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Zarbo’s return boost for Clarkson

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POTSDAM — Matt Zarbo has missed the last nine games for the Clarkson University men’s hockey team with an injury but is hoping to return to the lineup tonight when the Golden Knights face Union at 7 p.m. in Schenectady.

Zarbo has two goals in 22 games for Clarkson (17-13-2 overall, 10-8 ECAC Hockey) this season, but his production is felt in other ways.

“Sometimes when you have guys hurt you don’t sometimes appreciate them when they are in the lineup for things they do for your roster,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “When he went out it was felt. His defensive play, his ability to shut down other guys, we don’t really get a whole lot of bad matches with him. When he was gone it was something that affected our roster and our depth considerably.”

Zarbo is also one of the smartest players in ECAC Hockey. He’s been on the all-ECAC Hockey Academic team every year and last season he was named the ECAC Hockey Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

A civil engineering major with a 3.935 grade-point average, Zarbo is one of 10 national finalists for the Senior Class Award, which goes to a senior hockey player who excels in community, classroom, character and competition.

“Most people’s hockey careers have to come to an end sometime, so you know you’re going to have to fall back on your school, that’s why I chose college hockey,” Zarbo said. “I’ve taken my studies seriously.”

Jones also said Zarbo serves as an example.

“I don’t know if the guys can do what he does,” Jones said. “We all know what a Clarkson degree is about. For him to be where he’s at in the engineering degree and the consistency he puts forth in the classroom is really outstanding.”

BOUCHER ON THE RISE

Freshman forward Jordan Boucher spent much of the first half of the season wearing a suit and tie during Clarkson’s games.

Boucher, a native of St. Therese, Quebec, did not play in Clarkson’s first five games and wound up missing 15 of the first 19 games this season.

But beginning with a two-game homestand against Merrimack on Jan. 10-11, Boucher has been a regular fixture in Clarkson’s lineup and he scored his second goal of his career in last Saturday’s 6-1 loss to Dartmouth.

Heading into tonight’s game with Union, Boucher has played in 13 straight games.

“I was working on my shooting, to shoot the puck more and to use my speed a little bit more,” Boucher said. “Coach (Jones) likes me to use my speed between the blue lines, which got me in the lineup I think. I think the key (when not playing) is to stay positive and keep working hard. It’s a great experience. I’m loving it here. It’s fun on the ice and off the ice also.”

Last season he started with the Sioux City Musketeers of the U.S.H.L., and after scoring one goal and two assists in 13 games, he was traded to the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Junior Hockey League, where he score 17 goals with 18 assists in 33 games. His best totals before Clarkson came in the 2010-11 season when he produced 53 goals in 58 games for Omaha of the North American Prospects Hockey League.

“I thought he’s taken advantage of the opportunity,” Jones said. “The first half he was learning to play the game the right way and learning to play away from the puck. He’s really an avid listener and he comes in and wants to learn and wants to get better. He comes between the blue lines with great speed and if there’s a play available to be made, he makes it. As his game matures and he evolves away from the puck and makes the right plays in critical areas on the ice, we think he’s going to be pretty dynamic. He shows flashes of that throughout games.”

ODDS AND ENDS

Even though Clarkson lost two home games last week, it did not fall from its fourth-place spot in the ECAC Hockey standings.

Clarkson is still tied with Cornell with 20 points, though it still has the tiebreaker because it has more wins than Cornell (10 vs. 8).

The top four teams at the end of the regular season get a bye in the first round of the playoffs and get to host a best-of-three quarterfinal series.

Senior captain Ben Sexton, who is tied with senior Allan McPherson for the team lead in points with 23, will miss a second straight weekend while recovering from an injury he suffered on Feb. 8 at Princeton.

McPherson is six points away from reaching the 100-point mark for his career. He has 39 goals and 55 assists in 140 career games.

Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University hockey for the Times. You may reach him at ccarey@wdt.net

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