Vol. LXII, No. 31
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
CHICAGO FIRE: Matt Godlewski controls the puck in action this past winter during his freshman season with the Princeton University mens hockey team. Earlier this month, the 61, 190-pound defenseman got a taste of the pro game as he played in the Chicago Blackhawks 2008 Prospects camp.
Matt Godlewski was looking forward to a quiet summer.
The sophomore defenseman for the Princeton University mens hockey team planned to spend a lot of time on the lake near his familys home in Elk River, Minn. when he wasnt going through his individual skating and conditioning routines.
But then Godlewski got a phone call from Tiger assistant coach Keith Fisher that changed his plans.
I was doing my same offseason routine and I got a call from Coach Fisher saying that the Chicago Blackhawks wanted me to come to their prospects camp, recalled Godlewski. I hadnt spoken to anyone with the team so it was a total surprise.
The 61, 190-pound Godlewski jumped at the opportunity and enjoyed a busy week at the camp which took place earlier this month at the Edge Ice Arena near Chicago.
It was really intense, a lot of the guys there were trying out to make the Blackhawks or one of their minor league teams, said Godlewski.
It wasnt just coming in and skating around. I had an advantage because it wasnt a try-out for me; I was able to play relaxed.
The camp featured a rigorous fitness test, on-ice instruction, three scrimmage games, and off-ice training. A total of 44 players were on hand, including several recent Blackhawks draft picks and other players under contract with the organization.
Godlewski thrived in the intense atmosphere of the camp. It gave me a lot of confidence, said Godlewski. I played well against pros, its a great way to head back into the college season.
Coming into his freshman season with Princeton, Godlewski was confident he could be a regular contributor for the Tigers.
I really didnt know what to expect; I knew I wanted to play in every game, that is usually tough to do for a freshman, said Godlewski, who had a goal and two assists in 32 appearances for the Tigers this past winter in his debut campaign.
I was able to do that; the off-ice training was a lot more intense than I expected.
For Godlewski, keeping up with his academic load required intensity and focus.
By far the toughest thing was balancing schoolwork with the hockey, acknowledged Godlewski.
In high school, it wasnt that difficult. You could sleep in and you didnt have the travel. At Princeton, you have to learn how to turn the hockey stuff on and off. It can be really hard when you are on the road in a hotel and you know you have to be doing your school work.
Although Princeton got off to a sluggish 5-8 start, Godlewski was confident that the teams hard work would pay off.
We had lost some games we should have won, said Godlewski, who emerged as a key defender for the Tigers as they went on to go 22-14 and win the ECAC Tournament in rising to No. 15 in the national polls.
I think when we went on Christmas break, we got almost a month and a half to focus on hockey. It helped me adjust to college hockey; I felt that I really started to pick up the system. The team went on a roll after that.
The influence of team captain and All-American defenseman Mike Moore hastened Godlewskis adjustment to college hockey.
Mike was unbelievable to look up to and to see how he was in control on and off the ice, said Godlewski.
He gave us pointers on the ice. He took us under his wing and he was always positive.
The Tigers certainly enjoyed a positive experience as they topped Colgate in the ECAC semifinals and then topped Harvard in the title game.
By far the experience of being there was the thing Ill remember most, added Godlewski.
It was a lot more of a big deal than I had thought after we beat Yale in the quarterfinals. When we got up to Albany and had the banquet; it hit me what a big deal this was. Winning it was something else.
While the uplifting season ended on a down note with a 5-1 loss to North Dakota in the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers still took positives from that setback.
I think we learned we can skate with anyone in the country, said Godlewski.
We outshot them 39-18 and controlled the game; they just did a better job of burying their opportunities.
As Godlewski goes back to his offseason routine, which includes skating on a treadmill, weightlifting, and on-ice work, he is looking forward to helping the Tigers maximize their opportunities in the upcoming season.
There is a lot of excitement going into next season, said Godlewski, who is one of 20 returners for a Tiger squad that graduated just five seniors. We are excited for next year; we have a lot of good guys coming back and we should be even better.
And after his week with the Blackhawks, Godlewski figures to be a lot better for the Tigers this winter.
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