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Clarkson men’s hockey team hoping to turn its fortunes

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POTSDAM — It’s been almost seven months, but the end of last season has not been forgotten by those involved with the Clarkson University men’s hockey team.

The Golden Knights struggled on offense throughout the season, averaging only 2.47 goals per game and scoring on16.3 percent of their power-play chances.

As last year drew to a close, Clarkson went scoreless in three of its last four games and ended the year losing in two games in a first-round ECAC Hockey playoff series at Brown, finishing with a 9-20-7 overall record.

Shortly after that game ended, coach Casey Jones said in a radio postgame interview that things were going to change. Clarkson heads into this season, which begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at Niagara, with a new approach.

“My feeling is we want to be aggressive as a program and when we step on the ice we want to assert ourselves,” Jones said. “I find we were too passive (last year), in a lot of regards. Our focal point now is gapping and controlling and getting right into play and imposing our will on teams. We have competition for playing time and we want to be known as a more aggressive team, a team tough to play against, taking time and space away. That’s one thing we’ve tried to change.”

Clarkson’s tendency a year ago to let a single bad moment in a game affect how the rest of the game evolved was addressed.

“It’s not going to be perfect all the time,” Jones said. “We have to hold ourselves accountable for how we perform. There’s things out of our control, and that’s one thing we’ve got to be a lot better at, handling adversity better and being mentally tough. That’s something we focused on. Overall, it’s a situation where confidence grows and you want to make sure. We’ll face our first form of adversity this weekend, and we’ll have to handle it, not being affected by anything outside of our control.”

Clarkson’s upperclassmen said Jones’s message has been received.

“Everyone this year has really adapted an accountability for each other,” senior forward Will Frederick said. “Everyone has responsibility on the team. The past few years haven’t been great and there’s been a sentiment of, ‘Poor us. Poor us.’ But, really, it’s on us to make a difference. I think this year you will see a big change.”

Said senior forward Allan McPherson, “We’ve had long talks about mindset stuff and mental stuff to go into the season with. I think we are in good shape in that sense.”

Because Clarkson struggled last year, and because of the low goal-scoring totals, the ECAC Hockey coaches picked the Golden Knights to come in last place this season.

“At the end of the day everyone has their own opinion and they are entitled to it,” Clarkson captain Ben Sexton said. “We don’t believe that in our dressing room. We are confident in our abilities. It’s just a little extra motivation for us in the room.”

Said McPherson, “I was a little shocked, but it is what it is. You can’t really determine what people say about you. We know we will be better. We’re not really concerned with what other people think of us. We have ourselves where we want to be and I think we are ready to prove some people wrong.”

Two years ago Clarkson found itself in a similar situation, picked last and the team’s ability to score goals doubted. That year seniors Nick Tremblay, Louke Oakley and Corey Tamblyn all showed dramatic improvements in their previous totals. Tremblay went from a career high of nine goals to 17 and Oakley went from a career high of three to 16.

“We’ve been looking for that (career) year since we got here,” Sexton said of himself and his classmates. “It just happens to be it’s our senior year now and we don’t have a choice. This is our team and we’re looking forward to leading it.”

Sexton has had injury troubles all three years so he’s never had a chance to show the kind of numbers he can put up when healthy. McPherson scored nine goals last year, but could develop into a double-digit, goal-scorer. Jarrett Burton had just five goals in two years before scoring 12 last year, so he also could enhance his totals.

“I think we have the ability and the talent,” McPherson said. “Other guys stepping up will be the key as well. We can’t just put it on three guys. (Bad years) happen. Injuries happen. But, at the same time, you can’t say what happened last year will happen this year. We have the talent and we have the ability. We just have to prove it on the ice. I think we are being more aggressive offensively, getting our skating going, putting teams under pressure more.”

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