Not a Seed of Doubt
Confident Princeton Heads to ECAC Championships as Favorite
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Nine years have passed since Princeton last advanced to the ECAC Final Four. This weekend, not only are the Tigers headed to Albany, N.Y., for the ECAC championship weekend; they're going as the highest remaining seed in the tournament.
After finishing with a record under .500 every year since winning 20 games in 1998-99, the Tigers finished the ECAC regular season in second place this year — the highest position in school history. And if Princeton, which last won the ECAC title in 1998, wins the ECAC championship this weekend, the Tigers will set a new school record for wins in a season.
This is relatively uncharted territory for Princeton, a team that won just eight games in 2004-05. That was also the first year as head coach for Guy Gadowsky, the Colorado College alumnus who formerly coached Alaska in the CCHA.
And in Albany after that first regular season, Gadowsky made sure to take note of the successful powerhouses in the league, watching the Cornell/Harvard championship game from the stands.
Said Gadowsky, "You can always learn from other excellent programs, and we have several to choose from in the ECAC. I think it was motivational."
The following season, the Tigers increased their win total to 10, and the year after, Gadowsky led his squad to 15 wins and an overall record just one game below .500.
That set the stage for their coming out party this year.
"It's certainly been a process," said Gadowsky. "There hasn't been one particular thing [responsible for our improvement]. It's also not just this team that deserves the credit. There were the teams from a few years ago. It's just a process of our players developing standards and holding themselves accountable."
Last weekend, those players — led by, among others, Ivy Player of the Year Lee Jubinville — were quickly faced with a significant challenge. After beating Yale in the opening game of their best-of-three quarterfinal series, Yale evened the series on Saturday. That set the stage for a third game on Sunday, an elimination game in which the Tigers ultimately prevailed 4-0.
"We've faced a lot of scrappy teams," said Gadowsky. "Yale played very well on Saturday night. Give our guys a lot of credit for coming back [on Sunday].
"It's a new situation for us, but last year, we had a playoff series where Brown took us to three games. So 75 percent of the guys went through that similar type of situation. [During the third game against Yale], the guys handled the locker room all on their own. I wasn't even in the room."
This Friday afternoon, the Tigers face off against upstart Colgate. The Raiders are coming off a stunning upset of No. 1 seed Clarkson last weekend.
The matchup of a young Princeton team against a veteran Colgate squad pits high-flying offensive players for the Tigers (Brett Wilson, Cam MacIntyre and Jubinville all average over a point per game) against star Colgate goaltender Mark Dekanich, who had 52 saves in the Raiders' game three win over Clarkson on Sunday.
Said Gadowsky, "Dekanich has been one of the best goaltenders in the league for several years now. We have a great deal of respect for him and what he can do. What can I say? We have tremendous respect for him. And I'd be lying if I said he didn't scare me a little bit."
Still, the Tigers, who swept the regular season series with the Raiders, remain confident as they prepare for Friday's semifinal.
"We need to maybe get our emotions back in check and get a little rest," said Gadowsky. "The performance that we have Friday night is not going to be because of what we've done this week. We just need to mentally and physically rest up and get ready."