Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Princeton

There's little question that Guy Gadowsky picked Princeton hockey up out of the gutter and placed them into what may well be their longest extended stretch of respectability in the long history of the program - after all, that's what caught the eye of the athletic department at Happy Valley when they scooped him up to become Penn State's first varsity coach. Now, as the third ECAC team we've profiled gaining a new coach this season, the question is whether the Tigers will be able to maintain their better play.

Nickname: Tigers
Location: Princeton, NJ
Founded: 1746
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2009
Last Frozen Four: None
Coach: Bob Prier (1st season)
2010-11 Record: 17-13-2 (11-9-2 ECAC, 4th place)
Series: RPI leads, 63-29-9
First Game: January 18, 1952 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: February 5, 2011 (Princeton, NJ)
Last PU win: February 25, 2011 (Troy, NY)

2011-12 games: December 2, 2011 (Princeton, NJ); February 18, 2012 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Derrick Pallis, sr.; F Brodie Zuk, sr.; G Mike Condon, jr.; F Rob Kleebaum, jr.; F Eric Meland, jr.; D Michael Sdao, jr.; F Andrew Ammon, so.; F Jack Berger, so.; G Sean Bonar, so.; F Andrew Calof, so.; F Aaron Kesselman, fr.; D Tom Kroshus, fr.; D Kevin Mills, fr.

Key losses: F Mike Kramer, F Kevin Lohry, F Matt Arhontas, D Taylor Fedun, D Cam Ritchie

Previous KYE installment:

Princeton bounced back well from their horrid 2009-10 campaign with a solid year last season, finishing in a tie with RPI and Cornell for fourth place but settling for the #6 seed in the playoffs. As expected, it was some of the younger players who paced the Tigers, especially Calof, who led the team in scoring, and Bonar, who put up solid numbers while earning a plurality of time in net.

When it came to putting the puck in the net, however, seniors led the way, and the graduations of Kramer, Lohry, Arhontas, and Fedun, who combined for 43 goals, is going to sting a little bit. Fortunately, there were other young scorers like Kleebaum and Ammon that also produced solid numbers, not to mention Calof himself, who had a knack for setting up practically anyone on the ice.

Bonar and Condon largely split time in net overall last year, and with a new coach it will remain to be seen whether the Tigers are going to go this route again. It has been said that some of Bonar's solid numbers were built up earlier in the season against weaker opponents, but he came to Princeton with solid bonafides and should be considered one of the league's top young netminders. Overall, the team does need to do a little better than it did defensively last season if they are going to improve, and there's no immediate sign that's going to happen, especially with the loss of Fedun and Ritchie on the backline.

Of course, the addition of a new coach throws a wrench into things. At Union, Rick Bennett appears to have the talent to help him adjust quickly. At Clarkson, Casey Jones looks like he's going to need to start from scratch. Bob Prier is somewhere in the middle. After nine years in Canton under the tutelage of Joe Marsh, he may have a team that will allow him to emulate Marsh in Princeton and be successful.

All in all, the Tigers do need the usual step-ups from returning forwards and some contributions from their younger guys in order to be successful this year, but it may be too early to tell whether Princeton's destined for great things - they have the personnel to vie for top honors if everything falls into place - or whether they're going to be an also ran of the ECAC. The smart money has them somewhere in the middle of the pack this season.

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