Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 33
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
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CHANGING SIDES: Scott Garrow shows his focus last winter while serving as an assistant coach for the Cornell University men’s hockey team. In a critical shift in the heated rivalry between Princeton and the Big Red, Garrow recently headed south to join the staff of new Tiger head coach Bob Prier.

PU-Cornell Men’s Hockey Rivalry Getting New Twist As Veteran Big Red Assistant Garrow Joins Princeton

Bill Alden

The rivalry between the Princeton University men’s hockey program and Cornell has escalated into one of the most heated and meaningful matchups in ECAC Hockey over the last few years.

While Princeton emerged as an ECACH force and gained national prominence in the 2007-08 season as it won the league tournament that winter, Cornell has lived up to the storied tradition of a program that has won two national titles and advanced to eight Frozen Fours.

In the last four seasons, Princeton holds a slim 6-4 edge in the series of Ivy League foes with eight of those games being decided by one goal as both teams have been ECACH contenders.

But there has been a critical shift in the rivalry before the teams even take the ice for the 2011-12 campaign as longtime Cornell assistant Scott Garrow recently headed south to join Princeton and the staff of new Tiger head coach Bob Prier.

While Garrow’s move may be akin to moving from the Red Sox to the Yankees, he said there is more logic to the shift than appears at first blush.

“Bob called me after he got the head job; I knew him and considered him a friend but I was thinking that when I left Cornell it would be to get a head coaching job,” said Garrow, 41, who coached at Cornell from 1995-99 and 2003-2011.

“The more I talked to him, the more it made sense. It was a chance to get out of the label as a Cornell guy. I have a lot of respect for Guy [previous Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky] and his staff; they showed that you can have big success here and get national attention. If I can do that here, that would improve my personal standing.”

Before leaving Ithaca, Garrow got the blessing of Cornell head coach and long-time mentor Mike Schafer.

“I had a lot of conversations with Mike; he didn’t kick me out the door,” said Garrow. “He said maybe it is for the best and will help your career. My long term goal is to be a head coach but you only get those opportunities if you help a team win.”

For Garrow, getting the opportunity to play college hockey at Western Michigan was a turning point for him.

“The coach was from my hometown and I had been coached by his brother; I went there early senior year and I liked the guys and the atmosphere,” said Garrow, a native of Goderich, Ontario who scored 102 points in his career at Western Michigan, setting a program record by playing in 161 consecutive games.

“I wanted to get the recruiting process over with so I committed on the spot. It worked out great. I learned a lot about hockey, five or six of my teammates went on to be coaches. We learned how to conduct ourselves and how to conduct practices.”

After graduating from Western Michigan, Garrow played professionally in the SuHL and CoHL and caught the coaching bug.

“I was playing in low minors and an assistant coach on one of my teams was a student of the game, always reading coaching books,” recalled Garrow. “I hung around with him a lot and started thinking about coaching. I was 5’10, 155 pounds so I wasn’t going to be playing in the NHL.”

Garrow headed back to his alma mater where he ended up having his first stint working with Schafer, then an assistant for Western Michigan.

“I went back to Western Michigan to get my masters and I started as volunteer coach,” said Garrow.

“I had always been fairly analytical. My weakness then was that I was a shy kid. I had to learn how to be more outgoing and personable.”

It didn’t take long for Garrow to start getting a lot out of coaching. “I loved it,” said Garrow. “I loved still being in the game; having an impact on the kids and helping out on the bench during games.”

In 1995, Garrow followed Schafer to Cornell for his first stint with the Big Red.

“I was just 25 years old and just a few years older than some of the players,” said Garrow.

“The coaches would be asking me what I thought the players were thinking. I was able to listen and learn. When Mike took over the program, they had finished ninth and we won back-to back ECACH titles.”

Garrow returned to his alma mater in 1999 to hone his coaching skills. “It was great to go back; I thought I had learned a lot at Cornell,” said Garrow.

“I was helping a guy just taking over. I got to do a lot of things and experience more things. I was the top assistant and recruiting coordinator, I had more responsibility.”

By 2003, Garrow was ready for round two at
Cornell. “I had stayed in contact with Mike and it was a good move for my family and myself,” said Garrow, whose family includes wife Jennifer, and sons Cole (age 8) and Chase (3).

“I had grown a little more; I could speak my mind in staff meetings. I had gone away from player-coach relationship with Mike to being more of a colleague and good friend. I also wanted to get back to the Ivy League; there is a reason those kids are there. They want the best of everything. They want to be great students, great people, and great hockey players.”

In facing Princeton over the last eight years Garrow has seen some great things from the Tigers.

“The biggest thing is speed and the work ethic of the team as a group,” said Garrow.

“You know that when you play them you are in for a tough game; they hound you all over the ice.”

While there is a solid foundation in place, the new staff is ready to fine-tune things as it looks to improve on the 17-13-2 record posted by the Tigers in 2010-11.

“We will see how much depth they have; some guys will be better under a new coach, some won’t,” said Garrow.

“We could win without changing a thing. We will figure out how we want to play and what our stamp is going to be. I don’t see glaring weaknesses, there is nothing that we have to drastically change. We are not taking over a team where the coach got fired.”

Garrow is already fired up for his first trip back to Ithaca when Princeton will be playing at Cornell on November 18.

“We have that November game circled,” said Garrow. “I can help with scouting Cornell; I know the strengths and weaknesses of their players but hockey is a read and react game so you can’t go overboard on that. It will be weird to go into the visitors’ locker room and be on the visiting bench.”

Princeton will be lucky to have Garrow on its bench that evening and all season long.

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