Howe searching for historic title

Matthew Gourlie
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Local hockey player heading to NCAA women's semifinals

Hamden, Conn. isn't the first place that comes to mind as a spring break destination.

Olivia Howe and the Clarkson Golden Knights are headed to the NCAA's Frozen Four.

For students at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. it's the place to be this weekend.

Moose Jaw's Olvia Howe and her Clarkson Golden Knights women's hockey team are headed to the Frozen Four in search of the school's first NCAA Division I national title.

"We're trying to keep our excitement contained a little bit, but once we get there I'm sure it will be pretty exciting," said Howe.

Clarkson (28-5-5) beat Boston College 3-1 to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time. They will meet Marcyhurst (23-8-4) in one national semifinal Friday at 6 p.m. Minnesota will meet Wisconsin in the other semifinal.

Clarkson and Mercyhurst met in mid-October in Potsdam and Mercyhurt won 2-0 and the teams tied 1-1. Howe isn't putting too much stock in those early-season meetings.

"I definitely think we've grown a lot since then," said the 5-10 sophomore forward. "That was during a little streak we had when we didn't perform at our greatest and had some losses and ties in there. Since then we've turned it around and went on our unbeaten streak. We know we have more to throw at them than we did before."

The Golden Knights went on an unbeaten run of 20 games from Dec. 7 until Mar. 9 that ended when Cornell beat them 1-0 in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) final.

"It was definitely a hard game to lose — especially since it was a championship game," said Howe. "It was hard to lose, but it wasn't the end of our season. We were pretty confident that we would get a (tournament) bid because we put ourselves in a good position throughout the year

"It was our first loss since before Christmas. It reminded us what it was like to lose and we knew we didn't want to be in that position again."

They ended up as the third seed in the tournament and were able to beat Boston College at home a week ago. Cornell earned the No. 2 seed, but lost 3-2 to Mercyhurst.

Howe felt they got back to playing the way they need to against Boston College.

"We got back to being able to sustain a forecheck like we usually do and we all had a high energy level. It was a fun game to play," she said.

The buzz after the Golden Knights booked their first trip to the Frozen Four was short-lived as most students left town for spring break. Howe said they're happy to be able to go about their business without too many distractions before heading to Connecticut and into the national spotlight.

Howe has grown into a bigger role in her second season. She is on the Golden Knights' second line and has nine goals and 23 points in 39 games and is a plus-19 on the season.

"I've worked my way into a permanent role and I've worked hard to get there. It's nice to be rewarded and have the coaches notice," said Howe. "I'm more comfortable and less nervous every time I'm out there."

She also, improbably, hasn't taken a penalty yet this season.

"I'm not too sure how that has happened. I think I get away with some things here and there," she said.

The Golden Knights have been paced by their defence all season. They've allowed an astounding 41 goals in 39 games this season. Despite their defensive prowess they've also played a lot of close, low-scoring games.

"We have been playing some close games. We know that once we get the lead we're not going to give it up. We focus on defence," said Howe who said their experience winning low-scoring games gives them a quiet confidence. "It helps us keep calm. We know that we've played close games and we can keep a lead. We're pretty confident out there knowing that we've seen all situations."

The key to that strong defence lies, in part, to their strong forecheck and hemming the opposition in deep. She feels that will be vital if they're going to earn the first national title banner in school history.

"We notice that when we play with a lot of energy everyone is cheering for each other on the bench and everyone is energized before they head out for their next shift. Our forecheck is really key for us. When we don't have a forecheck we're not doing too well," said Howe.

The Golden Knights are co-coached by Matt and Shannon Desrosiers, the first husband-and-wire co-head coaching tandem in college hockey. The pair each played in a Frozen Four with St. Lawrence.

Organizations: Boston College, NCAA, Clarkson University

Geographic location: Potsdam, N.Y., Moose Jaw, Minnesota Wisconsin Potsdam Connecticut

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