POTSDAM — Two years ago, Clarkson defenseman Connor McCarthy barely saw the ice, playing in just nine games for the Golden Knights and picking up one assist.
Now, as a junior, McCarthy is not only a regular in the lineup, he also as emerged as one of Clarkson’s key players, ranking fifth on the team in scoring with six goals and six assists through the first 19 games of the season.
He’s been especially dangerous on the power play, with five of his goals coming when Clarkson has played a man up.
“He’s evolved,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said of McCarthy, who is an imposing 6-foot-7, 229 pounds. “He’s more assertive. He’s got a tremendous shot and he’s not afraid to take it. He’s confident. His stick skills are good. He’s taken the game defending and now he’s added that element where he is an offensive threat. He’s a real threat on the power play. He can hammer it. He’s got some good torque with his stick.”
McCarthy, who is humble, was asked if his size gives him more speed when he winds back to take a slap shot and said, “I don’t know that science stuff.”
He broke into the lineup as a regular last year, playing in all 39 games and scoring four goals with 10 assists. One perk for Jones is McCarthy is an effective defenseman, but he doesn’t take many penalties. He has picked up 14 total penalty minutes in 67 college games.
“He is tough to play against because of the length of his stick,” Jones said. “He doesn’t have to use his body as much as other guys. His legs have gotten really strong and he’s carried on in terms of his development off the ice. He carries his weight really well.”
When asked about his improvement as a player at Clarkson, McCarthy said, “I think it’s just my confidence with the puck, making plays and in the defensive zone. That comes with the coaches giving me some confidence.”
Not playing much early in your career and then becoming a key player is not new to Clarkson. Others have gone through similar experiences early in their career to McCarthy.
“We are good about the development process,” Jones said. “If you stick to the process and stick to a play you are going to reap rewards with it, within our program. That’s what we try to preach. We are rewarding guys who work hard and guys who earn it. We don’t make one decision on someone and that’s the finality to where they are going to sit. We allow guys to grow. That’s a big part of how we continue to move forward with the program.”
McCarthy, who is from LaSalle, Quebec, said he went to a Clarkson game about three years before he committed to the program, and never really looked at any other school.
“This was the school I wanted to come too,” McCarthy said. “They have a good business program. It’s close to home, so my family can come. The coaching staff liked the player I could be in the future and they are helping mold that as it goes on now. A lot of guys here are in and out of the lineup, but if they work hard and do the right things they can get in. There’s been a lot of people in the past who have done that.
“Just work hard and listen to the coaches, take any advice they give you and keep it simple.”
LAST WEEKEND AT SUNY CANTON
Appleton Arena has been SLU’s home since 1951, but renovations this year have caused the Saints men’s and women’s teams to have to play home games at SUNY Canton.
The women’s team is already done with that part of the schedule, but the men’s team concludes its run at SUNY Canton this weekend when they host Quinnipiac tonight and Princeton on Saturday.
The Saints men make their official Appleton Arena debut on Jan. 31, when they host Brown.
“It’s a great facility,” Saints captain Michael Laidley said of SUNY Canton’s arena. “It’s been great over there. They’ve hosted us really well. We are thankful to the fans that have gone to SUNY Canton and supported us. We appreciate it.”
The final weekend starts with a big challenge tonight against Quinnipiac, which has won five straight games.
“They play quick and they have good skill,” Saints coach Brent Brekke said. “Their puck movement is really good. They break pucks out really well. Teams don’t get a lot of sustained (offensive) zone time against them because they don’t spend a lot of time in their (defensive) zone. We have to do a good job of eliminating their speed and slowing them down a little bit.”