POTSDAM — Injuries to three defenseman over the last two weekends have the Clarkson University men's team juggling its lineup in preparation for tonight's ECAC Hockey game against Yale and Saturday's game against Brown.
The Golden Knights (5-14-3 overall, 1-7-2 conference) have only four healthy defensemen heading into the weekend — Bryan Rufenach, Jeremiah Crowe, Dan Reed and Tom Pizzo.
Sophomore Andrew Himelson injured his knee two weeks ago and junior Dan Reed suffered the same injury last Saturday. Sophomore Mark Borowiecki suffered a concussion against Colgate last Saturday.
"We're trying different (forwards) back there," Clarkson coach George Roll said. "Louke Oakley, Corey Tamblyn and Timmy Marks tried (Tuesday). We're going to try and piece something together and keep the game simple on the defensive end. Obviously, it presents some challenges, especially losing Mark and Danny, who have been stalwarts back there all year and log a lot of minutes. It's going to be difficult to replace them."
The situation is so unusual that Roll and associate head coach Greg Drechsel had to ask at a team meeting on Monday afternoon if any of the forwards had ever played defense at earlier stages of their careers.
"It's hard to throw someone back there with two days of practice," Roll said. "We're going to have to make due with the hand we're dealt, and that's the way it goes."
Marks, a Brownville native who is 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, had a hunch he would be one of the forwards chosen for defensive duty since he's usually on Clarkson's checking line.
"I played (defense) a couple games in juniors, but it didn't last long," Marks said. "I feel like this is a pretty special situation. There are not too many times you only have four 'D' on a team. I was the lucky one.
"I guess I could take it as somewhat of a compliment that they feel I can play there and contribute. I'm going to try and make the best of it. It's more timing than anything. It's a little bit different."
Roll said he will put the two forwards who move to defense this weekend in a pairing with one of the regular defensemen. Marks worked with Rufenach in practice earlier this week.
Clarkson also may have to tinker with its style of play and be more conservative this weekend.
"We've done a good job defensively, outshot five of our last six opponents and out-chanced them," Roll said. "But if we play a more defensive style, we're not scoring goals, either. It's a rough situation to be in. We can't sit back any more than we have. We're not going to change anything as far as our systems go. We do have to do a better job in our end, in terms of spending less time there."
Cheel Arena came to a hush midway through last Saturday's game after Colgate's Christian Long was called for boarding, knocking Borowiecki headfirst into the wall behind the Clarkson net.
"The first thing you worry about is whether or not he's paralyzed," Roll said. "For a guy like Mark, who plays hard every single shift and is one of the key guys on our team, to think you are going to lose him, that's scary. Those hits have to be taken out of the game. Unfortunately, it happens. I'm glad to see he's OK, and hopefully he'll be back before the season's over."
Borowiecki is not practicing yet, but has been at practice every day.
"I'm feeling pretty good now," Borowiecki said. "I'm looking forward to getting back in the lineup soon. I'm going to lay low for a couple days. When it happened, I wasn't knocked out, it just kind of stunned me. I was a little woozy getting off the ice, as I'm sure everyone saw. I had some dull headaches for a couple days, but it's not a serious (concussion), thankfully."
AROUND CHEEL ARENA
Clarkson is conducting its annual fundraiser for Camp Ta Kum Ta, which benefits kids dealing with cancer. The team is selling black hats with the knight head logo featured on the team's home uniforms for $10. They are available at the games in the Cheel Arena lobby or after the games upstairs in the Barben Room. There are less than 40 remaining. ... After this weekend Clarkson will go on the road for four games, then returns to close out the season with four of its final six games at Cheel Arena. ... This weekend's opponents, Yale and Brown, are the only two ECAC Hockey teams Clarkson has not faced yet this season. ... Clarkson has won eight of its last 11 games against Yale, but is just 2-2 the last two seasons. The Golden Knights have a seven-game win streak against Brown, including two overtime wins.
Cap Carey covers Clarkson University men's hockey for the Times. For more coverage, check out his Knights Tales blog online. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org