Canton, NY – It is almost as if SLU and Clarkson are a mirror image of each other; in all actuality they are. On Friday night, the rivals separated by just 11 miles played a thriling game that could only be capped off with an overtime game, where Brian Ward ended it on a 3 on 1 break. The Saints took a 1-0 series lead against the Golden Knights in a series it could end on Saturday night, one that could send them back to Lake Placid and the ECAC Final Four for the second time in two seasons.
The crowd was raucous before the game, but it quickly got louder as SLU took an early lead just four minutes, 57 seconds into the tilt. Nolan Gluchowski sent a shot intentionally wide and Alexander Dahl got a pretty tip to put the Saints fans in a frenzy. Ten minutes later, Perry D’Arisso got off a wicked wrister from the faceoff dot to tie the score at one.
The second period was much of the same from both teams, as Clarkson in some ways dominated play and SLU counter-attacked. The Golden Knights got the only goal of the period, when Nick Pierog retrieved a puck as he came out of the penalty box, deked Kyle Hayton and backhanded it home to give Clarkson the 2-1 lead after 2. The Saints came on strong in the third period and had a golden opportuity early in the period, when Jacob Pritchard found a puck all alone in front on his backhand missing a wide open net by a few feet. At the 6:59 mark of the third, Pritchard made amends by by tying the score on a scrum in front of the net.
The overtime period, much like the game, provided back and forth action, until Ward ended it by looking to pass and finding an empty slot on the glove-side of Greg Lewis. SLU is now 8-2-1 in its last 11 games, while Clarkson fell for the first time in the tournament.
- Clarkson has a reputation of being a big team that lacks skill and speed, but in all honesty this year’s rendition is one that can skate with the best teams in the conference. Up and down the lineup, the Golden Knights have speed that was able to match and surpass that of SLU. Casey Jones has done a great job of accumulating some talent in Potsdam and it is coming to the forefront. At some level, Clarkson is now one of the deepest, quickest teams in the ECAC combined with its tough nose interior defending. It is why the likes of Quinnipiac and Harvard have struggled against the Golden Knights this year.
- SLU’s depth always impresses me. They may not have the most talent in the ECAC, but a player like Pritchard has all the ability to lead the offense and so do players like Brian Ward, Drew Smolcynski, Tommy Thompson and the list is endless. There isn’t much difference from the first line to the fourth line of the Saints and again it showed, as it in some ways wore down a Clarkson team that has been on fire.
- Pritchard has come a long way for SLU. Early in the season, he in all respects was a ghost on the ice and hadn’t yet molded into the college hockey player that he could be. Now, he looks like the best rookie in the ECAC and he is finding the scoresheet night in and night out. Pritchard now has points in 11 straight games, with six goals and 14 points in that time frame. Tonight, the youngster may have been the player on the ice. Along with his goal, he had six shots on goal and many more attempts. Whenever he touches the puck he has the ability to find the amount space and utilize it. A player that may have lacked confidence early, has found his stride at the right time.
- Despite the five goals, this game was a goalie duel. Both Greg Lewis and Kyle Hayton were phenomenal on the night. Lewis made many saves in scrums, when the Saints had second chances. Hayton made big saves on breakaways and kept his team in the game during the second period, where Clarkson had the better looks. Lewis has come a long way in his career and Hayton was just being himself.
SLU coach Greg Carvel
“We are two really even teams. I thought both teams came in playing well, so how close it was tonight is not really surprising.”
“I like the way we played in the third, I thought Clarkson was much better in the second and I thought we were better in the third. Going into overtime, I was a little more comfortable with the way we were playing but this is a huge win. It was a battle out there and there will be another one tomorrow night, hopefully we can find a way to win that one too.”
“We had that really nice bid early in overtime that we couldn’t finish and I thought we had other chances that we couldn’t find a way to put it into an open net. Brian had so much time there, I thought he got below the goalline, but it was a wonderful goal. It was a great play, Clarkson took the backside away so he really didn’t have anything but what he was able to do. He is clutch.”
“Pritchard has been outstanding the second half of the year. He doesn’t look like a freshman now. He unfortunately broke his thumb in the first half of the year, which stunted his development but he has taken big steps forward. He is a very effective offensive player and he is playing with a ton of confidence.”
Clarkson coach Casey Jones
On the latter stages of the third period and into OT: “I just think we didn’t manage pucks well and started to turn pucks over. They are a very good team in transition.”
“It was a hard fought game and could have gone either way. We have to dig our heels in tomorrow night. I thought we had some chances we didn’t bury.”
“We will be here to compete tomorrow night. We know that we are going to be in a long series and it is unfortunate we didn’t get this one.”
These teams get right back at it in game two, tomorrow night at Appelton Arena. It will again be rocking.