POTSDAM — The start to his final season in a Clarkson uniform hasn't been exactly the way Shea Guthrie would have planned.
The senior forward from Carleton Place, Ontario, missed the first four games of the season after suffering a wrist injury, and his team has struggled to a 2-8-4 overall record and a 1-6-1 record in ECAC Hockey games.
"Obviously, it was a frustrating experience for myself, but it's part of the risk you take playing a physical sport," Guthrie said of his injury. "As time has gone on, I have regained most of my strength and functionality of my hand, and it hasn't bothered me on the ice. The healing process was pretty slow, but it was important for me to be patient and not rush coming back."
Guthrie has picked up one goal and two assists in his first 10 games since returning and is 18 points shy of reaching 100 for his career, with 27 goals and 55 assists in 117 career games.
Prior to his return from the injury, Guthrie was named an assistant captain, a reward from the coaching staff for the work ethic he's shown during his career.
"As a captain, I don't try to do anything differently than I was doing before I was named one," Guthrie said. "(Co-captains Phil Paquet and Tyrell Mason) are very different types of leaders, and at the same time I think I offer different qualities than the two of them. I just try to support their decisions and work hard every day when I show up to the rink. We have a great group of young guys on the team that are focused and driven, so I haven't had to do or say much to them in terms of getting them to buy into our team's philosophy."
Guthrie was a standout at the St. George's Prep School in Rhode Island prior to arriving at Clarkson, scoring 26 goals and totaling 24 assists in 50 games in his final season. Before arriving in Potsdam, he was selected in the third round of the 2005 National Hockey League draft by the New York Islanders.
"I love him as a person, he's a great kid and works extremely hard," Clarkson coach George Roll said. "He has good speed and strength and skating ability. The big thing is him using his speed to his advantage. He's grown up a lot and matured and become more of a responsible young man."
It's not always easy to live up to expectations, but Guthrie has been a steady performer at Clarkson. He's scored at least 20 points in every season of his career and has produced a few memorable goals. He scored a game-winning goal against St. Lawrence University as a sophomore.
But the most memorable goal Guthrie has scored in his career is probably his game-winner against St. Cloud State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. Guthrie scored four minutes, 58 seconds into the third period to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 win over the Huskies, snapping a five-game losing streak for the school in NCAA tournament play.
"That was definitely a highlight for me, and it was exciting getting a win in the NCAA tournament," Guthrie said. "But I would have to say that winning the ECAC championship game (in 2007) was the most rewarding experience in my career. It stands out as a more memorable occasion for me because it wasn't an individual accomplishment, it took our entire team to win that championship, and it was a pretty awesome feeling when we did it."
Guthrie has attended Islanders prospect camps every summer during his career, and it's not uncommon for NHL draft picks to receive feedback from scouts who attend games on their progress.
"It's just nice to get another viewpoint and to have so many people interested in my development," Guthrie said. "I obviously follow the (Clarkson) coaches' comments first and foremost, but it's nice to get a different perspective. I have had a great time at (the Islanders) camp every year. They do a great job taking care of their prospects for that week."
Guthrie has also been a good member of the Clarkson community during his stay in Potsdam. He appeared to be one of the most active players at this year's Skate With a Knight outing, where the players skated around Cheel Arena with kids after a game.
"I just like to have fun out there with them," Guthrie said. "I remember what it was like at that age to look up to hockey players and I just want to make sure they have a good time."
For now, Guthrie's focus will be on helping his team find a way to snap out of a first-half funk that has seen several key players miss games with injuries. Clarkson has yet to play one game this season without at least one player out with an injury.
"I think the best lesson I have learned during my time here is that you have to stick together as a team through the good times and the bad," Guthrie said. "There will inevitably be some low points that a team will experience over the course of a season, but it's how you respond to that adversity that defines the character of a team."