Clarkson women's hockey hosts Rensselaer to open ECAC playoffs
Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 7:49 am

Fresh off the best regular season in the program’s 10-year history, the Clarkson University Women’s Hockey team enters ECAC Hockey postseason play this weekend with plenty of momentum. Guided by fifth-year co-head coaches Matt and Shannon Desrosiers and assistant Matt Kelly, who recently earned their 100th career win as the Clarkson coaching staff, the Golden Knights will host Rensselaer in a league quarterfinal series at Cheel Arena this weekend.

The number two seed Knights and the seventh-seeded Engineers will face off in the best-of-three game series on Friday at 7:00 p.m. and again on Saturday at 4:00 p.m., and if necessary at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday to determine who will advance to the conference semifinal round.

Clarkson, guided by junior captain Carly Mercer (Exeter, ONT) and senior assistant captain Hailey Wood (Lethbridge, ALB), skated to a school record 26-8 overall record and an 18-4, second place ECAC Hockey mark during the regular season. The Knights finished just one point behind conference champion Cornell.

In the other quarterfinal series, Cornell will host 8th-seeded Colgate, #3 seed Harvard will host 6th-seeded Dartmouth, and Quinnipiac, seeded 4th, will host the fifth seed St. Lawrence. The winners of the quarterfinal rounds will play in the championship tournament to be hosted at the home arena of the highest remaining seed on March 8-9.

Winners of five of its last six games, and 11 of the 14 league games in 2013, Clarkson has been playing some of the best hockey in the conference down the stretch and is ranked fifth in the national polls. The Knights ended the regular season with an impressive sweep on the road. On Friday, in Hanover, NH, the Green and Gold skated by Dartmouth 3-1. Clarkson followed that victory with a 3-1 triumph over nationally-ranked Harvard, handing the Crimson their first loss of the season at Bright Hockey Center in Cambridge, MA.

Clarkson set the program’s record for wins in a season with the victory at Dartmouth. Junior Erica Howe (Ottawa, ONT) posted 31 saves, including 23 over the final 40 minutes, to backstop the Green and Gold’s efforts. Freshman Olivia Howe (Moose Jaw, SASK) and juniors Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, ONT) and Mercer supplied the goals.

Erica Howe was at her best against Harvard with a career-high 39 saves in the game that clinched second place. Mercer, junior Vanessa Gagnon (St. Constant, QUE), who scored with just two-tenths of a second left in the first period, and Rattray provided the offense as Clarkson swept the regular-season series from Harvard for the first time ever.

The all-time wins leader in the Clarkson net, Howe was named ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week for the sixth time of the season after her impressive efforts over the weekend. Howe, who boasts 57-25-10 all-time record, has played more minutes in the crease (1,970) than any other goaltender in the country this season. She owns a .937 save percentage and a 1.61 goals against average.

The Knights’ leading scorer, Rattray has set a new single-season record for Clarkson points in a season with 45 on a team-high 19 goals and 26 assists through 32 games. Rattray is tied for the national lead in game-winning goals with eight.

With a goal in each of the last three games, Mercer enters the playoffs on a hot streak. She has 39 points (16-23) and was the Knights’ top goal scorer in conference play with 12.

The top scoring freshman in ECAC Hockey, Erin Ambrose (Keswick, ONT) is also one of the top offensive-defenseman in Division I. She has 32 points and set a new Clarkson record for assists in a season with 28.

Senior Danielle Skirrow (Trenton, ONT) and junior Brittany Styner (Calgary, ALB) have also been top offensive threats this season with 28 (15-13) and 27 (9-18), respectfully.

Despite a three-game losing skid and having only a 1-5-1 record over its past seven games, Rensselaer was able to lock down one of the final playoff berths. The Engineers stand at 8-12-2 in the league and 10-20-4 overall. Rensselaer lost two at home over the weekend, falling to Cornell 4-1 and Colgate 2-1. The Engineers, whose last victory was a 4-2 triumph at Yale on February 15, are 5-10-1 away from Houston Field House.