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Kaz Watch: Erin Ambrose leads Clarkson into title contention

02/26/2014, 7:30am MST
By Doug Williams - Special to USAHockey.com

Her name is second on the national leaderboard for assists and she ranks No. 6 in the nation in scoring, but Clarkson University sophomore Erin Ambrose doesn’t measure her worth by goals, assists and points.

Ambrose is a defenseman, and that’s where her priorities always will be.

She likes to pass and score as much as anyone, but she never wants her offense to get in the way of her defensive responsibilities.

“That’s a big thing for me,” said Ambrose, whose Clarkson team just clinched its first ECAC regular-season championship. “I’m a defenseman first and you can’t be a good defenseman if you’re not good defensively.”

This year, Ambrose — who was the ECAC’s Rookie of the Year as a freshman — must be doing something right in that regard, as Clarkson ranks No. 2 in the nation in defense, allowing just 1.15 goals per game.

And Clarkson, ranked fourth nationally, is on a roll. The Golden Knights are 25-4-5 and haven’t lost yet in 2014. Clarkson has a 17-game streak without a loss, dating to early December.

Ambrose, meanwhile, has been a big part of a very talented team that includes high-scoring forwards Jamie Lee Rattray, Carly Mercer and Brittany Styner and goaltender Erica Howe.

Ambrose is No. 2 in the nation in assists (35) and is sixth in NCAA Division I in points with 48 (including 13 goals). She’s already surpassed her offensive numbers from last season (6-30--36).

“I think I’ve done a good job of making sure I’m being strong defensively, and I think this year I’ve contributed a little more offensively than last year,” she said. She’s not only a part of the Golden Knights’ attack, but she works the point on the team’s power play, as well.

But Ambrose says a lot of her numbers are the result of being a part of a gifted team.

“It’s completely my teammates,” she said. “Rattray’s having a great year and if you look at assists, I wouldn’t be where I am if she didn’t have the finish that she has and the goal-scoring ability that she has. Our power play has also been very consistent this year … and being a part of that is really helpful, with Styner and [Shannon] MacAulay and [Cayley] Mercer.

“So, I mean the points are great, but the main thing is it’s helping us win hockey games — and that’s never going to be an individual thing.”

Clarkson co-head coach Matt Desrosiers said earlier this season that Ambrose’s growth offensively is something they’d hoped would happen. After a three-goal, five-point effort in a victory in October, Desrosiers praised Ambrose.

“Obviously, Erin is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” he said. “She’s able to make things happen on the ice because she is so heads up and poised with the puck. We have really been working with Erin on the offensive side of her game and things seem to be clicking for her right now.”

Though she’s only 19 and in her second year of college, Ambrose also has brought the same maturity and level of leadership to Clarkson that she’s brought to other teams.

Ambrose, from Keswick, Ontario, was the captain of Canada’s team in 2012 that won the Under-18 Women’s World Championship. At that tournament, she won the Directorate Award as best defender. She also helped Canada win the U18 world title in 2010 as a 15-year-old.

Before her experience with the national team, Ambrose played several years of hockey on boys’ teams and was even selected as captain on the AAA boys’ team she was on.

At Clarkson, she’s not trying to force her way into a position of leadership. She just plays her game.

“I think up to a point,” she said, when asked if she’s a leader on the team. “I just like to go out and do what I do. If that’s leadership, then that’s leadership, but it’s all in the eyes of teammates. That’s the most important thing. However they see me, I hope that it’s a help to the team.”

In Ambrose’s first season, Clarkson was able to advance to the NCAA Tournament as one of the final eight teams in the country. This season, Ambrose believes the Golden Knights can get even further.

She says one of the keys to this season’s team has been an ability to keep improving. Mistakes made in one game or on one shift have been fixed by the next game or shift.

“I like to think we have a deep team, and I think we have the right pieces of the puzzle,” she said. “Hopefully we can just put it all together.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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