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Vol. LXV, No. 44
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPEN MIKE: Princeton University men’s hockey star Michael Sdao heads up the ice in a game last winter. Junior defenseman and assistant captain Sdao got this season off to a good start last weekend, scoring goals in consecutive games as the Tigers tied No. 9 Yale 2-2 last Friday before falling 3-2 to Brown a day later at the season-opening Ivy Shootout in Hanover, N.H. The Tigers head back to New England this weekend to play at Harvard on November 4 and at Dartmouth on November 5.

Tiger Men’s Hockey Gets Off to Promising Start Ties No. 9 Yale; Keeps Battling in Loss to Brown

Bill Alden

It was Bob Prier’s first game as head coach of the Princeton University men’s hockey team and he faced a daunting task as the Tigers took on No. 9 Yale, the defending ECAC Hockey champion.

While it would have been understandable if Prier was experiencing more than his share of butterflies, the former St. Lawrence star and assistant coach exuded a sense of calm as he took his spot behind the bench last Friday.

“I don’t think I was overly excited; I felt comfortable and confident,” said Prier, whose team was playing Yale in Hanover, N.H. in the annual Ivy Shootout.

“I felt I did everything possible to prepare; we have worked hard in the short time together. When you have worked as hard as you can, that helps you with the nerves. It is competition so there is going to be emotion; it is anxiety that turns to excitement.”

Prier’s charges went out and produced an exciting performance as they battled the Bulldogs to a 2-2 tie in overtime.

After withstanding a Yale storm in the first period that saw the Bulldogs outshoot the Tigers 13-4, Princeton took a 1-0 lead early in the second period on a goal by Michael Sdao.

Yale answered with two unanswered goals to take a 2-1 lead. With 32 seconds left in the period, Rob Kleebaum scored to knot the game at 2-2.

Princeton outshot Yale 9-3 in the third period but couldn’t find the back of the net and the game went into overtime.

In the extra session, the Bulldogs put the heat on Princeton with five shots but Tiger goalie Sean Bonar was up to the task, stopping them all to preserve the tie.

Prier was happy with the work he got from his players in the stalemate with the high-powered Bulldogs.

“Yale came out flying but we got our legs under us and we outplayed them in the second half of the game,” said Prier, whose team outshot Yale 24-17 over the last two periods and overtime.

“We started doing more with the puck, making more passes. We learned a lot in that game. We learned how good we can be but we need to play a complete game.”

The next day, Prier learned something about the character of his veterans as the Tigers fell behind Brown early and never stopped battling in a 3-2 loss.

“I don’t think I did a good job preparing them for that game,” said Prier, whose team surrendered an early goal to the Bears and trailed 3-1 entering the third period.

“We were a little too loose and came out flat and they got an early goal. We made some mistakes that cost us. In the second half, we dominated the game. We battled extremely hard in the third period. Brodie Zuk got a really good goal for us. We were all over them in the third. I learned a lot about our leadership and how badly they want it, that was nice to see.”

Two of the team’s key leaders, senior captain Marc Hagel and senior assistant captain Derrick Pallis showed Prier a lot.

“Marc Hagel did a great job of calming the team and controlling the puck,” added Prier, whose club outshot Brown 39-26 on the game. “Derrick Pallis really helps out. He is so poised in the defensive zone; he doesn’t throw the puck away.”

Junior stars Michael Sdao and Rob Kleebaum also handled the puck well over the weekend.

“Sdao had a good weekend statistically,” said Prier of the bruising 6’4, 230-pound junior defenseman and assistant captain who had tallied a goal in each game.

“Kleebaum had 13 shots in two games against pretty good defensive teams. Elite players in this league average 3-5 shots a game so that shows he can be a dynamic player.”

The Tigers got some dynamic goaltending from sophomore Bonar and junior Mike Condon. Bonar made 28 saves in the tie with Yale while Condon had 23 stops in the defeat to Brown.

“Both are good goalies in different ways, the competition is good and healthy for them,” said Prier.

“Bones played extremely well in the beginning against Yale and put together a good game in a 2-2 tie. Condo was outstanding. Brown puts a lot of traffic in front of the goal; it’s tough to see shots and I thought he played well.”

Prier is expecting his players to start putting more shots in goal. “We are certainly a team that can score more than two goals a game,” said Prier, whose squad was slated to host Quinnipiac in its home opener on November 1 before heading back to New England for games at Harvard on November 4 and Dartmouth on November 5.

“We have four lines; we can come at people in waves. We have to get better on transition and doing a better job getting it out of the d-zone. We need to be a lot better at identifying situations like odd-man rushes. We have to get better at communicating; that would help us improve in every way.”

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