Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Know Your Enemy: Princeton

The post-Gadowsky era in New Jersey did not exactly start off with a bang, more resembling the doormat Tigers team of the early 2000s than the power contenders that the now-Penn State head coach turned them into by the end of that decade. Still, Gadowsky himself started off slowly at Old Nassau, so Bob Prier certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Princeton
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 (2nd season)
2011-12 Record: 9-16-7 (6-12-4 ECAC, 11th place)
Series: RPI leads, 63-31-9
First Game: January 18, 1952 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: February 5, 2011 (Princeton, NJ)
Last PU win: February 18, 2012 (Troy, NY)

2012-13 games: November 30, 2012 (Troy, NY); January 12, 2013 (Princeton, NJ)

Key players: G Mike Condon, sr.; F Rob Kleebaum, sr.; F Will MacDonald, sr.; F Eric Meland, sr.; D Michael Sdao, sr.; F Jack Berger, jr.; G Sean Bonar, jr.; F Andrew Calof, jr.; D Jeremy Goodwin, jr.; D Kevin Ross, jr.; F Aaron Kesselman, so.; F Michael Ambrosia, fr.; D Kevin Liss, fr.; F Kyle Rankin, fr.; F Michael Zajac, fr.

Key losses: D Derrick Pallis, F Marc Hagel

Previous KYE installments:
The number one element in Princeton's struggles last season was by and large their youth - those two key losses that you see represent 2/3 of the Tigers' entire graduating class, and besides Pallis' defensive ability, there's not much going by the wayside for the upcoming season.

For RPI, Princeton's struggles last year are largely irrelevant, because despite the weak record, two of those nine wins came against the Engineers, and they were in games that were not terribly close. The first was a 5-3 loss at Princeton in which the Tigers' scoring duo of Calof and Berger notched a pair of goals each, and the second was a 6-2 implosion on Senior Night in Troy that continued Princeton's domination in the Collar City and another two goals for Calof.

Princeton has not lost in Troy since November 3, 2006, which gives them five straight wins, which came at a combined difference of 25-6, including two shutouts. So no matter how well the Tigers are doing, the Engineers had better come ready for a street fight on the last day of November.

As to the team itself, Calof was not a revelation last year, essentially repeating his solid freshman year with a great sophomore season, leading his team in scoring for a second straight year. Berger, on the other hand, was vastly improved from a slow freshman season. Kleebaum and Sdao were the team's other scoring threats, the latter bringing the heat from the blue line.

As talented as those guys were, Calof led the team with only 31 points and the scoring was very bunched up at the top. Defense was largely an issue as well, as the Tigers were near the very bottom nationally - 50th - in keeping the puck out of the net. Bonar and Condon split time in net, neither putting up numbers that they had put up in previous years.

The bottom line? Princeton needs to improve at spreading the wealth when it comes to scoring, and they've got to be much better defensively. That is going to have to come largely from the returning players, but as a bonus, there won't be a great many freshmen to assimilate into the program. There's something to be said for an already established team cohesiveness, even if that team struggled last year. If another year older makes the Tigers another year stronger, they could put themselves into the hunt for home ice in the first round. If they rely too much on points from Calof and Berger, they're going to do little more than tread water.

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