, guided by third-year head coach Bob Prier, has struggled during the 2013-14 regular season with a 5-24 overall record and a last place 4-18 ECAC Hockey slate. The Tigers have lost their last five games by a combined score of 25-8 and are just 2-10 in the 2014 portion of the schedule. This past weekend in the North Country, Princeton fell to Clarkson and was shutout at St. Lawrence, 3-0. The Tigers are 2-11 in road games this season.

Clarkson holds a decisive 76-28-5 lead in the all-time series against Princeton, which began with an 8-5 Knight victory in New Jersey on January 17, 1928. The Knights have won the past five games against the Tigers, including a 2013-14 regular-season sweep. Clarkson defeated Princeton in New Jersey 4-3 on February 8 and skated by the Tigers this past Friday 3-1 in Potsdam. Clarkson is 7-3 in the last 10 games of the series.

The Knights and Tigers have met each other eight times in the ECAC playoffs with Clarkson holding a 6-2 postseason lead. In their last playoff meeting, the Knights swept Princeton in a 2006 first-round series (2-1 and 5-0) at Cheel, the only time the two teams have battled in the first round. The Knights also won a 2000 quarterfinal series over Princeton (3-2, 2-1) in Potsdam and have a pair of semifinal victories over the Tigers in Lake Placid (1999 and 1997). Princeton defeated the Green and Gold in the ECAC Championship game at Lake Placid on March 21, 1998, 5-4 in double overtime, for its last playoff victory against Clarkson. The Tigers won the first playoff meeting between the teams with a 2-1 semifinal victory in Lake Placid in 1995.

In the first meeting this season, just four weeks ago, the Green and Gold held off the Tigers for a 4-3 win at Hobey Baker Rink. Four Knights –Jeff DiNallo, Jarrett Burton, James Howden and Allan McPherson scored in the win. Steve Perry made 34 saves as the Tigers outshot the Knights 37-32.

This past Friday at Cheel, Clarkson enjoyed its best outing on the power play in over a year with a 3-for-6 effort with the man-advantage in the 3-1 victory. McPherson, Burton and Will Frederick scored the goals and Greg Lewis had 16 saves to backstop a strong defensive effort by the Knights, who held a 30-17 shot advantage.

Last season, the Green and Gold won 7-2 in Potsdam on November 17, 2012 and 3-2 in New Jersey on February 15, 2013. In its last victory in the series, Princeton handed Clarkson its first shutout loss in the rivalry with a 3-0 blanking in New Jersey on November 12, 2011. Princeton’s last win in Potsdam was a 4-3 overtime victory on January 29, 2011.

Clarkson is 23-4 against the Tigers at Cheel Arena. The Knights claimed the program’s 10th and last ECAC regular-season crown with a 4-3 victory over Princeton in Potsdam on February 29, 2008.

McPherson leads the way offensively against the Tigers with 12 points on five goals and seven assists through eight games. Burton has tallied seven points (3-4), while Ben Sexton (1-5) and Frederick (2-4) have six points each.

Lewis posts a .925 save percentage, a 1.67 GAA and a 3-0 record through 180 minutes against the Tigers. Perry, who recorded the first win against Princeton this year, owns a .919 save percentage and a 3.00 GAA against the Tigers.

KNIGHT KNOTES: Clarkson is 82-69-5 through 51 years of ECAC Hockey playoff action, including an 8-13 record in first-round play … The Knights are 26-10 in ECAC Hockey postseason play at Cheel Arena … At 18-14-4 overall, Clarkson is guarantee to post its first winning season since 2007-08 … The Knights’ were picked in the ECAC Hockey preseason coaches and media polls to finish last in the 12-team ... The Green and Gold enter the playoffs unbeaten in their last three games at 1-0-2 … The Knights are 10-5-2 at home this season … Clarkson’s leading scorer, senior Allan McPherson (Kinburn, ONT) has tallied 26 points on a team-high 12 goals and 14 assists. He is three points shy of reaching the Century Mark with 40 goals and 57 assists in 144 career games … Sophomore Jeff DiNallo (Aurora, ONT) is enjoying a standout sophomore campaign. He has more than quadrupled his points totals (2-2-4) with nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points this season. He set up two goals in Friday’s win over Princeton … Senior Will Frederick (Allison Park, PA) tallied the winning goal and one assist against the Tigers over the weekend to give him 19 points (6-13) this winter … Senior Jarrett Burton (Echo Bay, ONT) has five points (1-4) in his last three games. He has 18 points (9-9) on the year … Sophomore Pat Megannety (Oakville, ONT) scored his third goal of the season and first since January 26 with the Knights’ lone goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Quinnipiac … Sophomore Paul Geiger (Stouffville, ONT) leads the Green and Gold in scoring from the blueline with 15 points on five goals and 10 assists. He also posts a team-best +8 plus/minus rating … Geiger and Burton have served as on-ice leaders in assistant captain roles during recent games in the absence of captain Ben Sexton, who has missed the past six games with an injury … Clarkson split the goaltending duties between sophomore Greg Lewis (Mars, PA) and freshman Steve Perry (Ligonier) over the weekend. Lewis made 16 saves on 17 shot in Friday’s win over Princeton, while Perry backstopped a stingy defensive effort by the Knights with 19 saves in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against offensive juggernaut Quinnipiac … Through 19 games, Perry holds a .907 save percentage, 2.31 goals against average and an 8-8-3 record with three shutouts … Lewis has seen action in 17 games, posting a .898 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA en route to a 9-5-1 record … Senior Matt Zarbo (Grand Island, NY) is one of ten finalists nationally for the 2013-14 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate hockey. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. The finalists were chosen by national media from the list of 20 candidates announced in November. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2014 NCAA Men’s Frozen Final Four® in April … Clarkson has played in an NCAA-high 24 one-goal games, going 13-7-4 in those contests ... Clarkson has gone 1-1-4 in overtime games this season … The Green and Gold are 14-4-2 when scoring first, but just 1-8-1 when trailing after the opening 20 minutes … Clarkson is 11-1-1 when holding the lead through two periods, but 1-9-2 when behind after 40 minutes.

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