Expectations were not high for the Princeton Tigers this season. After finishing last year at 15-16-3 (10-10-2 ECAC), Guy Gadowsky’s club lost eight seniors, including three of its top five scorers, four defensemen, and goaltender B.J. Sklapsky (7-4-1, 2.60 GAA, .911 SV, 1 SO).
There were some signs of hope: freshman goalie Zane Kalemba (8-11-1, 2.89 GAA, .891 SV) was a solid replacement, and leading scorer Lee Jubinville (11-18-29 in 32 games) was back for his junior season.
The coaches and the media tabbed Princeton to finish eighth in the ECAC this season after a sixth-place finish last year. And when the team went into the Christmas break at 5-7-0, that prediction looked about right, but things would get worse before they got better.
In the first game after the holiday break, the MSU-Mankato Mavericks routed Princeton 6-1, outshooting the Stripes 34-19. A sign of the times: a Princeton defenseman bounced his clearing attempt off of goalie Zane Kalemba and into his own net.
At 5-8-0, Princeton wasn’t playing as poorly as the 2002-03 Tiger team that went 3-26-2, but it had to feel like it…
And then the schedule turned to 2008. Like UND, which has gone 17-3-3 this calendar year after ending 2007 at 9-7-1, the Tigers have elevated their play over the past three months. Princeton has gone 15-5-0 in ‘08, losing all five of those games by a single goal. Four of those five losses were on the road, and the fifth was a 4-3 setback in Game 2 of the ECAC quarterfinals against Yale, a game Princeton led 2-0 in the first period. Princeton won the other two games of that best-of-three series against Yale, 3-0 and 4-0.
Over this twenty-game stretch, the Tigers are scoring 3.7 goals per game and allowing only 1.9. In the year 2008, Princeton has scored two or more goals in every game.
ECAC Player of the Year Lee Jubinville (12-26-38 in 33 games) has been a key component in the Tigers’ stretch run. The 5’10”, 165 pounder from Edmonton, Alberta has scored seven goals and added 16 assists in 2008. Jubinville is one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, the first Princeton Tiger ever selected to the top ten. Hobey Baker himself represented Princeton before World War I.
“He’s a very good player,” North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol said of Jubinville. “He was one of the best players in the Alberta Junior Hockey League a few years ago, too.”
In addition to Jubinville, two other Tigers are scoring at better than a point per game. Junior forward Brett Wilson (15-20-35) has been a solid contributor for three seasons, while sophomore forward Cam Macintyre’s thirty point season (12 goals, 18 assists) was unexpected after a rookie campaign of nine goals and four assists.
Sophomore goaltender Zane Kalemba (19-10-0) has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers. Kalmeba carries a 2.36 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage into the national tournament, and has posted five shutouts this season.
Another key for Princeton this year has been the play of its freshman class. Of the six first-year skaters, five have scored ten or more points (including two freshman defenseman), and all six have appeared in 24 or more games.
Remember that five years ago, this team won three games. TOTAL. Since then, the Tigers have seen improvement every year: five wins in 03-04, eight in 04-05, ten in 05-06, and fifteen last year. This season’s 21 victories (21-13-0) are the most in school history, a history that dates back to the year 1900.
By contrast, North Dakota has won 21 or more games 28 times in the past fifty years.
The Stripes (21-13-0, 14-8-0 ECAC) finished second to Clarkson (21-12-4, 15-4-3 ECAC) in the conference race. The Clarkson Golden Knights will face St. Cloud State in the East Regional (Albany, NY) on Friday afternoon.
Despite its second-half success, Princeton would not have made the national tournament as an at-large team. The Tigers played their way into the NCAAs by winning the ECAC Hockey Championship in Albany, New York, defeating Harvard 4-1. Zane Kalemba stopped 34 shots (and 61 of 62 for the weekend) to win the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.
“I’ve never seen a performance like that before,” said fourth-year head coach Guy Gadowsky of his goalie’s jaw-dropping tournament acrobatics. Gadowsky was recently awarded the Tim Taylor award as ECAC coach of the year.
