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Vol. LXIV, No. 43
 
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
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HEY KRAMER: Princeton University men’s hockey star forward Mike Kramer heads up the ice in a game last season. Senior Kramer is Princeton’s leading returning scorer, having tallied 26 points last season on 11 goals and 15 assists.

After Getting Derailed by Injury Woes Last Winter, PU Men’s Hockey Sees Return to Health in 2010-11

Bill Alden

Coming into last winter, the Princeton University men’s hockey team was the toast of ECAC Hockey.

In 2007-08, Princeton came out of nowhere to win the ECACH championship and advanced to its first NCAA tournament since 1998-99.

A year later, the Tigers spent most of the season ranked in the top 10 and posted a record on the way to the ECACH final four and earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney.

But as the 2009-10 season unfolded, a seemingly never-ending series of injuries made Princeton toast as it stumbled to a 12-16-3 record and was unceremoniously bounced from the ECACH playoffs, getting swept 2-0 by Harvard in the first round.

With a new campaign around the corner, Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky said that there is a feeling around the program that last year was an aberration.

“There is a sense of optimism; the disappointment last year had a lot to do with the injury situation,” said Gadowsky, who had 17 of 24 players miss action at various points last season due to injury.

“There is a sense of confidence that we will have fewer injuries and that we will deal better with the injuries that we do have.”

As Princeton opens its season this weekend by competing in the Ivy Shootout in New Haven, Conn., Gadowsky is optimistic that he will get plenty of production from his quartet of senior forwards, Mike Kramer (11 goals and 15 assists last season), Kevin Lohry (four goals and 10 assists), Matt Arhontas (seven goals and 11 assists), and Sam Sabky (two goals and four assists).

“I am expecting Kramer to be a top offensive threat; he has done so much to improve his overall game,” said Gadowsky.

“The more he works on that, the better he has gotten. Lohry brings so much; he is an offensive threat with his speed. He plays with a lot of grit; he is a guy you would like on three lines. Arhontas is an overachieving winner; he is the type of guy you want on your team. Sabky thought he could help the team when he was a sophomore by doing things other than scoring goals and he ended up scoring. Last year took a step back when he thought he needed to score goals. We are looking for him to be a more complete player this year.”

Gadowsky believes returning forwards junior Marc Hagel (seven goals and four assists) together with sophomores Eric Meland (five goals and six assists) and Will MacDonald (four goals and four assists) can each take a step forward.

“Anyone looking at what Marc Hagel did the last half of the season would be expecting him to be a threat,” asserted Gadowsky.

“He brings confidence and grit; he helps the team all over the ice. Meland had a five-point game last year but didn’t score a lot of points. The points he had came in bunches; we are looking for him to be consistent. MacDonald put up good numbers in limited time; he couldn’t play until December. He skates well; he really motors.”

The Tigers are expecting freshmen Andrew Calof and Jack Berger to get off to a fast start.

“Calof is deceptively fast; he doesn’t mind going through traffic,” said Gadowsky of Calof, who tallied a goal and three assists as Princeton topped Trois Rivieres and Morrisville State in preseason scrimmages last week.

“He has great hands; he set up two goals in our first scrimmage. If you ask the coaches I think they would say Jack Berger has been the most pleasant surprise of the camp. He is a big, big kid who really skates. He blocks shots and he finishes checks. For a young player, he has a really complete game.”

Along the back line, stellar senior defenseman Taylor Fedun gives Princeton a lot of game.

“He brings everything,” said Gadowsky of Fedun, who tallied three goals and 14 assists last season.

“He is a tough guy to play against; no one likes to play against him. He also produces a lot of offense. Everyone knows he is excellent but I still think he is underrated. When you watch him day in, day out, you see all the things he does and how much he helps the team. He has a ton of talent and a ton of grit.”

Along the blue line, Princeton has a ton of potential with the blend of veterans Matt Godlewski, Derrick Pallis, Cam Ritchie, and Michael Sdao together with freshmen Kevin Ross, Alec Rush, and Jeremy Goodwin.

“We have a very capable defensive corps; all eight can definitely make arguments for logging playing time,” maintained Gadowsky.

“Sdao, like Hagel, did really well in the last half of the season. You look for him to be a leader back there. He doesn’t just contain people, he punishes them. Ross is a fun player to watch. He is cerebral and agile; he reminds you of Pallis.”

The Tigers will be missing a major leader with graduation of record-setting goalie Zane Kalemba, who set program bests in wins (57), shutouts (nine), and save percentage (.912).

It may take more than one person to replace Kalemba as senior Alan Reynolds, sophomore Mike Condon, and freshman Sean Bonar are all vying for time between the pipes.

“It is a three-horse race; we don’t know what to expect,” said Gadowsky. “We will give them all a chance and see if one, two, or all three emerge. Based on what Bonar did in juniors, he should be excellent. Rennie is a tremendous teammate and tremendous athlete. It is hard to see that athleticism under pads. Condon has more confidence and he has worked on his body. He has improved his strength; it shows in his stance.”

Gadowsky will looking to see improvement this weekend when his team faces Dartmouth on Friday in a non-conference game in the opening round of the Ivy Shootout and then plays either Brown or No. 5 Yale the next day depending on Friday’s results.

“It will give us a better gauge of where we are,” said Gadowsky. “It will give us an idea of what we have and how we will stack up. We would like to play Yale. They are the top-ranked team in the league; that would be a good test for freshmen and younger players.”

But as the season unfolds, Gadowsky believes his team’s success will come down to health and goaltending.

“We need to stay healthy; I think that is extremely important for us,” said Gadowsky.

“We need one or more goaltenders to emerge as a top goalie. In this league; it is not enough to just have good goaltending, you need excellent goaltending.”

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