It’s a little too early to start an Action Jackson for Hobey Baker campaign, but for one night freshman netminder Jackson Teichroeb had to have Niagara hockey fans asking, “Carsen Who?”
The 6-foot-1 London, Ont., native did his best to save the day for the Purple Eagles — just like his predecessor Carsen Chubak, a Hobey Baker finalist, did last year during NU’s 23-win season that culminated with the program’s fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Alas, Teichroeb’s 39-save effort was not enough to make up for lack of offense, including the absence of last year’s leading scorer Ryan Murphy, as Niagara raised the curtain on a new season with a 2-1 loss to Clarkson on Saturday night.
A crowd of 1,389 at Dwyer Arena came not only to see the unveiling of last year’s Atlantic Hockey Association regular-season champion and NCAA Tournament banners. They also had their first look at the new edition of the Purple Eagles, which was supposed to feature 17 returnees from last year, and was looking to extend its home unbeaten streak to 23 games.
They almost did thanks to the efforts of Teichroeb, but Jarrett Burton’s goal with 5:43 left won it for Golden Knights, who after winning just nine games last year began the new season with a win over the nation’s 20th-ranked team.
“Their tender had a really good game,” said Burton, who pounced on a loose puck near the crease during a goalmouth scramble after Kevin Tansey pushed a shot from the right wall near the circle toward the sea of bodies parked in front of the Niagara goalie. “We were fortunate enough to get a couple by him.”
“Going into a game, obviously the main goal is to win the game … but I felt like I played pretty good,” said Teichroeb about his collegiate debut.
Purple Eagles coach Dave Burkholder seconded that notion, saying he was very impressed with Teichroeb’s efforts.
“He’s the star of the game,” Burkholder said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the win for him. They had a pretty lucky bounce off the back wall on their first goal. … We thought he was going to be really good. If this is the start of it, boy, we’re in good shape.”
To think the questionmarks heading into the opener surrounded the goaltending position and not the forwards. As it turns out, the more pressing development could be along the front lines and not just because Clarkson held a 41-20 edge in shots — with all but seven coming even-strength.
Murphy, who had a team-high 36 points last season, has taken a personal leave for undisclosed reasons, according to Burkholder. It’s unknown when the senior will return.
When asked if Murphy was still enrolled in school, the 13th-year coach said, “Oh, yeah.” When asked if Murphy was skating with the team, Burkholder said: “That’s what I got for you guys.”
While the ice conditions weren’t great on a warm October night, the Purple Eagles didn’t do a good job of chipping pucks into space in the offensive zone. When they did generate some pressure in the zone, they tried to get a little too fancy instead of keeping it simple and shooting the puck on net. The Purple Eagles also didn’t go to “bloody-nose alley,” also known as the front of the net, nearly enough — settling for outside shots instead of shooting and crashing the crease for rebounds.
“We need to get more shots to the net collectively as a unit,” said junior Mike Conderman, whose wraparound goal on the power play with 12:41 left in the second period gave Niagara a 1-0 lead even though the Golden Knights had a 17-8 advantage in shots. “I think we need to play better in the hard areas.”
Clarkson tied it on a 5-on-3 power play three minutes later when Allan McPherson, parked at the right post, put in the rebound of a wide shot that caromed to him perfectly off the back wall. That came on the Golden Knights’ 21st shot.
Clarkson kept shooting, hoping to find a crack in Teichroeb’s armor. They didn’t, at least not directly. Even though he had an impressive debut, Burkholder said Adrian Ignagni, a 6-foot freshman from Mississauga, Ont., will get the start in goal during this afternoon’s rematch (2 p.m., TWCSN, 1340 AM).
Burkholder did admit he’d be tempted to use Teichroeb again if today’s game was at night, and with good reason.
“If it wasn’t for Jackson tonight, the score would’ve been 6- or 7-1,” NU junior defenseman and captain Kevin Albers said.