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Vol. LXIII, No. 43
 
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
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SHUTTING THE DOOR: Princeton University men’s hockey star goalie Zane Kalemba makes a stop in action last season. Kalemba enters the 2009-10 campaign as a preseason first-team All-American in the wake of his heroics last winter that saw him get named as the ECACH and Ivy League Player of the Year.

Drawing Confidence From Battle-Tested Defense No. 9 PU Men’s Hockey Expecting a Big Winter

Bill Alden

Over the last few years, the Princeton University men’s ice hockey team has been known for its free-wheeling, entertaining style of play.

Indeed, some have observed that the Tigers have been emulating the high-octane Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s while the rest of ECAC Hockey favors the close-to-the vest style of the New Jersey Devils of the 1990s.

As the ninth-ranked Tigers open their 2009-10 season by hosting Brown on October 30 and No. 11 Yale a day later in non-conference contests. Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky asserted that his team might conjure up visions of the defensive play that helped the Devils to three Stanley Cups.

“You have to be excited about this team’s defense; we could really set some standards,” said the sixth-year head coach who guided the Tigers to a 22-12-1 mark last winter as Princeton set a program record for single-season wins and made its second straight NCAA tournament.

“We strive for excellence in certain areas; we need our defense to be a constant as the offense gets in gear. Jubs and Willie (graduated forwards Lee Jubinville and Brett Wilson) were so successful right from the start; they became staples of our program. I look at defense as the staple of this team.”

The staple of the Princeton defense is senior goaltender Zane Kalemba, who is putting together one of the greatest careers in program history.

The 5’11”, 175-pound Kalemba has a lifetime record of 49-32-2 record and a career goals against average of 2.27. Last winter, the Saddle Brook, N.J. native was named as ECACH and Ivy League Player of the Year and earned second-team All-American recognition. He comes into his final campaign having been named as a preseason first-team All-American.

“Kalemba has been fine-tuning things for the last two years,” said Gadowsky of Kalemba who spent a week at the San Jose Sharks development camp this past summer and will be backed up by junior Alan Reynolds and freshman Mike Condon.

“He is the most mentally tough athlete I have ever been around. He’s so calm and composed and that’s not by accident. He works at it. His value to the team goes beyond stopping pucks. His mental toughness is a big asset.”

Princeton will get some tough play on the blue line from senior defender Jody Pederson.

“Jody for sure is the leader of the defense,” said Gadowsky of the 6’3”, 215-pound Pederson who comes into the season with 44 career points in 101 games.

“He is a great player. He is great on defense and great on offense. He moves the puck so well; he has great vision and hand skills. He can make plays from either side while a lot of guys are only dangerous on the forehand.”

Pederson will likely be paired up with junior Taylor Fedun (three goals, 12 assists in 2008-09). “Taylor is a gritty guy with good offense skills,” said Gadowsky.

“He and Jody played together last year and they speak the same language. With another year under their belts, I expect them to contribute more to the offense.”

Gadowsky is expecting a bigger contribution this winter from sophomore Derrick Pallis and junior Cam Ritchie.

“We put them together last year and they played well,” said Gadowsky. “Pallis has deceptive offensive skills. Ritchie is not 6’4” or something like that but he will surprise you with some bone-jarring hits. He’s not fun to play against.”

Towering freshman Michael Sdao won’t be a fun guy to deal with for Princeton’s foes.

“Sdao is a very imposing player; he is aggressive and he will make people pay coming across the middle,” said Gadowsky of the 6’4”, 220-pound Sdao, who was picked in the seventh round of the NHL draft this past June by the Ottawa Senators. “He has better puck skills than people give him credit for.”

On offense, Princeton’s most skilled player should be senior forward Dan Bartlett, the team’s leading scorer last winter with 28 points on 16 goals and 12 assists.

“Barts has looked good, not only is he our leading returning scorer, he was also our leading plus/minus player last season,” added Gadowsky.

“The thing about Barts is that he can get his numbers playing with everyone. It gives us versatility because he is not just scoring with one line.”

Senior forward Mark Magnowski also brings versatility to the Tigers up front.

“From day one when he got here, he was probably our most intelligent player,” asserted Gadowsky.

“Mags is as intelligent in defensive zone as he is on offense. He makes everybody better. He is definitely a guy we are looking to with the loss of Jubs and Willie to elevate his game and pick up additional numbers.”

Gritty 5’7”, 145-pound junior forward Matt Arhontas helps elevate the team with his intensity.

“Matt Arhontas is so great for a team; he is the ultimate overachiever in everything he does,” said Gadowsky.

“You can’t forget that in our championship season when he was a freshman, he had the most goals for us down the stretch. We look for him to get important goals. It’s hard to not get excited playing with a guy like that. He demands so much of himself, he makes you demand more of yourself.”

Gadowsky is excited about his other options at forward which include senior Tyler Beachell (four goals, five assists in 2008-09), juniors Kevin Lohry (five goals, nine assists), Mike Kramer (three goals, nine assists), and Sam Sabky (five goals, 10 assists) together with freshman Eric Meland. Bruising senior Cam MacIntyre (one goal, five assists) is currently sidelined with a lingering injury but Gadowsky expects him to be back in action early in the season.

After seeing his team split two preseason games last weekend, topping Morrisville State 7-0 before losing 5-3 to Windsor, Gadowsky believes his players have to get back to basics in order to get off to a hot start.

“We have set program records the last two years for most wins and everyone has expectations that that is going to continue,” said Gadowsky, who noted that the team learned some important lessons from the disappointing conclusion to last season which saw the Tigers blow late leads in overtime losses to Cornell in the ECACH semis and Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA tourney.

“We have to get back to the foundation that helped us set those records. We can’t be too fancy and get ahead of ourselves.”

The Tigers can start laying that foundation this weekend as they host rivals Brown and Yale.

“Brown has new coaching staff; we are not sure what to expect when it comes to X’s and O’s but we know that their players will be hungry to show their new coach that they can play,” said Gadowsky.

“We are very excited to go against Yale. They are a great, great team; I expect them to be one of the top teams in the country. It is a good test for us.”

If Princeton’s defense lives up to Gadowsky’s expectations, the Tigers could find themselves among the nation’s elite teams.

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