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Vol. LXII, No. 14
 
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
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TAKING THEIR SHOT: Princeton University men’s hockey forward Mark Magnowski fires a shot during Princeton’s playoff run. Last Saturday, Magnowski and his teammates on fourth-seeded Princeton outshot top-seeded North Dakota 39-18 in the opening round of the NCAA Midwest Regional but came up short in falling 5-1 to the Fighting Sioux.

PU Men’s Hockey Falls in NCAA Opener but Proved It Belonged With the Big Boys

Bill Alden

Guy Gadowsky acknowledges that his Princeton University men’s hockey team was a bit overwhelmed at first by the atmosphere at the ECAC Hockey championships two weekends ago at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.

“In the first half of the game Friday night, everybody was awed by the surroundings and it affected our play,” said Princeton head coach Gadowsky. “We were tight and a bit tentative.”

The Tigers ultimately overcame those jitters, beating Colgate 3-0 in that semifinal game Friday night and then topping Harvard 4-1 a night later in the ECACH title game.

The win gave Princeton its first ECACH crown since 1997-98 and qualified it for the NCAA tournament.

Heading out to the Midwest Regional in Madison, Wis. last weekend, the fourth-seeded Tigers drew a tough assignment, getting matched against No. 1 North Dakota, one of the storied programs in college hockey with 17 NCAA Final 4s in its resume.

As Princeton landed in Madison after enjoying a special charter flight, Gadowsky liked the vibes he was getting from his players.

“Going through that experience in Albany really helped us,” said Gadowsky. “The Kohl Center in Madison is a beautiful venue and the guys had a great time with the hoopla. Once the puck dropped, they were ready to play.”

The fourth-year coach, though, wasn’t 100 percent sure his team was ready for the challenge posed by North Dakota, the third-ranked team in the country. “I think part of the question for me was how do we stack up against North Dakota,” said Gadowsky. “Over the last 25 games, they were the best team in the country.”

It didn’t take long for Gadowsky to get an affirmative answer to the question in his mind as Princeton skated with the Fighting Sioux all over the ice last Saturday. The Tigers outshot North Dakota 10-7 but found themselves trailing 1-0 on a power play goal by Andrew Kozek.

Looking to overcome that deficit, the Tigers found another gear in the second period, repeatedly peppering North Dakota goalie J.P. Lamoureax, generating a 15-5 edge in shots.

Unfortunately for Princeton, North Dakota was more efficient with its opportunities as Ryan Duncan scored to give the Fighting Sioux a 2-0 lead going into the third period.

Over the last 20 minutes, the Tigers kept pressing the issue but tournament-tested North Dakota pulled away to a 5-1 victory.

In assessing the setback which left Princeton with a final record of 21-14, Gadowsky believed his team proved that it belonged on the same ice with the elite of the college game.

“There was no doubt that we deserved to be there and that we could play with them,” said Gadowsky, who got a late goal from Cam MacIntyre on an afternoon which saw his team end with a 39-18 edge in shots.

“I think that on the 5-on-5, we played as well as they did. We just didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we had. If a couple of calls had gone our way, things could have been different.”

The Tigers also impressed Gadowsky with their cool demeanor as they battled the Fighting Sioux.

“It was business, this team has a business-like sense about it,” said Gadowsky.

“It was hard to be totally loose, they knew what this was about and what was going on.”

Gadowsky tipped his hat to North Dakota, who went on to edge host Wisconsin 3-2 in overtime in the regional final to qualify for its fourth straight Final Four and 18th overall.

“They had incredible skills; the first goal on the power play was as perfect a shot as you’ll see,” said Gadowsky.

“We looked at the film, Brad Schroeder was in the right place and Zane [Kalemba] had the right angle. Kozek just made a great shot, you have to give him credit for that. Duncan was last year’s Hobey Baker Trophy winner and he had two goals.”

In the team’s post-game locker room meeting, the emotions overflowed as the players reflected on a great run which saw the Tigers set a program record for most wins in a season.

“A number of the players spoke to the seniors,” recalled Gadowsky, whose core of seniors included captain Mike Moore, Rhodes Scholar Landis Stankievech, alternate captain Kyle Hagel, Keith Shattenkirk, and Erik Pridham.

“Some of the seniors talked about how much they enjoyed playing at Princeton and how they wish they had more games. It’s a very emotional thing for the seniors. It’s their last game at Princeton, a place that will mean so much to them over the years.”

For Gadowsky, the emotions were still raw after a game he thought should have gone differently.

“To be honest, I’m still a little mad because of how it happened,” acknowledged Gadowsky. “I wish we could have played another game. I think we played with them and we deserved a better fate.”

With a core of superb players coming back including the ECACH and Ivy League Player of the Year Lee Jubinville, All-Ivy forward Brett Wilson, All-Ivy goalie Kalemba, the high-scoring MacIntyre, and freshman stars Mike Kramer, Matt Arhontas, and Kevin Lohry, the Tigers should be looking at a good fate in the future.

“They have good examples to follow,” said Gadowsky, who now has a 54-68-9 record in his Princeton tenure.

“It will be a different attitude; when you reach some good things you haven’t, you know how to do it. It was a great year of firsts, the most wins, the first ECAC title in a decade but it also may have had a last, the last time a Rhodes Scholar scores the winning goal in a championship game.”

But with the success experienced by the Tigers this winter, it looks like there may be more championship games in the program’s future.

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