Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Know Your Enemy: Clarkson

Here it is - the last Know Your Enemy of 2012. You know what that means - hockey next weekend! For any team, it's difficult to rebound from losing an all-ECAC goaltender and your two top forwards (see also RPI, 2011-12). That's just what Clarkson is going to be tasked with accomplishing in the coming year, but unlike the Engineers, they will have to do it without having at least tasted the fruits of the NCAA tournament first.

Clarkson
Nickname: Golden Knights
Location: Potsdam, NY
Founded: 1896
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2008
Last Frozen Four: 1991
Coach: Casey Jones (2nd season)
2011-12 Record: 16-17-6 (9-9-4 ECAC, 6th place)
Series: Clarkson leads, 84-46-8
First Game: January 24, 1925 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: March 4, 2012 (Potsdam, NY)
Last CU win: March 3, 2012 (Potsdam, NY)

2012-13 games: February 9, 2013 (Potsdam, NY); March 1, 2013 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Andrew Himelson, sr.; D Nik Pokulok, sr.; D Alex Boak, jr.; F Will Frederick, jr.; F Allan McPherson, jr.; F Ben Sexton, jr.; D James Howden, so.; D Sam Labrecque, so.; D Kevin Tansey, so.; F Joe Zarbo, so.; F Jeff DiNallo, fr.;F Christian Finch, fr.; G Andrew Hunt, fr.; F Patrick Megannety, fr.

Key losses: F Nick Tremblay, F Louke Oakley, G Paul Karpowich, F Corey Tamblyn, F Jake Morley, F Julien Cayer

Previous KYE installments:
The Golden Knights spent a good chunk of the season last year proving the doubters wrong and they appeared to be on the verge of pulling themselves right back up to the higher reaches of the league where they've traditionally been resident. Unlike their North Country rivals, the Knights breezed through the month of October with a lineup of mostly tomato cans (back-to-back-to-back weekend series with Sacred Heart, AIC, and Bentley don't get much more cupcake-y). That was parlayed into a solid start to the ECAC season, but inconsistency down the stretch doomed them to the same seventh place finish they'd had in 2010-11, and for the second year in a row they fell at home in the playoffs, this time in three games to RPI.

That seventh place finish did, at least, amount to more than most had expected from Clarkson heading into the season (both the media and the coaches had pegged them to finish in the bottom four), but it represented a tough end to a promising season, and this coming year could be difficult as well for the men from Potsdam as they lose their top two scorers in Tremblay and Oakley, and their goaltender in Karpowich, who was arguably the team's MVP last season after three tough prior seasons as the top choice netminder.

Tamblyn and Morley will also be missed up front, as the Knights lose four of their top six scoring forwards from last season. Juniors Sexton and McPherson have both put up two outstanding seasons thus far for Clarkson, but after that questions certainly abound. Can Zarbo live up to expectations and follow on from an OK freshman year? Can the three freshmen listed above translate big numbers in Ontario to terrific first years in college? They're probably going to have to.

The best thing Clarkson has going for them is definitely their defensemen. The six blueliners listed above not only played well last year, they were healthy and pretty much all of them played nearly the entire season, most missing only a couple of games, if that. Even comprised of three freshmen last season, they played very well and should have no trouble whatsoever being a cohesive unit this season.

They'll need to be strong, for sure. Behind them in net will, in all likelihood, be a freshman goaltender. Clarkson does have a senior netminder in Cody Rosen who is an NHL draft pick, but his selection in the 2010 draft caught pretty much everyone by surprise (including Rosen), and he enters his senior year with only 140:13 of playing time in three seasons as a third-string which followed a season in juniors as a backup. If he's not the choice, look for Hunt, a BCHL alum, to potentially take that top spot, though we shouldn't be too surprised to see fellow freshman Greg Lewis get his own shot. Either way, both goaltenders committed to Clarkson late - Hunt this past February, Lewis in March after the Knights' season ended.

This team looks painfully young, and unless the d-corps can carry a young and/or inexperienced goaltender night in and night out, this is a team that looks to have more in common with last year's RPI squad than any other in the league. With luck, that could mean a late season renaissance as the young ones mature, but it still seems like a tough thing to call this team a favorite for home ice in the first round.

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