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College hockey: Clarkson’s seniors engineered reversal


There is always some disappointment at the end of a season, unless a team has won a national championship.

But Clarkson University men’s hockey fans could walk away from the end of this season with a good feeling as the program produced the school’s first winning record since 2007-08.

Clarkson, which once boasted the best overall winning percentage of any long-time NCAA Division I program, had lost that title after enduring a five-year stretch in which the program failed to produce a winning record and win a playoff series.

The ECAC Hockey coaches were not too enthused about the Golden Knights heading into this season, picking the team to finish in last place in the 12-team league in the preseason poll.

Clarkson was coming off a 9-20-7 season, but what Golden Knights coach Casey Jones knew that the other 11 coaches did not, is that his team featured a very special senior class that was determined to leave the program in a better place than when it arrived.

The Golden Knights finished with a 21-17-4 record and went 11-9-2 in ECAC Hockey, narrowly missing out on a top-four position and finishing one spot ahead of defending national champion Yale.

Clarkson’s senior class, the only group on the team to also be coached by former Clarkson coach George Roll, was led by captain Ben Sexton, who totaled six goals and 22 assists and was one of the top faceoff men in the nation this season.

Forward Allan McPherson became the first Golden Knight since Matt Beca in 2009 to surpass 100 career points. He led the team in scoring with 13 goals and 19 assists this season and also led Clarkson with five game-winning goals.

Senior power forward Will Frederick provided nine goals and 14 assists and classmate Jarrett Burton scored 11 goals. Matt Zarbo’s role was not a scoring one, but he was part of a checking line that proved valuable on the defensive end of the ice for Clarkson. The only defenseman among the senior class, Alex Boak from Norwood, finished with five assists. Classmate Mike Garlasco played in three games at forward, but was one of the leaders during practices.

“They were vested in it this year, it meant a lot to them,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. “They were prepared at the onset and they set some standards and goals for the guys that were loftier than what they’ve had in years previously. They wanted to get after it. We fell short of a couple of close ones, but felt proud of our effort.”

Jones was so appreciative of the leadership role taken on by his senior class that he never named any assistant captains until Sexton suffered an injury late in the season that caused him to miss several weeks. He said he thought everyone in the class had a key leadership role and the team did not want to single any one player out.

The quality of Clarkson’s senior class shined after the season when five players began pro careers. Two of the seniors, Sexton (Providence) and McPherson (Abbottsford), made the American Hockey League. Boak and Burton are playing in the East Coast Hockey League with Wheeling and Frederick is also in the ECHL with Utah.

In addition to the 20-win season, Clarkson won its first postseason series since 2006-07, edging Princeton in three games after suffering a tough 3-2 loss in overtime in the opener. The following weekend Clarkson pushed Cornell to the brink, losing 1-0 in overtime in game three at Lynah Rink.

Clarkson also could boast of sweeping rival St. Lawrence University in both conference games. The senior class, despite playing on teams that had losing records three years, went 9-1-1 against the Saints in their careers, including a perfect 4-0 mark at Appleton Arena.

Perhaps the only drawback for Clarkson this season was never finding any consistency on offense. Even though Clarkson posted a winning mark, it was actually outscored 102-101 by the opposition. But the team exhibited its toughness in close games, finishing 14-10-4 in one-goal games.

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