Ay, Kalemba: Goaltender Leads Princeton to ECAC Championship Game
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
ALBANY, N.Y. So much for Princeton's supposed lack of experience.
The Tigers, after their highest regular season finish in school history, will play in Saturday night's ECAC Championship game after beating Colgate 3-0 in Friday's first ECAC semifinal. With the victory, Princeton matched a school record with 20 wins in a season. The hero for the Tigers? Sophomore goaltender Zane Kalemba, who made 27 total saves in the semifinal matchup with the Raiders.
And in doing so, Kalemba extended his shutout streak to 149:42. He also set the ECAC record for shutouts in one tournament by picking up his third.
"We were a little bit fortunate because they had at least four wide open nets that Zane made incredible saves on," said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky, whose Tigers broke a scoreless tie with Colgate eight minutes into the third period. "It literally could have been 4-0 [Colgate] and obviously a much different game. The team has found different ways to win all year, and tonight was a matter of Zane doing the spectacular."
One particularly spectacular save came in the first period, on Colgate senior forward Tyler Burton. On the play, Burton pounced on a loose puck in the crease and had a wide open net staring back at him.
At the last moment, Kalemba reached back with his glove to make the save.
"I was fortunate he didn't have as much as he wanted on the shot," recalled Kalemba. "I just reached out and got my hand on it."
That save, and 26 others, allowed the Tigers to avoid a possible upset bid by Colgate, which had already ousted the tournament's No. 1 seed Clarkson in Potsdam, N.Y. last weekend.
Kalemba commented on the importance of keeping the Tigers in the game until they were able to break through for the go-ahead goal, scored by freshman Matt Arhontas.
Said Kalemba, "When you're not playing with the lead, the game's 60 minutes, and you never know what can happen. I just try to be as sharp as possible."
Kalemba was sharp last weekend, too, leading the Tigers to a 2-1 quarterfinal series win against Yale. In both of Princeton's victories, Kalemba recorded shutouts. The sophomore stopped 83 of 87 shots in the series.
"The second game against Yale, I felt a little tired, a little worn out, " said Kalemba. "Fortunately, I got a lot of fluids and a good night's sleep, and since then, I've been feeling great."
And it's showed.
Continued the winning netminder, "I think, honestly, I try to prepare and focus for every game the same way — regular season or the playoffs. I got a couple of breaks. Things were just going my way today, and hopefully it'll be the same tomorrow."
Tomorrow will be the ECAC championship game against the winner of Friday's second semifinal matchup between Harvard and Cornell. It's been a long time coming for these Tigers, who had gone nine years without advancing to the ECAC final four.
Now, Kalemba has Princeton on the verge of its first league title and NCAA berth since 1998.
"Coach Gadowsky's done a great job with this group of guys, especially the freshmen," said Kalemba. "He always challenges us, day in and day out, as hard as he can. Whether it's practice or a game, he expects the most out of us. At the beginning of the year, he challenged me during practice to be more intense and make our team better. Over the past three or four years, the program's been showing improvement in all areas.
"It was one of our goals at the beginning of the year to win the ECAC [championship] and also to win the Ivy League. It's just going to be a battle like every other game. We've just got to come to work, and hopefully things go our way."
And does Kalemba have any secret to his recent personal success?
Well, while much of the talk after the game centered on Kalemba saving Princeton's bacon during the first two periods against Colgate, perhaps it was the bacon he saved earlier that made the difference.
"Actually, [for breakfast], I usually have scrambled eggs, hash browns, and bacon, but today I didn't have bacon because it's Good Friday," said Kalemba, smiling. "So maybe that had something to do with it."