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Vol. LXII, No. 13
 
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
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SPLIT SCREEN: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Zane Kalemba moves into a split last Friday as he made one of his 27 saves in Princeton’s 3-0 win over Colgate in the ECAC Hockey semifinals. A night later, Kalemba made 35 saves as Princeton topped Harvard 4-1 to win the ECACH title game. Kalemba was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. The triumph improved 15th-ranked Princeton to 21-13 and earned the Tigers their first trip to the NCAA tournament since the 1997-98 season. Princeton will head to Madison, Wis. as the fourth seed in the Midwest Regional, taking on No. 1 North Dakota on March 29.

Sparked by Goalie Kalemba’s Cool-Headed Play, PU Men’s Hockey Wins ECAC, Heads to NCAAs

Bill Alden

As the seconds ticked down in the third period last Saturday night in the ECAC Hockey championship game, the members of the Princeton University men’s hockey team stood in unison on the edge of their bench.

Once the horn sounded, the players exploded over the boards, flinging their gloves, sticks, and helmets into the air in the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. as they celebrated their 4-1 win over Harvard.

Minutes later, as the Tigers stood on the ice soaking in the moment and waiting to accept the spoils of victory, one player didn’t crack a smile in the jubilation around him.

That player, sophomore goalie Zane Kalemba, remained expressionless as he accepted the trophy given to the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Without Kalemba’s penchant for keeping his cool no matter what is going on around him, there would have been no celebration for Princeton.

On Friday night against eighth-seeded Colgate in the ECACH semis, Kalemba made several diving saves in the first two periods to keep the No. 2 Tigers in the game as the Princeton offense sputtered and the teams headed into the dressing room for the second intermission knotted in a scoreless tie.

Tiger freshman Matt Arhontas broke the ice, scoring with 12 minutes left and then Kevin Lohry added two goals as Princeton won 3-0. Kalemba ended the night with 27 saves as he recorded his third shutout in four playoff games this season.

A night later against third-seeded Harvard, Kalemba was sharp again, stoning one shot after another as he held the Crimson scoreless through the first two periods.

The Tiger offense, meanwhile, was clicking as senior captain Mike Moore scored five minutes into the game and classmate Landis Stankievech scored midway through the second period.

Kalemba then showed he was human, allowing a power play goal in the first minute of the third period. But the 5’11 native of Saddle Brook, N.J. was perfect after that blip while Brett Wilson and Mark Magnowski added goals to give Princeton the final tallies in its 4-1 win.

The triumph improved 15th-ranked Princeton to 21-13 and earned the Tigers their first trip to the NCAA tournament since the 1997-98 season. Princeton will head to Madison, Wis. as the fourth seed in the Midwest regional, taking on No. 1 North Dakota on March 29. The winner will advance to the regional title game the next day to face the victor of the Denver-Wisconsin clash with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line.

Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky recognized that it was the ice water in Kalemba’s veins that was largely responsible for earning Princeton its trip to the NCAA tourney.

“The truth is I have never seen a performance like that in person,” said Gadowsky, looking resplendent in the post-game media conference in his black suit and a grin that never left his face.

“That’s the best goaltending performance that I have had the privilege of being part of whether on the losing or winning end of it. He’s phenomenal but there’s not one of our guys who is surprised at what he can do, especially in high pressure situations. It just doesn’t get to him.”

Predictably, the unflappable Kalemba, sporting a playoff beard, took a matter-of-fact tone as he analyzed his brilliant weekend. “I think I had a couple of breaks that went my way, a couple of bounces that a couple of weeks ago would have went in,” said Kalemba, who recorded 35 saves in the win over Harvard. “For some reason or another, I reacted quicker and pucks just seemed to hit me.”

Kalemba did acknowledge that he was rattled briefly in the Harvard game. “I think on their first power play, there were a couple of shots I didn’t see clearly and I got a pad on them at the last minute,” recalled Kalemba, who now has a goals against average of 2.36 a game this season.

“I think that on the first power play, if they had scored there it would have been a different game. In the second period, they had a couple of tricky shots and I was in their path when they shot it.” Princeton senior captain and star defenseman Mike Moore wasn’t surprised that Kalemba was an obstacle in Harvard’s path

“I think the first thing is that we haven’t seen anything different from the first time I met him, every practice, every workout, he’s so calm,” said Moore, who was named to the All-Tournament team along with Kevin Lohry.

“He builds the confidence in the net for us. He’s intense in practice, he’s a leader. It starts from the goal out. He’s a rock back there for us. He deserved the award as player of the tournament.”

In Gadowsky’s view, his team deserved to win the ECACH crown. “They are such high quality guys,” asserted Gadowsky, whose team established a program record for most wins in a season with the triumph over Harvard.

“They are so impressive I can’t say I’m surprised. When you get to see them everyday, they are consistently great people. I believe that good things happen to great people. All 26 of those guys are great people.”

One of those great people, senior Stankievech, who was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship last November, was thrilled to notch what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

“Mike [Moore] was dialing along the boards and I was just trying to back him up there and the puck kind of squirted back to me,” recalled Stankievech, who has also won Princeton’s Pyne Prize and the ECACH Scholar-Athlete award this season.

“I looked and there was no one in front of the net at the time but I threw it at the net. As I watched it go, Kevin Lohry was skating toward the net, I thought Richter [Harvard goalie Kyle Richter] just caught it and there would be a whistle and all of a sudden everybody started cheering. I thought Lohry must have tipped it or something. I mean I was just happy to see it go in ultimately.”

In Stankievech’s view, scoring the goal that helped Princeton win the ECACH rivaled the feeling he had when he learned he was a Rhodes Scholar.

“I don’t know what is the bigger honor,” said Stankievech. “I know one thing — if I wasn’t on this team with these guys and this coaching staff, I wouldn’t be a Rhodes Scholar. This is pretty special because it’s not just me, it’s 26 guys and three coaches that are part of my family. This one in a way is a lot more enjoyable.”

Achieving both goals was the result of a process that began the day he walked into Princeton.

“In academics, hockey, or a job, whatever your goals are, a big part of accomplishing them is taking care of the details,” asserted Stankievech.

“Doing the right thing on the ice in practice, in the weight room, off the ice making sure you get your sleep for your athletics and your mind. If you take care of the details, good things kind of tend to work out. I obviously wanted to win the ECAC but I wasn’t thinking I was going to be scoring the game winning goal. I was just thinking take it a day at a time, a goal at a time. I just tried to accomplish small goals along the way.”

Now, Stankievech and his teammates have their sights on a bigger goal. “I don’t think there will be any change in mentality; we started the year off 5-8 and people might have considered us underdogs in some of the games we played,” said Stankievech.

“But we played the same way every game — just do the little things that make us Princeton hockey. Next weekend, we’ll just do the same thing. We’re not content to just win this league. If any team starts the year and says their goal is not to win the national championship, they are not going to win it. I think we just have to keep taking one game at a time, our goal is to win a national championship.”

Kalemba, meanwhile, is determined to keep his laser-like focus. “Once the puck drops, I don’t think about what the other goalie is like,” said Kalemba.

If Kalemba can keep playing like he did last weekend, Princeton could get a shot at achieving its ultimate goal.

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