POTSDAM Instead of the traditional two-game weekend the Clarkson University mens hockey team is only focusing on one contest this weekend, a game tonight at the Rochester Institute of Technology that will be televised live by Time Warner Sports.
Clarkson (2-5-4 overall) is starting a stretch that will see it play five of its next eight games against nonconference opponents, though one of those nonconference contests will be a game against rival St. Lawrence University in Lake Placid.
Its the way it is, Clarkson coach Casey Jones said. Its a situation where teams take some breaks over Thanksgiving. Then all of sudden we are heading into New Year pretty quick. Its a stretch thats important for us in terms of finishing out the first half on a good note. We have some tough games coming forward starting with (tonight) to set ourselves up for the second half.
RIT (2-7-2) enters tonights game on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1). The Tigers started off the season with a 5-4 overtime win at Michigan, but followed that by going 0-4-1. RIT has not defeated Clarkson since it became an NCAA Division I program and its last win against the Golden Knights was a 4-3 decision at the Syracuse Invitational in 1986.
You look at the whole season there, they went into Michigan and beat Michigan, so they are very capable, Jones said. They are very good at home and have great fan support. We are looking forward to a great environment. I heard its sold out and we have a large alumni contingent coming, so it should be an exciting place to play. It should be a good game in terms of two teams going at it.
Clarkson played Niagara University twice earlier in the season and fans can expect to see more nonconference games in the future against the upstate schools.
They are teams that really put a good product on the ice every year and they are competitive and they are in state and great areas for us in terms of where our alumni base is, Jones said. We do have them on the schedule here for the next few years. It should be good over the next two or three years playing these guys.
THE ENEMY WITHIN
Norwood native Alex Boak has been performing a lot of key roles for Clarkson so far this season.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound defenseman leads the team with 18 blocked shots and he is third on the team in plus/minus at plus-five.
He just continues to get bigger and stronger and hes physical and hes playing with some jam, Jones said. I still think his best hockey is ahead of him. His big thing now is hes moving his feet and hes getting difficult to play against. The thing about Alex, no matter what rink we go in, hes ready for battle and he looks out for guys. Hes a tough competitor. As a coach you like to tone someone down versus having to convince someone to play hard and get after it.
Boak is an intense player. Hes already picked up a major penalty this season and has 29 penalty minutes through 11 games. Last year, he had 102 penalty minutes.
Hes also one of the most unpopular Clarkson players among opposing fans.
Ive kind of grown to be like that, Boak said. The guys always get on me. Thats kind of what my job is, to stick up for my teammates and kind of be that physical presence out on the ice. I dont think Ive made very many friends (on other teams) over the past two years. Im nice off the ice but I dont make very good friends no the ice.
FIRST GOAL FOR CHRISTIAN
Freshman Todd Christian, a Norwalk, Conn., native, scored his first career goal just 57 seconds into Clarksons 7-2 win at Princeton last Saturday.
Christian is a third-generation Clarkson student. His grandfather, Eugene, graduated in 1951, and he had an uncle named Phillip who graduated in 1984.
It felt good to finally get the first one, Christian said. It was a while before I got in the lineup, but once I did I just tried to play my role as best I could. It worked out. Hopefully theres more to come.
Christian led his team last year, the Notre Dame Hounds, in scoring with 57 points in 57 games, including a team-best 25 goals.
Former Golden Knight goalie Andy Kostka died in his sleep at the age of 32 last Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. Kostka was part of the program from 1998-2000 and then spent his final two years at Clarkson as a student. He was a backup goalie on Clarksons 1999 ECAC Championship team and competed as an inline skater. His memorial service was Wednesday. ... Clarkson will be missing captain Ben Sexton for about a month after he was injured late in Saturdays game against Princeton. Clarkson had several players out of practice though their injuries are not as severe. Those who could possibly miss Saturdays game include Joe Zarbo, Mike Garlasco and Patrick Marsh. Sam Labrecque has also missed the last five games with an injury. ... Clarkson hopes to raise about $3,000 in November by participating in Movember, which is named for mustache growing geared toward awareness of mens health issues, such as prostate cancer.
Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Clarkson University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at email@example.com