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Women’s hockey: Clarkson hopes to make most of second chance

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POTSDAM — Just five days ago, the Clarkson University women’s hockey team was dealing with the disappointment of losing 1-0 to Cornell in the championship game of the ECAC Hockey Tournament at Cheel Arena.

But now the squad is focused on its inaugural home NCAA Tournament game as Boston College (27-6-3) arrives to take on the Golden Knights in a quarterfinal at 4 p.m. Saturday at Cheel Arena.

Clarkson (28-5-5) has not lost two games in a row all season, though it did have a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) back in late October.

Sunday’s loss to the Big Red was the first for the Golden Knights since a 2-1 defeat at home against North Dakota on Dec. 6.

“Sometimes you have to have an upset before the brightness,” Clarkson’s Vanessa Gagnon said after the Cornell game. “Maybe that was our sign and we need to recover from it and move on and work even harder for (Saturday). Maybe, in hindsight, this will all be good.”

Clarkson did not play the Eagles this season, but did lose 5-1 to Boston College on Jan. 3, 2013 in Cheel Arena, giving up three goals in the third period.

“I think it’s a pretty similar team,” Clarkson co-coach Matt Desrosiers said of the Eagles. “They usually base their team around a lot of speed and skill. We’ve played them in the past few years and they bring the same thing. They go to the net hard and they look to generate speed through the neutral zone.”

One statistic that Desrosiers noticed almost immediately when looking over the Eagles is that the team leads the nation with 12 short-handed goals, including four from leading scorer Haley Skarupa.

“They’ll look to spring someone short-handed,” Desrosiers said.

Sakura brings to the Eagles many of the same things Clarkson gets from senior Jamie Lee Rattray.

The sophomore forward leads Boston College with 25 goals, including six on the power play. She’s already scored 94 career points in 65 games.

“She’s a player we have to keep an eye on,” Desrosiers said. “They have a pretty deep team, and they’ll come at you with three lines. She’s quick an she’s skilled and she makes things happen for them. You have to be aware when she’s on the ice in all situations. She’s very similar to kids in our league like (Quinnipiac’s Kelly Babstock) and (Cornell’s Jillian Saulnier).”

Clarkson and Boston College are alike in many ways when looking at the numbers.

Clarkson ranks third in the nation in scoring, averaging 3.61 goals and Boston College is fourth at 3.56. The Golden Knights feature the top defense in the nation, giving up only 1.05 goals and Boston College allows 1.69.

The Golden Knights have the nation’s sixth-best power play (19.3) and Boston College is seventh (18.9). Clarkson features the top penalty kill in the nation (93.3) and Boston College ranks 14th at 85.7.

Even the goalies have nearly identical statistics. Clarkson’s Erica Howe has a 1.03 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage with 14 shutouts. Boston College’s Corinne Boyles has a 1.62 GAA and has a .943 save percentage, with three shutouts.

“The teams are pretty similar with the numbers,” Desrosiers said. “This time of year it’s more likely that we’ll see a low-scoring game than a high-scoring game.”

Clarkson’s offense is led by Rattray, who has 28 goals and 31 assists and is one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which will be handed out next weekend. But the Golden Knights have four players with 40 or more points, including defenseman Erin Ambrose (14 goals-36 assists), forward Carly Mercer (14-31) and forward Brittany Styner (12-32).

Ambrose suffered an ankle injury late in the semifinal against Quinnipiac last Saturday and missed the ECAC Hockey championship game. Desrosiers said on Wednesday that her status for Saturday was unclear.

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