Friday, December 22, 2006

Let's Go Tech!

. Friday, December 22, 2006

With its longest winning streak in over five years, the Clarkson University Hockey team headed into the exam/holiday break with plenty of momentum and the realization that if they play to their potential they can reach their lofty preseason goals as one of the top teams in the nation. Guided by fourth-year head coach George Roll, associate coach Greg Drechsel and associate coach Jean-Francois Houle, the Golden Knights closed out the first semester on December 5 with a thrilling 3-1 victory over arch-rival St. Lawrence before 3,525 fans at Cheel Arena, extending their winning streak to five games, the longest during Roll’s tenure.
After a lengthy 23-day break, Clarkson, led by junior captain Nick Dodge (Oakville, ONT) and senior assistant captain Matt Curley (Madrid, NY), will look to claim its first holiday tournament championship since 1995 when it participates in the Badger Showdown in Madison, WI on December 29-30. The Knights will battle defending national champion, the University of Wisconsin in opening round action on Friday on the home ice of the Badgers’ 15,237-seat Kohl Center beginning at 7:07 p.m. (CST). In the other semifinal game, Lake Superior State and Providence College will faceoff at 4:07 p.m. (CST). Clarkson will meet either Lake Superior or Providence in second round action on Saturday at 4:07 p.m.
Ranked 15th in the country entering the Badger Showdown, Clarkson, with nine NHL Draft selections on the roster, owns an 11-5-1 overall record and stands in a three-way tie for third place in the ECAC Hockey League with a 5-2 conference mark.
Although the numbers for Clarkson’s high-powered offense dipped in recent games, the Knights are enjoying the rewards of a defense first mentality, having strung together their most wins since late in the 2000-01 campaign when Clarkson won seven straight. Since suffering two losses at St. Cloud on November 17-18 by a combined 11-2 score, the Knights have out scored their opponents 18-5 during their current winning streak.
Junior Shawn Weller (South Glens Falls, NY) tallied two goals, sophomore Shea Guthrie (Carleton Place, ONT) came through with the game-winner and junior David Leggio (Williamsville, NY) was solid again in goal with 31 saves while the Knights’ specialty teams continued to perform at a high level as the Green and Gold defeated their North Country neighbor, St. Lawrence in the last game before the break.
In the weekend prior to the St. Lawrence game, Clarkson gained a sweep on the road in ECACHL play, defeating 15th-ranked Yale 4-1 in New Haven, CT on December 1 and edging Brown 2-1 in Providence, RI the next night. The Knights began their current winning ways by knocking off a pair of CCHA foes in Potsdam after the Thanksgiving Holiday. The Green and Gold picked up their first shutout of the year with a 5-0 blanking of Bowling Green on November 24 and then doubled up 3rd-ranked Miami 4-2 the following night.
Featuring one of the most exciting and balanced offenses in the nation, Clarkson is averaging 3.82 goals per game, ranking 7th in Division I. Junior Steve Zalewski (New Hartford, NY), one of six Knights scoring in double figures, leads the way with 19 points. Clarkson’s top playmaker, Dodge follows with 18 points, including a team-high 12 assists. Junior David Cayer (Longueuil, QUE), who powers the Green and Gold’s dynamic power play with a team-high six man-advantage markers, has 17 points (9-8).
Ranked among the top two goaltenders in the ECACHL, Leggio posts a .929 save percentage and a 2.28 goals against average en route to a 10-3-1 record. He has allowed just five goals during the Knights’ current winning streak.
Clarkson’s specialty teams play has contributed greatly to the recent success. The power play is ranked second in the nation, clicking at 23.7% (27-114). The Knights have killed off 120-of-139 power play attempts (86.3%), ranking 16th in the country.
A perennial national power, the Badgers of the University of Wisconsin closed out a disappointing first semester with three straight victories and gaining momentum for a possible run at another NCAA championship. Guided by fifth-year head coach Mike Eaves, Wisconsin won its sixth NCAA title last year and will look to build upon its recent surge in a bid to make a return trip to the Frozen Four this April in St. Louis. The Badgers own a 7-9-2 overall record and are tied for seventh in the highly competitive Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) with a 5-6-1 league mark. Wisconsin broke out of a unheard of six-game losing skid with a 2-0 victory over Michigan State at the Kohl Center on November 25. The Badgers followed that up with a sweep of WCHA rival North Dakota in Grand Forks, winning 4-3 and 4-2 on December 8-9. Wisconsin has struggled at home this season with just a 3-6-1 record in Madison.
