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College hockey: Clarkson struggles under penalty load


POTSDAM — Penalties hurt the Clarkson University men’s hockey team in a 4-0 loss to Merrimack before 2,416 fans in a nonconference game Saturday night at Cheel Arena.

Clarkson (13-7-2 overall), picked up 42 minutes of penalty time, including two major penalties. Senior defenseman Alex Boak received a game disqualification in the third period and will miss Friday’s ECAC Hockey home game against Yale University.

“I thought we had better energy than last night, I thought we had better jump, but our discipline cost us,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “We have to have better discipline than that and we have to be smarter than that. We know we can’t have a lack of discipline. That hit us right in the face tonight.”

Clarkson’s first major proved to be a turning point in the game.

Merrimack (5-10-3) held a 1-0 lead with 16 seconds left in the first period when Clarkson’s Joe Zarbo received an excellent scoring chance beside the crease.

Warriors goalie Rasmus Tirronen made a big save and then a skirmish ensued that saw Clarkson’s A.J. Fossen pick up a game misconduct and major penalty for facemasking (grabbing an opponent’s mask on the helmet). Joe Zarbo also earned a roughing penalty, giving Merrimack both the five-minute major and close to two minutes of five-on-three hockey.

“We had an unbelievable scoring chance (Tirronen) made a save on and we go from that to down five-on-three,” Jones said. “That pretty well turned the tide in the game.”

The Warriors, who had gone 0-7-2 in road games prior to Saturday, took advantage. Clarkson killed the first five-on-three penalty, but the Warriors scored at 2 minutes, 16 seconds of the second period on a shot from Quinn Gould to go up 2-0.

Then Clarkson’s Jeff DiNallo was called for boarding at 3:20, giving Merrimack another chance to play with a two-man advantage. The Warriors capitalized with a goal from Mike Collins at 3:54 of the second period to extend the lead to 3-0.

“We had to stay out of the box and we didn’t do that tonight,” Clarkson defenseman Kevin Tansey said. “We can’t afford to do that and win games. We’re known for having a good defensive game. Tonight we gave up a five-on-three goal and another power-play goal. It was tough, but we hit a strong goalie who stood on his head tonight. You meet those every once in a while, you just have to learn and build off it.”

The second major penalty for Clarkson came at 9:01 of the third period during a tussle behind Tirronen’s net. Boak skated in from the point and joined the skirmish and was called for facemasking and given the game disqualification, which will keep him out of Friday’s game.

“The discipline was the biggest factor,” Clarkson forward Will Frederick said. “You can’t take two (majors) and couple it with a minor and have to kill off four minutes, five-on-three. You aren’t going to win games playing like that. Momemtum swings the other way and it’s difficult to rebound from that.”

The Warriors ended the scoring with an empty-net goal from Rhett Bly at 18:15 of the third period. Clayton Jardine scored the first goal for Merrimack at 11:17 of the first period.

“We scored goals and that makes our job easier when we’re leading,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “It’s a lot easier when you are ahead. I thought our special teams did a great job. We played hard and our penalty kill was outstanding tonight and (Tirronen) made some big saves.”

Tirronen finished with 34 saves to shut out Clarkson for the first time since last March 8, when Brown beat the Golden Knights 3-0 in an ECAC Hockey playoff game.

“It seemed like everything just hit me today,” Tirronen said. “I could have done a better job of controlling some rebounds. We got the win and that’s all that matters. I’m happy with tonight.”

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