POTSDAM Whats the best cure for a struggling hockey team? How about facing the last team they defeated.
When Clarkson swept a pair of games against rival St. Lawrence University in December the Golden Knights thought a young team was beginning to take shape.
Since then, however, the Golden Knights have struggled, losing five straight games at Cheel Arena and scoring only seven goals in the process.
But Clarkson (4-12-5 overall, 3-5-1 ECAC Hockey) will face the Saints again at 7 p.m. Saturday in Cheel Arena. The Golden Knights beat SLU 4-1 in an ECAC Hockey game at Appleton Arena on Dec. 5 and then won a nonconference game against the Saints in Lake Placid 3-1 on Dec. 8.
We are a team thats kind of struggling of late, so we are going to be playing desperate hockey and we are going to come out hard, Clarkson goalie Greg Lewis said. I hope its a big crowd. Were going to be ready and so will they. They dont want to get swept three games. They are going to come out hard, obviously, and we just need to match their intensity.
Clarkson has had the better of SLU (9-10-2, 2-5-2) ever since the Saints won a best-of-three, first-round ECAC Hockey playoff series in Appleton at the end of the 2010 season, when this years senior class were freshmen.
Since that series, the Golden Knights have gone 7-1 against SLU and won all five conference games against the Saints. In the seven wins Clarkson has outscored SLU 23-11 and trailed a total of just 16 minutes, 40 seconds.
Its a rivalry from day one when you get here, Clarkson senior Adam Pawlick said. Playing those guys six times my freshman year was an eye-opener. Knocking you out of the playoffs just adds to that anger and fight. Every time we play St. Lawrence we throw it all out there. Thats what you have to do when you play a big rival like that. We are happy with the success weve had the last three years since that playoff series. That began when they knocked us out. Its a mentality of we dont ever want to lose to them again.
One key to Clarksons recent success against the Saints has been playing with the lead. Clarkson has scored first in six of the seven wins, has never trailed at the end of the first period in any of their wins and only once trailed after the second period.
Junior Will Frederick was the reason Clarkson played from ahead in the most recent conference game against SLU, scoring two goals at Appleton Arena on Dec. 5 in the opening period, giving Clarkson the lead for good.
He is the active scoring leader against SLU with four goals and three assists in seven career games.
That night I had something going for me, Frederick said. It felt good after the game. If we can get some performance like that from either me or other guys this weekend I think the game will go in our direction.
Even though hes been on the winning side in all but one game against SLU, Frederick cannot explain exactly what Clarkson has done well against the Saints.
Its one of those things you cant really tell, Frederick said. Everyone kind of gets up for those games just a tad bit more than other games. It is kind of raised to another level. We look forward to this.
SLU fans were happy to see former Clarkson goalie Paul Karpowich graduate last spring after he frustrated the Saints on many occasions.
But Lewis, who wears Karpowichs No. 33, has been equally frustrating to date, with a .967 save percentage in his first two games against SLU.
Its the intensity, Lewis said. You bring your game to another level. For a big rivalry we are all going to be going hard. The team played well in those two games and it reflects on me and makes me look better.
SPECIAL DAY AT CHEEL ARENA
A home game against SLU is enough reason for Clarkson fans to look forward to Saturday, but there will also be an alumni game in the building at 10:45 a.m. featuring several players who have been with the program from 1997 and beyond. There will also be some players from pre-1997.
We are excited to get them back on campus, Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. More important, we are excited for a full building here. I think a lot of times in the rivalry games its innate to the guys and guys realize the importance of the game. We talk about it, but we dont overemphasize it because they realize it already. For the most part we are fully aware of the meaning of these games. Were looking forward to the rivalry.
Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org