Series Record: 57-49-14 Cornell
Friday November 30
December 3, 2011, December 30, 2011, & February 17, 2012
Clarkson was under the leadership of head coach Casey Jones for the first time last season. Jones improved immediately upon a 15-19-2 record from the 2010-11 season and led the Golden Knights to a somewhat improved, but not overwhelmingly improved, record of 16-17-6. Clarkson earned home ice in the ECAC Tournament. Clarkson won a triple-overtime game against RPI to force a game three in the series. The resurgent Engineers proved too much for the Golden Knights as the Engineers spoiled Jones's hopes of earning Clarkson its sixth ECAC Championship and first since 2007. Clarkson was eliminated in the first round of the 2012 ECAC Tournament.
Clarkson was undefeated against Cornell in ECAC league play last season. The Golden Knights posted two ties. Jones's Knights forced the Big Red to settle for a 0-0 draw at Lynah Rink. The stellar play of Andy Iles at Cheel last season delivered a 1-1 tie in the North Country and held off a determined Clarkson squad. The Golden Knights were not undefeated against Cornell in the regular season as the two met in the consolation game in Estero, FL. An equipment mishap forced Cornell to use Clarkson equipment during the annual tournament in Florida. The Big Red dropped the first game against UMass in the Sunshine State but then impolitely repaid Clarkson and Jones for their favor and handed them a 5-3 defeat.
Clarkson is off to a start that is far less than envisioned. WAFT thought that Clarkson would be one of the surprise teams of the season with unexpected success. However, nearly the opposite has been true. Clarkson began the season with strong showings, although defeats against Colorado College in the Mountain Timezone. The Golden Knights dropped two one-goal decisions. A lack of discipline typified why one of those games ended in defeat. The good omens of that series did not result in great fortune as the remainder of the first half of the season unfolded.
Clarkson played its next five games against Atlantic Hockey teams. It amassed a record of 0-2-3 over that span. The two ties to Canisius do not appear horrific in light of the fact that the Griffins went on to hold a potent and skilled Minnesota Gophers team to a 1-0 win (Clarkson scored three and two goals against the Griffins). However, losses to Holy Cross and Niagara still mar its season to date. The loss to Niagara looks better in retrospect as the Purple Eagles have gone on to be the only ranked Atlantic Hockey program in the most recent USCHO polls.
Clarkson's two wins have come in ECAC league play. The victories come against the Ivy-League foes, Princeton and Yale. The Tigers got the better of Cornell at Hobey Baker Rink earlier in November. The third wheel of the Ivy League's "holy trinity" held Cornell to just three goals. The Golden Knights struck seven times and held Cheel's visitors from New Jersey to two goals.
The two programs with national bona fides to date in the ECAC are Cornell and Yale. Cornell's sweep of Colorado College and victory over Michigan solidify it as a national contender when it is playing its best game. Yale asserted itself last weekend when it traveled to Colorado. The Bulldogs swept the two perennial WCHA and national powers of Colorado College and Denver.
Clarkson defeated Yale 1-0 at The Whale. Considering that selection to the national tournament in college hockey rests heavily upon the belief of the transitive property of results in predicting skill, Clarkson cannot be underestimated. The Golden Knights have defeated a program that just sent shock waves through the college hockey world when it proved unexpectedly that it was an ECAC program with legitimate national potential.
The key for Cornell will be to ensure that Clarkson does not add victory over the other already proven team of national tournament timber to its resume.
Keys To The Game:
Firstly, not to underestimate the Golden Knights. Their record is far from impressive. A scrutinizing eye nonetheless uncovers that this team, despite its numerous setbacks, has accumulated impressive results inconsistently.
The crucial element of this game will be to keep playing disciplined defense and pouncing on opportunities like Cornell did at the Frozen Apple last weekend. The Golden Knights are the fourth-most offensively potent team that Cornell will have confronted to date. Clarkson ranks above Colgate, Princeton, Quinnipiac, and Harvard. It ranks below Colorado College, Dartmouth, and Michigan. Clarkson has converted more offensive opportunities than have the three teams that have defeated Cornell.
Cornell has not lost to the three teams that it has played that have proven to be more offensively prolific. Cornell delivered those results through disciplined defense. Cornell cannot underestimate Clarkson's offensive skill. If it does so, the evening might not go as the Lynah Faithful hope.
Meanwhile, Clarkson has generated the third-worst defensive statistics of opponents that Cornell has confronted prior to Friday evening's game. This provides with it the opportunity for this offensively skilled Cornell team to prove that the offensive eruption of the Frozen Apple was not a fluke.
The special teams battle lopsidedly appears to favor Cornell. Cornell and Clarkson are essentially evenly matched in terms of power-play conversion. Analysis of the penalty killing of both teams provides another insight. Cornell has not allowed a power-play goal in three games. Clarkson meanwhile has allowed 12 power-play goals over 12 games. The Golden Knights allow opponents to convert on 23.1% of power-play opportunities. These statistics have earned "Tech" the dubious distinction of being among the ten worst teams in terms of penalty killing in the nation so far this season.
Avoidance of needless Cornell penalties will be key as well. Even though Clarkson does not have a fearsome conversion of power-play opportunities, Clarkson has scored nearly 30% of its goals in the season on the man advantage. Clarkson has scored only two short-handed goals
Goaltending is another fundamental weakness of the Knights. Last season, Karpowich and Iles dueled in both contests. If a game becomes a goalie duel, the ice begins to tilt in Cornell's favor. Lewis, much like Iles is a wearer of 33, but he has generated a sub-par goals against average of 2.85 and save percentage of 0.897 very much unlike Iles.
Clarkson has proven that it will capitalize on defensive collapses. The statement of this game and this weekend for Cornell will be to prove that Cornell is a great team that defeated a good Michigan team at the Frozen Apple. The first game of the weekend will be the second time in two games that the Big Red will face a goaltender with a save percentage less than 0.900. The fundamental weakness of Clarkson's penalty-killing unit will afford the carnelian and white the chance to begin clicking on the power play like it did during the Colorado College series. Cornell can achieve this goal with embracing its newly found confidence on offense and continuing its stellar defensive play. The latter has been with the team over three games. However, if there are defensive collapses, this Clarkson team has the capacity to make Cornell pay painfully. The task will be to continue Cornell hockey with the same level of conversion and intensity of the Frozen Apple.
Cornell has not lost to Clarkson since February 2008. Cornell endured a 4-1 loss in Potsdam that month. It was not the worst loss in the history of the Clarkson-Cornell series. It was nowhere near the level of the 10-0 loss to Clarkson that caused Cornell to cancel its hockey program in 1948. Cornell righted its course and has not lost to the Golden Knights over nine games. Cornell has won six of those nine games for a recent winning percentage over the green and golden rod of 0.833.
Cornell endured a similar drought against the Bulldogs of Yale in recent memory. It is obvious that Clarkson and its fans will be hungry for a win over the Big Red. Historic and successful programs like Clarkson and Cornell despise enduring such droughts of success. The fact that Clarkson is led by a former assistant coach of Cornell and Cornell alumnus, Casey Jones, and this drought will ensure that Clarkson enters the contest with a passion to end the drought in historic Lynah Rink.
Clarkson's opportunism and capitalization on defensive lapses was on display in the Golden Knights's last outing when they met the RIT Tigers in Rochester, NY.