This is the 23rd NCAA appearance for North Dakota, and the 2nd for Princeton. The Fighting Sioux have seven national championships, while the Tigers are looking for their first NCAA tournament victory.
Princeton Team Profile
National Rankings: #13/#13
PairWise Ranking: 16th
KRACH Strength of Schedule: 34th
Head Coach: Guy Gadowsky (4th season at Princeton, 54-67-9, .488)
This Season: 21-13-0 Overall, 14-8-0 ECAC (2nd)
Special Teams: Power Play 17.2% (29 of 169), Penalty Kill 85.3% (122 of 143)
Last Season: 15-16-3, 10-10-2 ECAC (t-6th)
Key Players: Junior F Lee Jubinville (12-26-38, Hobey Baker finalist), Junior F Brett Wilson (15-20-35), Sophomore F Cam MacIntyre (12-18-30), Senior D Mike Moore (7-17-24), Sophomore G Zane Kalemba (19-10-0, 2.36 GAA, .918 SV, 5 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#3
PairWise Ranking: 3rd
KRACH Strength of Schedule: 1st
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 104-55-15, .641)
This Season: 26-10-4 Overall, 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Specialty Teams: Power Play 18.8% (34 of 181), Penalty Kill 87.5% (154 of 176)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F T.J. Oshie (18-23-41, Hobey Baker finalist), Junior F Ryan Duncan (14-22-36), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (15-17-32), Sophomore D Chay Genoway (7-19-26), Senior D Taylor Chorney (3-21-24), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (25-10-4, 1.65 GAA, .934 SV, 6 SO, Hobey Baker finalist)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: November 1, 2002 (Princeton, NJ). Sophomore forward Brandon Bochenski netted four goals (his second hat trick of the season) and freshman phenom Zach Parise had five assists as UND spoiled Princeton’s home opener, downing the Tigers 5-2 in front of 1,715 at Hobey Baker Rink. The teams were tied 2-2 late in the second period before Bochenski broke the game open with goals at 18:04 and 19:58. Bochenski added a rare three-on-four goal during a rash of penalties in the third period.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 2-0. The only other meeting between the two teams was in the consolation final of the Badger Showdown on December 30, 2000. North Dakota won 5-4 in a game that saw 101 shots on net (65 by the Sioux).
Game News and Notes
UND goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux enters the weekend leading the nation in goals-against average (1.6510) and is second in save percentage (.934). Lamoureux is also tied for first with six shutouts, and has given up exactly one goal 16 times this season. Princeton netminder Zane Kalemba has five shutouts to his credit. North Dakota boasts the nation’s best defense, giving up only 1.77 goals per game, while Princeton is allowing 2.65. The Tigers have scored 3.26 goals/game; UND, an even 3.00. North Dakota has outscored opponents 43-12 in the first period this year. Princeton is 18-3-0 this season when leading or tied after two periods, partly because the Tigers have outscored opponents 43-31 in the third period. As a testament to UND’s difficult schedule, consider this: North Dakota has played 35 of its 40 games against the top 25 teams in the country, going 21-10-4 (.657) in those games. Princeton, on the other hand, has played only 13 games against those same teams, with just five victories and eight losses. Fourth-seeded teams won two of the four #1 vs. #4 matchups in last season’s NCAA tournament, and all four games were decided by one goal. The Tigers have scored six short-handed goals this season. With Jubinville, Oshie, and Lamoureux on the ice in Madison, this is the only NCAA first-round matchup to boast more than one Hobey Baker finalist.
Both the Sioux and Tigers play their home games on NHL-sized rinks (85×200), and will require some adjustment to play on the larger surface (97×200) in Madison. Princeton will have a fair number of Denver and Wisconsin fans in its corner, but it won’t much matter. North Dakota has an advantage in all areas and the veteran leadership to advance to the Midwest Regional Final. UND 4-2.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. For analysis of the NCAA regional brackets, click here. For reaction to the Hobey Baker top ten, click here. Stop back later this week for previews and predictions from all four regional sites, and check back after Saturday’s game for more commentary and a complete recap of the Midwest Regional.