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Vol. LXV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
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ON HIS WATCH: Bob Prier is all smiles this past May as he was introduced as the new head coach of the Princeton University men’s ice hockey team. The Prier era will get underway this weekend when the Tigers play in the Ivy Shootout at Hanover, N.H. where they will face No. 10 Yale on October 28 and Brown the next day in non-conference contests. Prier, a former star player and assistant coach at St. Lawrence, took over the Tiger program after Guy Gadowsky left to be the head coach at Penn State.

Princeton Men’s Hockey Starting Prier Era As It Faces Yale, Brown in Ivy Shootout

Bill Alden

Bob Prier has hit the ground running since taking the helm of the Princeton University men’s ice hockey team this past May.

“No question that it has been a dead sprint; it has been extremely enjoyable getting acclimated with Princeton,” said Prier, a former star player and assistant coach at St. Lawrence who took over the Tiger program after Guy Gadowsky left to be the head coach at Penn State.

“My assistant coaches went through the same thing. We have bonded; we really don’t think about it any more. In the last six weeks we have spent a lot of time with the guys. It has been great to get to know them. They are a fantastic group of guys; they are lots of fun.”

The Tigers will open the Prier era this weekend when they play in the Ivy Shootout at Hanover, N.H. where they will face No. 10 Yale on October 28 and Brown the next day in non-conference contests.

Prier believes the fans at Baker Rink will have a lot of fun watching the team’s group of forwards.

“We really have more depth up front,” said Prier, whose team showed good offensive punch last weekend as it topped Guelph University (Ontario) 9-4 and Neumann University (Pa.) 5-1 in preseason scrimmages.

“A lot of teams rely on one or two lines. I think we can come at teams in waves and have scoring by committee.”

The Tigers will be relying on gifted sophomore Andrew Calof to trigger its attack.

“Calof has that sixth sense that great athletes have,” asserted Prier of the native of Nepean, Ontario who had a team-high 33 points last winter with nine goals and 24 assists on the way to being named the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Year.

“He can anticipate situations and get in the right spot at the right time. It looks like he is stopped and all of a sudden he spins off and finds an opening.”

Princeton has other forwards in juniors Eric Meland (7 goals, 14 assists in 2010-11) and Rob Kleebaum (12 goals, 8 assists) together with sophomores Andrew Ammon (10 goal, 7 assists) and Jack Berger (2 goals, 7 assists) who can open up opposing defenses.

“Meland and Kleebaum had good weekends; they should be good weapons for us,” said Prier.

“They know where to be on the ice. Berger is a big, strong kid. He understands how to use his strength. He may not have the lateral movement of other players but he gets in the right position around the net and has a terrific shot. Ammon can just fly straight up and down the ice.”

Prier is depending on senior Derrick Pallis (7 goals, 15 assists) and junior Michael Sdao (3 goals, 7 assists) to provide the Tigers with some terrific work on defense.

“Pallis is a little like Calof; he has good instincts for the game,” added Prier. “He knows when to spin off. Sdao is a big raw horse of a kid. He loves to shoot and passes well. He can shoot right through you.”

Princeton should get additional help along the blue line from promising young performers, sophomore Kevin Ross (9 assists) and freshman Kevin Mills. “Ross had a good weekend; he is an all around player,” said Prier. “He is a sophomore but plays like a senior with the way he carries himself and makes the right plays. Mills is like most first-year guys; he needs to learn to compete hard all the time. The speed picks up at this level and you need to go hard all the time. He is off to a good start. He definitely played well this weekend; it won’t take much time for him to pick this up.”

The goalie tandem of junior Mike Condon (2.82 goals against average) and sophomore Sean Bonar (2.22 goals against average) should pick up the Tigers.

“Condo had hip surgery and he has the ability to be more limber and flexible,” said Prier.

“He is really feeling good. Sean brings an incredible work ethic. We spent five of six weeks in the weightroom and training. To see the goaltenders at such a high level of conditioning is impressive. The off-ice work translates into success in games.”

Another factor that should help the goalies succeed is the presence of new assistant coach Greg Gardner, a former star goalie at Niagara University.

“Greg works hard with them,” said Prier, whose other assistant coach is Scott Garrow. “He went through it; he knows when to say things. After the game Friday, Condo was looking for Greg. He helps the goalies mentally, emotionally, and tactically.”

Prier is happy with where his squad is mentally, emotionally, and tactically as it heads into the season.

“I like what we have with just seven practices and two exhibition games,” said Prier. “We are ahead of where I thought we would be. It is a testament to the guys’ focus and how elite they can be.”

Princeton will need to have a sharp focus in its opener in order to beat a Yale team that is coming off an ECAC hockey championship campaign that saw it go 28-7-1 and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.

“It couldn’t be better than to play Yale,” maintained Prier, who is taking over a team that went 17-13-2 last winter. “That is a great opportunity for us. If we play with the same energy we showed this weekend and improve in some areas, it should be good.”

In Prier’s view, Princeton could do a lot of good things this winter. “They have the opportunity to be elite and I don’t have to convince them of that,” said Prier.

“We just need to be more responsible with the puck and communicate better. We need to do the little things that seem so simple but are not. The guys want to be a great team.”

And Prier is having a great time as he looks to help the players achieve that goal.

“I couldn’t be happier, I am extremely grateful for this chance,” said Prier. “The biggest thing is to continue to appreciate it and that makes you work that much harder. I love it and cherish the opportunity, just like the guys need to do.”

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