Clarkson wins Desert Hockey Classic Championship with win over Minnesota Duluth

Clarkson wins Desert Hockey Classic Championship with win over Minnesota Duluth

GLENDALE, Arizona -- The team from Northern NY celebrated a weekend in the desert in style as Clarkson University skated away with the championship title of the Desert Hockey Classic in Glendale, AZ on Saturday by knocking off defending national champion Minnesota Duluth 3-1 at Gila Arena in the tournament championship game.

Featuring the toughest field of all the holiday tournaments with all four teams ranked in the Top 20, it was the #19 Golden Knights who carried off the Cactus Trophy for their third consecutive in-season tournament title. The Green and Gold advanced to the championship game after shutting out #13 Arizona State 3-0 on Friday. Third-ranked Minnesota Duluth defeated #8 Minnesota State 4-3 in overtime in the other first round game on Friday.

After posting 15 saves in Friday's shutout over the Sun Devils, junior Jake Kielly's (Eden Prairie, MN) followed with 29 stops against Minnesota Duluth (11-5-2) to earn Desert Hockey Classic MVP honors.

Winners of three straight, the Knights improve to 11-6. Clarkson closes out non-league play next Sunday at Vermont before returning to ECAC Hockey action on January 11-12, hosting Union and RPI at Cheel Arena.

Postgame audio Head Coach Casey Jones

The Bulldogs outshot the Knights 30-15, but Clarkson made the most of its chances, highlighted by two goals from junior co-captain Nico Sturm (Augsburg, Germany).

For the 11th game this season, Clarkson started the scoring, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.

Junior defenseman Shane Kuzmeski (Grayslake, IL) scored his first career goal at 8:01 of the opening period when his point shot deflected off a Minnesota Duluth defender and into the back of the net.  Freshman center Nick Campoli's(Toronto, ONT) faceoff win drew the loan assist on the goal. 

The score held at 1-0 until 15:41 of the stanza when Sturm snapped a pass from classmate Haralds Egle (Liepaja, Latvia) past UMD goaltender Hunter Shepard to give Clarkson a 2-0 advantage.  With the assist, Egle sets a career-high in points with 17. 

The only goal scored in the second period was by UMD's Parker MacKay just 32 seconds into the stanza.  The goal ended Kielly's shut-out streak at: 146:22. 

From there, Kielly and Shepard put on a goaltending clinic which included multiple highlight-reel saves at each end.  After 40 minutes Clarkson was up 2-1.

Minnesota Duluth would continue to pressure the Clarkson net with two power plays in the final frame.  Kielly stood tall making 12 saves, including several on good Bulldog scoring chances. 

Sturm tallied his second goal of the night and ninth of the campaign when he directed a loose puck into the empty Bulldog cage with 34 seconds remaining to make the final 3-1.  Senior defenseman Aaron Thow (Toronto, ONT) earned an assist.

Clarkson's shorthanded units continued to shine, killing off all three UMD power plays. The Knights have allowed just one power-play goal in the opponents last 34 man-advantage chances, including a current 16 straight kills, for a over the last nine games.

Clarkson has now won three consecutive regular-season tournaments for the first time in the program's 97 seasons. Last year, the Knights became the first ECAC Hockey team to ring the Bellpot Bell as Friendship Four Champions in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 2016, the Green and Gold skated away with Notre Dame's Shillelagh Tournament trophy in South Bend, IN.