Andrew Calof picked up right where he left off as the Princeton University men’s hockey team hosted Sacred Heart last Sunday in returning to action after a lengthy exam break.
In Princeton’s last game before the hiatus, junior forward Calof notched a goal and three assists to help Princeton top Rensselaer 4-1 on January 12.
Against Sacred Heart, Calof duplicated that one goal-three assist output, sparking the Tigers to a 5-2 triumph over the Pioneers before a crowd of 1,974 at Baker Rink.
The 5’10, 175-pound native of Nepean, Ontario registered his first assist on a Mike Ambrosia tally which gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead after one period. Calof then scored a goal 1:11 into the second period and fed Tyler Maugeri for a tally 1:37 later as the Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead. After the Pioneers narrowed the gap to 4-2 early in the third period, Calof got his final assist of the day on another Ambrosia goal which made the final margin 5-2.
Calof was happy to see the Tigers return on a winning note even if there were some lapses.
“It was a good way to start off the post-exam break,” said Calof, reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 7-8-4 overall.
“It would be nice if we kept it consistent during the whole game instead of giving them some chances. We took it in stride and we ended up winning the game which is the most important thing. We need to work hard and try to sharpen up for next weekend.”
In assessing his sharp play this season, Calof credited his teammates with making his life easy.
“I think it is about who you are playing with,” said Calof, who now has a team-high 28 points on the season with 10 goals and 18 assists, tying him for third in ECAC Hockey in both points and assists.
“I know that the guys I am playing with right now are incredible hockey players when you see Ambrosia with two goals today and Maugeri up there in points too. They are two really offensively creative guys and [Andrew] Ammon as well, when you give him the puck it is going in the net. I know I have way more assists than goals so all you have to do is touch the puck and they are putting it in. It is a lot easier to do better offensively.”
Calof’s exploits have Princeton promoting him as candidate for All-American honors and the Hobey Baker Award given to the nation’s top male player.
Individual awards, though, are the last thing on Calof’s mind. “It is cool and I am honored but at the same time that is not my goal right now,” said Calof, who led Princeton in scoring in his first two seasons and has earned All-ECACH and All-Ivy League honors along the way.
“The most important thing that I want to do is to win the ECAC. If anything comes along with it, that is great. You want to win the ECAC and get a berth to the national tournament and win the national championship.”
With Calof nearing 100 career points, he views the milestone as indication of good fortune rather than individual achievement.
“It is incredible and I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to come in as a freshman and a sophomore and now as a junior,” said Calof, who currently has 92 points on 36 goals and 56 assists.
“The coaches have played me a lot and put a lot of faith in me. It has ended up working out well for me and I hope to deliver something back to the school with a championship.”
Princeton head coach Bob Prier likes the way Calof has been delivering for the Tigers.
“His explosiveness has come around a little bit; he certainly has some more leg strength,” said Prier in assessing Calof’s progress.
“You can see that as he changes gears coming up the ice; it looks like guys are standing still when he goes by them. He has always had the poise. I think he is becoming more vocal out on the ice. He is getting the puck more. I think he is doing a lot of good things like that. He is just getting stronger and he has gained some experience. He is certainly an All-American type kid and a Hobey Baker candidate. It is nice to see him perform well consistently here over the last few games.”
In Prier’s view, the Tigers performed well as they got back on the ice after exams.
“It seems like it has been a while since we played so I was proud of the guys and the way they came out,” said Prier, whose team outshot the Pioneers 17-7 in the first period and 14-3 in the next frame.
“I thought they came out really hard for not being able to battle against each other and have real good practices here the last couple of weekends. They came out and they didn’t look like they missed much of a beat. It was nice to see the guys put up some goals. It was a good game, all in all.”
Princeton got a good effort from bruising forwards, junior captain Jack Berger and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum, who combined to set up junior defenseman Alec Rush as he scored the first goal of the game and his career.
“I think Jack Berger and Rob Kleebaum are playing hard; they are playing like leaders,” said Prier.
“Certainly Rob, being a senior, his attention to detail over the last few games has been really strong so it is nice to see that. They had an awful lot of chances tonight as a result of hard work. They generated the first goal and really got us going with their hard work and finishing checks.”
Freshman Ambrosia, who now has five goals, is emerging as a strong performer for the Tigers.
“Coming in, he was a blue chip prospect kind of kid but unfortunately he ran into some injury problems early on,” said Prier of the Chatham, N.J. native.
“He is only eight or nine games into his career and he already is a very good player. He is certainly someone who is going to be an elite type of player in college hockey.”
With Princeton currently sitting in fifth in the ECACH standings at 5-4-3 in league play, Prier feels the Tigers have the potential to be an elite squad.
“If we limit or eliminate our mistakes, we are as good as anyone,” asserted Prier, whose team has won four of its last five games.
“I think we are getting there. These guys have good habits. We looked strong systematically tonight; I didn’t see much inconsistency.”
The Tigers will need a strong effort this weekend as they head to New England to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day.
“We are going to really prepare hard this week,” said Prier. “We have the ability to have a really strong week of practice here with the guys being out of session a little bit. We certainly want to take advantage of that; we can certainly do a lot of teaching off of the Sacred Heart game in video this week. It can be a real good week to improve in a hurry here, getting ready for our stretch run with 10 games left.”
Calof, for his part, believes the Tigers have improved in the area of consistency.
“It is just mental focus; we have gotten a lot better at it since the beginning of the year,” said Calof, who has already been named ECACH Player of the Week twice this season.
“You saw a lot more lapses at the beginning. We are going over a lot more stuff on video and trying to keep things as simple as possible to make sure that there are no communication errors that lead to good chances against us. The more we limit those, the more chance we have of winning.”
In Calof’s view, Princeton has a good chance to make up some ground on its upcoming trip to New England.
“It is going to be a big weekend; I know they [Yale] beat us early in the season so we are hoping to have a little better showing than the game we had against them in the Ivy Shootout,” said Calof, referring to a 3-2 loss to the Bulldogs on October 27 in a game that didn’t count in the league standings.
“They are pretty hot right now so it is going to be a really good game. I am looking forward to playing it.”
If Calof can keep up his hot play, the Tigers could have a really good weekend.