POTSDAM – College hockey fans in the area were so excited to see a live game that a crowd of 3,673 showed up at Cheel Arena on Saturday night to watch St. Lawrence University defeat Clarkson, 3-0 , in a men’s exhibition match.
It was the first game at Cheel Arena with spectators in 588 days.
“It’s awesome,” Saints coach Brent Brekke said. “As excited as we are, the fans are just as excited. It’s amazing during the national anthems and you watch all the different people in the stands. All of a sudden it hits you, it’s back. It’s really exciting.
The last time SLU played a game was when it beat Quinnipiac, 3-2, in overtime on March 20 to win the ECAC Hockey Championship. The last champion before the Saints was Clarkson in 2019 as there had been no tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The Clarkson student section arrived over two hours earlier and their sections behind one of the goals were almost full when the SLU men, as part of their pre-game routine, came running behind the descent section. students, going back down to their locker rooms.
As soon as the Saints approached them, the students started booing, some even gesturing to the players, who ignored them and continued to run.
The mocked players of the Saints ended up having the last laugh as SLU scored just 2 minutes and 13 seconds into the game and never lagged.
“I thought we were working hard,” said Brekke. “It was going to be a game with a lot of mistakes, playing the first game, some guys their first college game. There was excitement before I even stepped on the ice, anxiety, nervousness. I thought it was a competitive game. There is a lot to work with and to clean.
Ashton Fry scored the first unofficial goal of the season for the Saints on a play that also summed up how things turned out for Clarkson.
Golden Knights goaltender Ethan Haider misplayed a puck behind his net, then slipped and fell trying to get back into position, leaving a lot of the empty net for Fry.
“I saw Haider fumbling for the puck, it was right on my stick, so I had to prick it, and it worked,” Fry said. “I was aware (Haider was not in position). All you can do is try to get it on (net) as best you can. We got off to a good start and continued to ride the rest of the game. I’m glad we can show the crowd how good the St. Lawrence is.
Clarkson was picked to finish second by ECAC hockey coaches and first by the media, and in the National College Hockey News poll the Golden Knights are in 9th place.
Golden Knights coach Casey Jones was later disappointed that his team didn’t do much to reward the large crowd that showed up to see them play.
“It was a missed opportunity for us to try to take advantage of it,” Jones said. “I think we read our press clippings and felt pretty good about ourselves. We were really sweet tonight, really sweet. We did not execute anything. Our power play wasn’t hard to read. I liked our shorthandedness. We have lost puck battles. We beat the ice. It falls on me.
SLU produced just 18 shots on goal, but extended the lead to 2-0 on a Justin Paul goal at 13:54 of the second and Paul took the win with a goal in an empty net at 18: 12 of the third.
“It was great to play in front of our fans,” said Paul. “We would have liked it to last all last year, obviously. We’ve seen fans appear here and there in other sports. To finally be able to play in front of them, we just couldn’t wait. “
Clarkson’s senior assistant captain Chris Klack was disappointed with a loss, but also happy to be back on the ice after missing all of last season with a wrist injury.
“It’s exciting,” Klack said. “It was long last year. I did a ton of conditioning and I was around the team as much as I could. I was involved and doing everything I could.
Both teams start the season on Friday. Clarkson will play two games at Alaska Fairbanks, opening at 11:07 p.m. and SLU opening at Colorado College at 9 p.m.