Ranked 16th/17th in the national polls, Lake Superior State University, guided by former Clarkson assistant coach, Jim Roque, now in his second year as the Lakers’ head coach, has been a surprise team in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). Lake Superior owns an 11-5-1 overall record and is in fifth place in its conference with a 6-4-2 CCHA slate. The Lakers, who have yet to lose two straight games, take a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) into their first round game against Providence. Since losing to Clarkson 7-1 at Cheel Arena on October 21, Lake Superior has gone 9-3-2, outscoring its opponents 40-22. After taking three of four points from league rival Ferris State in Big Rapids, MI on December 8-9, with a 1-1 tie and a 4-1 victory, the Lakers fell to the USA Under-18 team in an exhibition game in Sault Ste. Marie, MI, 3-1, in a game that does not count on the record.
The Friars of Providence College will look to turn their season around after skating to a disappointing 4-11-1 mark in the first semester. Guided by second-year head coach Tim Army, Providence owns a 3-7-1, seventh-place Hockey East record. The Friars have lost three straight with their last setback, a 4-2 defeat at 9th-ranked Boston University on December 8. Providence’s last win was a 4-2 victory over Lowell in Rhode Island on November 24. The Friars, who are 0-5-1 away from Schneider Arena, have also posted home wins over St. Lawrence (4-2), Boston College (5-3) and Northeastern (4-3).
The Series:The last time Clarkson and Wisconsin played each other was in an exhibition game that does not count in the overall series record. The Badgers defeated the Green and Gold 7-1 in the inaugural Icebreaker Invitational played at the Dane County Coliseum on October 10, 1997. In the overall series, which started with 5-4 overtime by Wisconsin on January 19, 1973, the Badgers lead 4-2-2. The Knights have won the last two official games, sweeping Wisconsin in the first round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament, winning 8-3 and 5-4 at Walker Arena in Potsdam. The Badgers’ last victory over Clarkson was a 3-2 win in Madison during the 1981 NCAA Tournament.
Lake Superior leads the series against Clarkson, which began with a 4-2 Lakers’ win in Potsdam on November 28, 1969, 5-3. In their last meetings, the teams split at Cheel Arena earlier this season on October 20-21. In a weekend series, which featured a combined 38 power plays, Lake Superior won Friday’s game 5-1, but the Knights came back with a dominating 7-1 victory on Saturday. Clarkson’s two other wins in the rivalry are two of the biggest victories in the program’s 85-year history. In the quarterfinal round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament, Clarkson traveled to face off against the number-1 ranked Lakers in Sault Ste, Marie, MI and shocked the Lakers, winning the best-of-three game series 2-1. The Knights took the first game 7-3 on March 22 and after falling 6-2 the following night, Clarkson earned the right to advance to the Frozen Four with a thrilling 4-3 triumph on March 24. In their next meeting four years later, also an NCAA playoff game, Lake Superior edged the Green and Gold 5-4 in the first round of the 1995 East Regional held in Worcester, MA. In two games against Lake Superior, Steve Zalewski leads the Knights’ offense with three goals.
Clarkson has won two straight and seven of the last 10 games against Providence to lead their series, which began with a 7-4 Clarkson win in Potsdam on February 25, 1953, 33-16-1. The Knights snapped a 13-game losing skid on the road with a 6-1 win at Providence on October 13 in their third game of the season. Clarkson also defeated the Friars 5-2 at Cheel Arena on October 14, 2005. Providence’s last win in the series was a 4-2 victory in Rhode Island on October 8, 2004. David Cayer and Chris D’Alvise each have two goals and two assist in the rivalry against the Friars. David Leggio is 2-0 in the series with a .962 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average.
Quotes From the Coach:"Overall, we are pretty pleased with the first half," stated head coach George Roll about the Golden Knights’ play in the first semester. "We had a tough four-game losing streak in the middle, but I think we learned some valuable lessons through that stretch. When we came back from St. Cloud we made a commitment to get better defensively. In the last five games, we have really shown great improvement in our defensive awareness and have limited our opponents’ quality chances. A lot of guys have played well. Certainly, David Leggio has been very good in net. He hasn’t had to make great saves all the time, but has made key saves at the right times. The games we have won though, have really been a team effort, not because of a great individual effort."
On facing Wisconsin in the Badger Showdown, Roll remarked. "I don’t care what Wisconsin’s record is, they are a quality opponent. They are a very good team and I am sure the second half will be a lot different for them. It is a great opportunity for us to put in a good showing against a WCHA team. Both Lake Superior and Providence are two teams that certainly pose a dangerous threat to beat us, and one has already proven that. We have to be prepared for two solid games, but right now our focus is on getting past Wisconsin to get into the championship game."