The rust of a 20-day layoff was evident in the first period for the Clarkson University Hockey team on Saturday night in its game against the University of Vermont at the Catamount Cup as the Golden Knights fell behind 2-0 and could not recover as the hosts held on for a 3-2 victory at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, VT.
Ranked ninth in the country, Clarkson, at 12-4-1, will play UMass-Lowell in the second round of the classic tournament on Sunday afternoon, at 4:00 p.m. Lowell, ranked 10th in the polls, defeated Canisius 5-2 in the first game on Saturday. Sunday's game between the Knights and River Hawks will be the first of the three straight games between the national powers. Clarkson travels to Lowell for a two-game series next weekend.
Winners of six of its last seven games, Vermont (9-6-1) will play Canisius in the tournament's second game on Sunday.
Playing in only its third game in 42 days and in its first action since December 7, Clarkson fell behind 2-0 in the first period. Former Golden Knight Pete Massar opened the scoring for UVM, connecting on a rising shot from the right circle while on a 2-on-1 break at 6:32. The Catamounts made it 2-0 with Mario Puskarich's tap-in goal from the top of the crease at 9:00.
Clarkson, which struggled to generate power-play opportunities against UVM's third-ranked penalty-killing unit early in the second period, took advantage of a string of Catamount penalties late in the middle frame to get on the scoreboard. While skating on an extended two-man advantage, Clarkson connected with just 52.9 seconds left before the second intermission when senior Jarrett Burton (Echo Bay, ONT) tipped in a shot from the point by junior defenseman Sam Labrecque (Granby, QUE) for his fifth goal of the season. Senior Allan McPherson (Kinburn, ONT) also assisted on only the second power-play goal of the season allowed by UVM on its home ice.
The Knights continued to pressure in the third and outshot UVM over the final 20 minutes, but it was the Catamounts who struck first in the period to go on top 3-1. Tom Forgione capitalized on a Clarkson turnover at center ice and scored on a breakaway at 12:59 to give the home team a two-goal lead.
Clarkson, which has won several games in the final minutes this season, pulled to within one with 64 seconds remaining. Skating with the extra attacker with the goaltender out, sophomore Jeff DiNallo (Aurora, ONT) tallied a goal in his fourth straight game, knocking in a rebound off a shot from the point by sophomore defenseman Paul Geiger (Stouffville, ONT). Senior Ben Sexton (Kanata, ONT) won the draw deep in the UVM zone to pick up the second assist.
The Knights were buzzing the Catamount net in a bid for the tying goal, but a Clarkson penalty with 26 second left took the momentum away.
Clarkson outshot UVM 31-19. Freshman Steve Perry (Ligonier, PA), who picked up the win in relief in the Knights' last victory before the break, made his first start since November 2 and finished with 16 saves.
The Knights were 1-of-5 on the power play and killed off all three of the Catamounts man-advantage opportunities.