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Local college hockey: Golden Knights’ McPherson a steady scorer

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POTSDAM — Junior Allan McPherson has been one of the Clarkson University men’s hockey team’s most consistent scorers this season.

The native of Kinburn, Ontario, has led the team in scoring for most of the season. But until recently he had built that lead by assisting on goals scored by other players.

McPherson has found a goal-scoring touch the past two weekends, producing a goal in four straight games for Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 conference) as it prepares to play a road game at 7 tonight against Princeton.

“Not much has changed,” McPherson said. “I think (shots) are just going in for me now.”

McPherson has eight goals and 14 assists in 28 games. He is tied with Joe Zarbo for the team lead in power-play goals with four.

“He’s created chances all year long,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “The puck has gone in for him recently, which is important for us. He’s got a really good hockey sense. He competes so hard. He has to settle into his game. When he plays his best, he’s at peace and calm, and his skill level takes a jump there. He’s been, by and large, our best player for most of the season.”

McPherson’s scoring has also helped boost Clarkson’s power play, which went through an 0-for-26 spurt at the start of the 2013 portion of the schedule. Clarkson has scored at least one power-play goal in five of its last seven games.

“It’s a confidence booster,” McPherson said. “Once you get one, you get two and it starts snowballing from there. Both (special teams) units have been very productive the last couple games.”

HOWDEN STAYS HOT

Sophomore defenseman James Howden has also found his scoring touch of late. He’s scored three goals in the last four games.

Howden, who has five goals and four assists in 26 games, scored only two goals in 37 games his freshman season.

“It’s been nice to help the team and contribute a little bit,” Howden said. “The puck is just going my way right now.”

Howden does have scoring experience. A native of Edgeley, Saskatchewan, he was the leading scorer among defensemen on his junior team, the Notre Dame Hounds. He finished with 13 goals and 22 assists in his final junior season.

“He ran a power play in his junior league, but you never know what translates,” Jones said. “He’s got good hockey sense. It’s a situation where I think there’s still a lot of room for growth in his offensive game. His instincts are good in terms of jumping into the play. That usually means you’ll generate some opportunities.”

TOUGH ROAD TRIP

Clarkson will travel about 837 miles this weekend to face Princeton tonight and Quinnipiac on Saturday.

It’s 385 miles from Potsdam to Princeton, N.J. It’s another 134 miles to travel to Hamden, Conn., and then the drive back to Potsdam from there is 318 miles.

“It’s once a year,” McPherson said of the long haul. “It’s not too bad. The guys bond. We are on the bus for seven hours. Guys get to know each other better, if they don’t know each other by now.”

The long journey only adds to Clarkson’s challenge on the ice. The Golden Knights are facing two teams ahead of them in the ECAC Hockey standings.

Princeton (9-10-4 overall, 7-6-3 conference) is two points ahead of Clarkson, and in a three-way tie for third place with Dartmouth and Rensselaer.

“They are a hot team right now,” Jones said of the Tigers. “It’s a situation where they are figuring out ways to win games. They really backside pressure you hard.”

Quinnipiac (21-3-4, 14-0-2) is the No. 1 team in this week’s U.S. College Hockey Online poll, and has essentially wrapped up the regular-season title, with an 11-point lead with 12 possible points left to be earned.

Clarkson has struggled this season, but enters this weekend only four points behind second-place Yale, and still has a good chance to earn a top-four position and a first-round bye in the conference playoffs.

“We feel like we are in a really good position to determine our own fate for the rest of the season,” forward Jarrett Burton said. “We know we have to win some key games against good opponents and we are really excited about that.”

Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University men’s hockey for the Times. You may reach him at ccarey@wdt.net. For more on Clarkson, follow his “Knights Tales,” blog at www.watertowndailytimes.com

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