By Bobby Bertagna
Over the next few weeks, each of this year’s participants in the Friendship Four will be featured in a brief exposé, helping the fans learn about the history of the teams and what to expect in November. Up first, the Clarkson University Golden Knights
If you are a fan of NHL hockey, you have probably heard of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the newest NHL franchise that debuted less than a month ago. However, you may not have heard of the original Golden Knights over at Clarkson University, who debuted more than 100 years ago. Playing their first game in 1916 (according to legend), Clarkson boasts one of the oldest hockey programs in the United States.
The Golden Knights officially began play in 1921, and have a storied history. Clarkson was the first NCAA Division I team to reach 1,000 wins, and the men’s hockey team has an impressive .616 win percentage in their history. In recent years, they have struggled to keep up with their historic success, with their last NCAA tournament appearance coming in 2008. Their most successful period came in the 1990’s where they managed to qualify every year except for 1994, a feat almost unheard of in the ECAC. This season, they have surprised almost everyone with their hot start, and have climbed to the #13 ranking in the nation as of November 1st.
It will be interesting to see if Clarkson can keep up with these new, lofty expectations. They started the season with a ridiculous eight game stretch that included seven games against teams that competed in last year’s NCAA tournament. They managed to come out of the gauntlet with a 4-3-1 record which included two close losses to #5 Minnesota. Continuing on this strong opening and a good showing in the Friendship Four could lead them to their first NCAA tournament in almost a decade.
Players to Watch
Some players to watch on the Golden Knights include the sophomore trio of Sheldon Rempal, Nico Sturm, and Devin Brosseau. Between the three of them they chipped in 65 points last season, and given an extra year to grow their team chemistry, coach Casey Jones is confident that they will help carry the team to success. They will need to, as the team lost its top four scorers from last season. One of their biggest potential game changers is incoming freshman Jack Jacome, who was voted the top forward of all 132 Canadian Junior Hockey Leagues last season.
Forward Sheldon Rempal in action against Minnesota
Clarkson is relying on another sophomore with goaltender Jake Kielly. He was thrown into the deep end last year, starting 35 of their 39 games, and if he can improve his .911 save percentage from last year he will be a game changer for the next three years. Kielly spoke passionately about how excited he is for the Friendship Four. “For me, personally, one of the best parts about being able to go to Ireland will be experiencing another culture. I have been to many cities across America and Canada, but I have never been to Europe. It will be a great opportunity for all of us as players and students to see what the schools are like and be able to promote American college hockey in another way other than just on the ice”.
Goaltender Jake Kielly
Head coach Casey Jones is also excited about the opportunity of the Friendship Four. Entering his sixth year as head coach of the Golden Knights, he has been slowly building the program up season by season. The last two seasons they managed to get above .500 and finish in the top half of the ECAC, and this year he believes he has one of the strongest squads yet. Although Jones is a passionate coach, he understands that there is more to the Friendship Four than just winning. The cultural experience is something he is most excited for, as he thinks it will give the players a once in a lifetime experience and build camaraderie that will bring the whole team closer. “Being able to travel to Ireland over the American Thanksgiving break is something I am really looking forward to! Our team will have a lot of opportunities to experience a different culture, attend school visits, and take in the sights of Dunluce Castle and Giants Causeway. Going to Ireland will be a great team bonding experience for the Golden Knights, and I am looking forward to promoting college hockey in Ireland with my teammates and coaching staff”.
Clarkson is just one of four schools on display November 24th and 25th in the Northern Irish Connections Friendship Four at the SSE Arena. This Friday there will be a flash sale for 24 hours where tickets will be on sale for only £5! Tickets can be purchased at the arena or through ticketmaster via friendshipfour.com.