POTSDAM -- After posting disappointing seasons the past two years, the Clarkson University Hockey team is eager to start the 2010-11 campaign and rebuild its program back up into one of the NCAA’s elite.
The Golden Knights will begin their 89th season of play with their first-ever trip out to Nebraska to battle the University of Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State in the Mutual of Omaha Stampede.
The Green and Gold face the host Mavericks on Friday at 8:37 p.m. EST, and then square off against St. Cloud on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. EST. RIT rounds out the classic field.
Guided by eighth-year head coach George Roll, associate coach Greg Drechsel, and assistant coach Chris Rogles, the Knights will look to return to the form they displayed in 2006-07 and 2007-08 when they were one of the top teams in college hockey, claiming consecutive ECAC Hockey titles and making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
But after advancing to within one game of the 2008 NCAA Frozen Four, it seems everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Green and Gold, who have experienced a downward spiral that hit rock bottom last year.
Clarkson, plagued by injuries that saw 13 players miss a combined 66 games, posted a 9-24-4 overall record in 2009-10 and finished in 12th place in ECAC Hockey with a 4-15-3 league mark.
Along with using last year’s disappointment as incentive, the Knights will draw on this year’s ECAC preseason coaches’ poll as motivation. A perennial power in ECAC Hockey since the league’s inception in 1961, Clarkson was picked to finish 12th in the 12-team conference, its lowest rating ever in the coaches’ preseason poll.
The Knights, who have seven NHL draft picks on this year’s roster, claimed their 10th league regular season title just three years ago. Twenty-one lettermen return, including seven seniors, for Clarkson giving the Knights one of their most experienced teams in recent years. The addition of nine promising recruits will make for a deep roster providing plenty of competition for playing time.
Clarkson will be led by junior captain Mark Borowiecki (Whitby, ONT) and assistant captains, senior Brandon DeFazio (Oakville, ONT) and junior Jake Morley (Ogdensburg, NY).
Looking to put a frustrating off-season behind them, the Knights came out with a hard-fought effort this past Sunday afternoon and skated to a 5-2 exhibition victory over the Carleton University before 1,919 fans at Cheel Arena.
A reliable veteran and a promising newcomer enjoyed a productive start to the 2010-11 campaign. Senior Scott Freeman (Whitby, ONT) recorded a hat trick and added one assist, while freshman linemate Allan McPherson (Kinburn, ONT) recorded three assists and came through with the winning score to lead the Green and Gold to the win in their first action of the season. Morley also tallied an empty-net goal and sophomore Adam Pawlick (Utica, NY) recorded two assists.
Playing its first season in the WCHA after emerging as a solid program in the CCHA, Nebraska-Omaha will have a young team with 11 freshmen in the lineup. The Mavericks are guided by second-year head coach Dean Blais, who led North Dakota to great success for 10 seasons before leaving the program at the end of the 2003-04 campaign. The Mavericks posted a 20-16-6 record in 2009-10, falling two wins short of the CCHA semifinals.
Regarded as a Top 10 team this season, St. Cloud State is coming off the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament victory with last March’s win over Northern Michigan in the West Regional. Head coach Bob Motzko has another talented team led by Garrett Roe, the Huskies fifth all-time leading scorer.
Friday’s game will be the first ever game between Clarkson and Nebraska-Omaha.
The Golden Knights and St. Cloud will meet for the 10th time with the Huskies holding a slim 5-4 edge in the series, which first started with a 5-4 win by the Green and Gold in Potsdam on October 24, 1987. Clarkson has currently won two straight one-goal games in the series, including a 2-1 victory in their last meeting on March 28, 2008 in the opening game of the NCAA East Regional in Albany, NY. St. Cloud’s last win in the series was a 4-1 triumph at Cheel Arena in Potsdam on November 23, 2007. The Knights and Huskies have met twice on neutral ice with each team posting a win. Along with the NCAA Tr. game in Albany, the teams also played in Orono, ME on October 12, 2001 with St. Cloud posting a 5-1 victory.
George Roll is 3-2 against St. Cloud. Senior defenseman Bryan Rufenach (Barrie, ONT) is the only current Knight to have recorded a point against the Huskies, registering one goal and one assists in three games against St. Cloud.
Clarkson is 3-4 in its official season-openers under head coach George Roll and is 3-8-3 against WCHA teams during his first seven years as head coach … This will mark the fourth straight season, and the seventh time in the past eight years, that Clarkson has opened the season on the road … After this weekend’s games in Nebraska the Knights will play their next 10 games in the North Country, including nine at Cheel Arena. Celebrating their 20th season at Cheel, Clarkson opens the home slate hosting Bowling Green in a weekend series on October 15-16. The Knights only game outside Potsdam over the10-game stretch will be played in Lake Placid when the Green and Gold battle archrival St. Lawrence in the Halloween Faceoff at the Herb Brooks 1980 Arena on October 30 … Scott Freeman’s hat trick in the exhibition win over Carleton was the first three-goal effort by a Golden Knight since Chris D’Alvise ’09 tallied three times in a 6-4 win at RIT on October 17, 2008 … Seven current Clarkson players have been selected in the NHL Draft - Bryan Rufenach (Detroit ‘07), Mark Borowiecki (Ottawa ‘08), Julien Cayer (Detroit ‘08), Nick Tremblay (Boston ‘08), Paul Karpowich (St. Louis ‘08), Ben Sexton (Boston ’09) and Cody Rosen (NY Islanders ’10) ... After two disappointing seasons, Clarkson has earned little respect in NCAA Hockey. The Knights are picked to finish last in both the ECAC Coaches and Media preseason polls. The Green and Gold are also rated the 51st best team in INCH.com’s power rankings of all 58 Division I programs.