Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 33
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
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NEXT STOP: Zane Kalemba makes a stop last winter in his final season with the Princeton University men’s hockey team. The unflappable Kalemba ended his Princeton career as the program leader in wins (57), shutouts (nine), and save percentage (.912). After a stint with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League this March and taking part in the Tampa Bay Lightning prospects camp in July, Kalemba is looking to catch on with a pro organization later this month before NHL training camps start in September.

After Record-Breaking PU Hockey Career, Star Goalie Kalemba Aiming for Pro Gig

Bill Alden

Over the course of his sterling career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team, star goaltender Zane Kalemba was known for his coolness under fire.

The unflappable Kalemba ended his Princeton career this past winter as the program leader in wins (57), shutouts (nine), and save percentage (.912). He was second in goals against average (2.46) and saves (2,680).

But with Princeton going through an up-and-down season in his final campaign, Kalemba’s levelheaded nature was tested.

“I struggled a little bit,” said Kalemba, who had an 8-11-1 record in 2009-10 with a 2.89 goals against average as the Tigers posted a 12-16-3 record.

“In the middle of the season, I had some good games. I had a shutout against RPI where I think I played one of the best games of my career. But then I struggled against the Yales and the Cornells. I guess it was a matter of getting used to the new scenarios and the new players. I think I definitely learned a lot from the year.”

With fall around the corner, Kalemba is hoping for a new hockey scenario as he looks to catch on with a pro club.

This past March, Kalemba got his first taste of pro hockey as he had a brief stint with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.

Even though Kalemba didn’t see any game action in his back-up role with the Admirals, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL, he picked up some valuable experience.

“I had a couple of weeks to go down and get my feet wet to see what the league is all about,” said the 5’11, 175-pound Kalemba, a native of Saddle Brook, N.J.

“You see what it takes at that level; the shots and the passes are so crisp. You always have to be in position. If you are not in position, you don’t have a chance at making the save. When you are in position, you have to basically hope it hits you and rely on your reflexes. You have to adjust your game and the only way you can do that is to experience things at that level.”

Kalemba got more exposure to the pro game this summer as he took part in Tampa Bay’s prospects camp.

In addition to testing his skills against some of the organization’s top young players on the ice, Kalemba picked up some good off-ice knowledge.

“We would have hour-long seminars,” recalled Kalemba, who said he hopes to catch on with a pro organization later this month before NHL training camps start in September.

“One day it was on nutrition; another day, it was on strength and conditioning training. It was just learning how to be a professional. When you are not on the ice, you are trying to eat, work out, and give your body the essentials it needs to make it.”

Kalemba is proud of his role in making the Tigers a force as he helped the program win the 2008 ECAC championship and make two appearances in the NCAA tournament. Kalemba’s achievements were recognized this spring when he was named as one of the winners of the 2010 William Winston Roper Trophy, given to the top senior male athletes at PU.

It marked the third straight year that a PU hockey player has been one of the Roper honorees with forward Lee Jubinville winning it in 2009 and defenseman Mike Moore the year before.

“It is a huge honor to be one of the top athletes at Princeton; I take a lot of pride in that,” said Kalemba, who shared the honor with high jumper Justin Frick and lightweight rowing star Jack Leonard.

“The year before Lee Jubinville won it and Mike Moore won it the year before that. It says a lot about where the hockey program is headed and what coach Gadowsky is doing with the program.”

For Kalemba, the magical weekend in 2008 when he was the MVP of the ECAC tournament ranks as a major highlight of his four years at Princeton. Kalemba made 27 saves in shutting out Colgate in the semis and then had 35 stops in the ECAC championship game as Princeton topped Harvard 4-1.

“I just felt like everything was falling into place,” remembered Kalemba. “Against Colgate, there were a lot of Grade A scoring chances and I was basically just in the right position. It just seemed like the puck was hitting me; everything was going my way. So that weekend would definitely stand out.”

In reflecting on his PU career, Kalemba said the most important lessons were gained when things weren’t going his way.

“I think I am definitely tougher mentally than I was when I was 20 years old coming in as a freshman and not really knowing what to expect of the college level,” asserted Kalemba, who was both the ECACH and Ivy League Player of the Year as a junior on the way to earning second-team All-America honors.

“You are not playing 60-80 games like you are playing in a junior league. You are playing about 35 so each game you have to be 100 percent mentally ready. I think I developed that skill. I learned to use other tools like visualization and positive thinking. I think you can work at it but the only way to do it is through experience. I think being in all those types of situations and working at forgetting about a bad goal or a bad game and realizing you have got to put it behind you, move on, and make the best of the rest of the season.”

Kalemba has worked on passing those lessons along to younger goalies in the area, serving as an instructor with Textbook Goaltending Summer School, which is run by former Tiger goalie Craig Fiander.

“This is my fifth year; the first time was before my freshman year at Princeton,” said Kalemba, who worked with the Textbook students this summer for a day after completing the Tampa Bay prospects camp.

“I am participating in the drills a lot more; taking a lot more shots and working on my summer training here. It’s definitely been a big help for me in my career and helping some of the local kids has been great. I have had a chance to see guys like Karl Stafford (of WW/P-S) and Josh Berger (of Princeton High) develop over the years with Textbook.

Fiander, for his part, is proud of Kalemba’s association with the Textbook program. “Before Zane was at Princeton, I connected with him through the coaching staff,” said Fiander, a 1993 Princeton alum who has served as the goalie coach for both the Tiger men’s and women’s programs.

“I knew he was a New Jersey kid and I said ‘hey I run a camp if you want to get out there’ and he came out. True to character, he has been out there ever since. I think it’s a great story; he stuck with it and he’s really showed that you can accomplish a lot with perseverance and resilience.”

As Kalemba looks to stick with the pros, he believes he can accomplish a lot by staying in character.

“The game is very simple, even when you get to the top level of the NHL and go to those prospect camps,” said Kalemba.

“What I learn there is what I have always learned when I was younger, simplifying the game and working on your squareness and angles. The more simple you make it, the better off you’ll be.”

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