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Gotkin victorious in return as Clarkson falls


POTSDAM — For Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin, Saturday’s nonconference men’s hockey game provided a happy homecoming as his Lakers defeated the Clarkson Golden Knights 3-1 before 1,983 fans at Cheel Arena.

But Clarkson coach Casey Jones was left frustrated by a game that saw his team struggle after a week with limited practice times and then take on an untimely major penalty.

Gotkin, who played on SUNY Canton’s 1979 junior college national championship team and coached the school in the 1984-85 season, led Mercyhurst to its first win against Clarkson after six losses.

“I love the north country,” Gotkin said. “The thing I love best about the north country is the people. They are the salt of the earth. It’s just great to come back up here and smell the air and be part of the north country. I miss it. It’s just a treat for me, personally, to come here.”

Clarkson (4-8-5 overall) hampered its chances to extend a win streak to three games when senior defenseman Nik Pokulok was given a major penalty at 10 minutes, 19 seconds of the first period and missed the rest of the game.

Not only did that give the Lakers (7-6-1), who have the nation’s third-best power play, five minutes to score, it also forced Clarkson to play with just five defensemen after a week where most of the upperclassmen missed many of the practices while taking exams.

“The major cost us,” Jones said. “Taking one of our (defensemen) out of the game, it fatigued us quickly. We didn’t have a lot of gas in the tank and that limited us as the game went on.”

The Lakers did capitalize on the situation, taking a 1-0 lead at 11:39 of the first period when Chris Bodo positioned himself near the crease and one-timed a shot from Tyler Shiplo past Clarkson goalie Cody Rosen.

“If you can score first on the road it’s a good start for you,” Gotkin said. “I thought we played pretty good in the first period. I didn’t think we were very good in the second period, and I thought we were really good in the third period.”

Clarkson controlled play in the second period, outshooting the Lakers 17-8.

But Mercyhurst extended the lead to 2-0 at 8:51 of the second period when freshman Kyle Cook scored his first career goal on a wraparound.

“The first one was not the prettiest goal,” said Cook, who also scored at 2:18 of the third period. “The second one was kind of a turnover in the neutral zone that turned into a two-on-one and the (defenseman) let me walk in and shoot it and took out the back door-guy.”

Clarkson’s only goal game at 15:39 of the second period on a slap shot from the circle by forward Patrick Marsh that hit the crossbar and fell in, cutting the lead to 2-1.

“It was a prayer,” Marsh said. “I just took the shot and it happened to go in.”

Mercyhust goalie Jordan Tibbett stopped 42 of 43 shots. The Lakers kept many of Clarkson’s shots to the outside, and several Clarkson shots were taken right at Tibbett’s stomach.

“It’s something you work on a lot in practice, shooting for rebounds and second-chance opportunities,” Clarkson assistant captain Andrew Himelson said. “(Tibbett) did a good job and didn’t let rebounds out, and we did a poor job shooting for rebounds.”

Said Marsh, “I just think we weren’t capitalizing. A lot of shots were going in the belly. We could have put some shots off the pad. Sometimes we passed the puck when we should have shot it, that kind of stuff.”

Clarkson finished with a 43-28 edge in shots but produced only two shots on three power-play opportunities.

“I didn’t expect us to be fantastically sharp tonight with our limited practice time this week,” Jones said. “Maybe that had a little to do with our shot selection. A lot of them were at his stomach, but he did a good job of keeping those to his stomach and not giving up second-chance opportunities. He wasn’t giving up a lot of rebounds.”

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