POTSDAM An 0-4-3 overall record is not the start coach Casey Jones, or any of the members of the Clarkson University mens hockey team, hoped to have as ECAC Hockey play begins.
But Clarkson can draw on some positives as it gets ready to open the 22-game conference schedule at 7 tonight against Yale in New Haven, Conn.
Clarkson lost its first four games of the season, five if an exhibition game against Carleton University is included.
But the Golden Knights have tied their last three games, including two that required come-from-behind efforts. Clarkson is seeing some key players like Adam Pawlick and Andrew Himelson gradually recover from injuries and the teams power play is beginning to produce.
I think were going to get a couple guys back this weekend and get some security in our lines, in terms of where we want to be, Jones said. Weve had a couple of lines kind of come together of late. Were real happy with Allan McPhersons line (which includes Patrick Marsh and Pat Megannety).
Clarkson can expect to see even more intensity in the games now that the conference schedule is beginning.
Theres some rivalries that have built up over time, Jones said. (Yale) will bring a good transition game in their building and theyll have a good crowd. The emotions and intensity seem to ratchet a whole other level. We talked about, as a team, getting ready for that.
PATIENCE PAYS OFF
As each game ticked off the schedule last season, forward JD Carrabino never was selected to play.
But the 6-foot-6, 232-pound native of New Canaan, Conn., did not transfer to another school once the season ended.
Carrabino talked to the coaching staff, got advice on what areas he needed to work on, and spent the summer preparing for his sophomore year at Clarkson.
The work paid off for Carrabino last week when Jones told him he would be making his first round trip with the squad, and then Saturday Carrabino got his first chance to play in a game against Canisius.
It was nice to put on a jersey with the boys, Carrabino said. That was my first official roadie, so it was good. I got to put on the green and gold and it felt good.
As soon as Carrabino found out he was playing, he called his father, Joe, and told him the good news.
He told me Ive done this 1,000 times and its just another game, Carrabino said. I had to focus in and get ready to play. Carrabino comes from an athletic family. His father played basketball at Harvard and was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, and his sister, Courtney, is on the crew team at Stanford.
I had a whole bunch of buddies on the team who told me to keep working, Carrabino said. Everything comes every once in a while. You get a chance and you have to capitalize on the opportunity.
The decision to put Carrabino into a game was well-received by his teammates.
Hes one of the first guys on the ice, Jones said. His work ethic has been really good. Hes a good teammate, so the guys were happy to see him in the lineup.
ANOTHER CHANCE FOR HUNT
The first chance Andrew Hunt got to play in a Clarkson game was one hed like to forget.
Although it was not an official game, Hunt played the first period in goal in Clarksons 6-2 exhibition loss to Ottawas Carleton University on Oct. 7.
Clarkson struggled and Hunt saw four shots go in on 10 attempts.
He did not get back in the lineup until last Friday, when he started against Canisius and stopped 26 of 29 shots in a 3-3 tie with Canisius.
Hunt was a British Columbia Hockey League all-star last year for the Surrey Eagles after posting a 30-19-1 record with a 2.92 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
It felt really good, Hunt said of his official Clarkson debut. Its always nice to get in a game, but that first one is special.
After the rough opener in the exhibition, Hunt tried to work on some of the areas he thought may have hurt him, and watched as Cody Rosen and Greg Lewis got playing time while he did not.
I had to make sure Im always sharp, Hunt said. You cant try to figure it out midway through a game or midway through a practice. Its a big step forward (in college). The skill level is a lot higher, the speed is a lot better, and theres a lot more intensity in the rink. Its a lot more professional attitude.
Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University mens hockey for the Times. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, follow his blog Knights Tales, at www.watertowndailytimes.com