Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Clarkson

Stop us if you've heard this one before - Clarkson starts the season off pretty much red hot, doing fairly well either in non-conference games, ECAC matchups, or both, and everyone's saying that the Knights are back. Then February rolls around and things just aren't looking that good anymore. Last year for Clarkson, it was early league success that had people buzzing about the Knights. But a dreadful February doomed them to an absolute freefall through the league table to just barely hang on for a home playoff series, and it was one they lost, yet another common recent occurrence.

Nickname: Golden Knights
Location: Potsdam, NY
Founded: 1896
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2008
Last Frozen Four: 1991
Coach: Casey Jones (5th season)
2014-15 Record: 12-20-5 (8-11-3 ECAC, 8th place)
Series: Clarkson leads, 87-50-10
First Game: January 24, 1925 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: March 8, 2015 (Potsdam, NY)
Last CU win: March 7, 2015 (Potsdam, NY)

2015-16 games: November 7, 2015 (Potsdam, NY); February 6, 2016 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Jeff DiNallo, sr,; D Paul Geiger, sr.; G Greg Lewis, sr.; F Pat Megannety, sr.; D Kevin Tansey, sr.; D James de Haas, jr.; F A.J. Fossen, jr.; F Troy Josephs, jr.; G Steve Perry, jr.; D Terrance Amorosa, so.; F Brett Gervais, so.; F Nic Pierog, so.; D Kelly Summers, so.; F Sam Vigneault, so.; F Marly Quince, fr.;  D Aaron Thow, fr.

Key losses: F Joe Zarbo, D James Howden

Previous KYE installments:
There's a major caveat to Clarkson's trials and tribulations: they were a young team last year. Like, really young. Zarbo and Howden were literally the only seniors on the squad last season, and only four juniors appeared in most of the games on the schedule. While losing Zarbo means losing far and away the team's top goal scorer (12, twice any other player on the team), there was a six-way tie for second place with six goals each, and all six of those players - DiNallo, de Haas, Vigneault, Megannety, Summers, and Jordan Boucher, who will be returning this year.

To some extent, Clarkson was able to mimic their nemeses from down the road in Canton when it came to distributing the burden of goal-scoring - not quite as well as the Saints, but certainly better on a holistic level than the Engineers when you examine the season in its entirety. The most glaring weakness was in net - Perry and Lewis platooned for the most part, achieving GAA turnouts of 2.10 and 2.19 respectively, which isn't bad, but they also had save percentages of .907 and .911 respectively, which would indicate more that the blueliners in front of them did a pretty decent job of limiting the number of shots, but that they weren't exactly lighting it up once the puck got through to them.

The Knights definitely ended up being a team that wasn't overly awful, but that needed some distinct improvement on both sides of the puck in order to be successful, and that's what they're going to need this coming year. The pressure is going to be on DiNallo and Megannety especially to step up a bit and provide power on offense, and the Knights are simply going to have to get better goaltending overall from their two very capable netminders - who, when they're on, are very good - in order to earn success in 2016.

Perry has had some success against RPI - he's shut out the Engineers twice, including in Game 2 of last year's first round playoff series - while Lewis has had some very noticeable struggles. That's not to say that Perry is impervious to RPI, given that in Game 3 last season he was torched for 3 goals on 10 shots before being yanked for Lewis, who stopped all 10 shots he faced in that game. So it can be a bit of a crap shoot no matter which goalie the Engineers face off against this coming season. The key for RPI against Clarkson recently has frequently been to jump on the Golden Knights as quickly as possible, and get them in a hole that seems too deep to climb out of. That, especially if RPI gets the defense they are expecting this season, can certainly put them in a superior position in this matchup.

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