Rhodes to Victory: Stankievech Scores Game Winner for Princeton
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
ALBANY, N.Y. Princeton senior forward Landis Stankievech scored the game-winning goal for the new ECAC champion Princeton Tigers Saturday night. But for this Alberta native, the goals he has set for himself may be more meaningful than the goals he scores on the ice.
Recently named the ECAC Student Athlete of the Year, Stankievech will travel to Oxford, England next year as a Rhodes Scholar, an honor bestowed each year to only about 80 people on Earth.
Stankievech is a 3.96 GPA student with a major in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
"A teammate of mine recommended that I apply when I was a senior," said a humble Stankievech following Princeton's 4-1 championship game victory over Harvard. "So I filed that information away. And then, my junior year, I started looking into it and then over the summer, I started preparing my application. I talked to Coach [Guy Gadowsky] about it and a few other professors and decided it was a good idea. I went through with it, got through the first round of interviews, got to the final round. And it just worked out for me."
And when Stankievech discusses his long-term goals, it's clear to see just why it "worked out."
Said Stankievech, "I'll be studying a second undergraduate course called Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. I'm an engineer right now, and I value greatly the skills I've learned in my engineering. What I basically want to do is add to them because a lot of problems out there require more than engineering. Things like global warming — it's not just engineering that's going to solve it. It's working within the political system, making it economically more successful. A lot of problems require synthesis of a lot of different areas."
Needless to say, these aren't the types of things most college hockey players discuss just 30 minutes after winning a conference championship.
Make no mistake, though — Stankievech was quite thrilled about scoring the game-winning goal as well. The senior netted the goal with just under eight minutes remaining in the second period. At the time, the goal extended Princeton's lead to 2-0 and visibly deflated the opposing Crimson squad.
"Mike was battling along the boards, and I was just backing him up," recalled Stankievech. "The puck kind of squirted back to me, and I looked [and saw] that there wasn't anyone in front of the net at the time. I was at the blue line, so I just kind of threw it at the net. And then, as I watched it go, Kevin Lohry was skating towards the net. I thought [Harvard goaltender Kyle] Richter just caught it, and I thought it was going to be a whistle. And then all of a sudden, everybody started cheering. I thought Lohry must have tipped it or something. I was just happy to see it go in."
Later, Stankievech acknowledged that the goal wasn't exactly highlight-reel worthy. But a decade from now, maybe that won't really matter.
"Ten years from now, it's going to be described a bit differently, probably to my kids," said Stankievech, laughing. "It kind of reminds me of Perry Berezan [of the Calgary Flames] when he scored that goal against the Oilers in '86, when Steve Smith put it in his own net. Perry Berezan always used to say, 'I'm going to describe that to my kids differently.' I think that's what I'm going to have to do with this one. I was just happy to see it go in."
For Stankievech, the goal was perhaps the culmination of a remarkable progression that he has seen as a member of the Princeton hockey team. The year before arriving on campus, the Tigers won only five games. When Stankievech was a freshman, the win total increased to eight. The next year — 10. The year after that, Stankievech's junior season — 15.
Now, after winning the ECAC championship game, the Tigers reached the 21-win mark for the first time in the history of a university rich in both academic and athletic history.
"I'm not happy to be leaving the program," said Stankievech. "But obviously, I do have to leave after four years, and I guess it is nice to go out this way. It's nice to be able to up [our win total] again."
Of course, the Tigers aren't done just yet. Next weekend, they will head to the NCAA tournament, against a yet-to-be-determined opponent in a yet to-be-determined location (check CHN on Sunday for the full NCAA bracket). For now, though, Princeton remains focused and confident.
Said Stankievech, "We have a lot to lose. We've got the chance to go to the Frozen Four to lose. We're just going to go and try to play our game. We're not content just to win this league. If any team starts the year and says, 'Our goal is not to win the national championship,' well, then, they're not going to win it. Our goal is to win that game.
"I don't think there'll be any change in mentality [next weekend]. At one point this year, we were 5-8, and some people might have thought we were underdogs back then. We try to just play the same way every game and just do the little things that make up Princeton hockey. And I think hopefully next weekend, we'll do the same thing. Whether we're the underdog or top seed, it doesn't really matter to us."
Indeed, either way, Stankievech remains grounded, and not surprisingly for a Rhodes Scholar, he was philosophical after the game regarding the values he has learned from balancing both an outstanding academic and hockey career.
"I think, in academics, hockey, other jobs, whatever your goals are, a big part of accomplishing them is taking care of the details," said the scholar. "That means doing the right thing on the ice in practice, in games, in the weight room. Off the ice, it means making sure you get your homework done, making sure you get your sleep, both for your athletics and for your mind. If you take care of the details, the bigger things tend to work out on their own. You know, when I was a freshman, I didn't think I was going to be a Rhodes scholar. I wanted to win the ECACs, but I didn't think I was going to score the game-winning goal. I was just thinking, 'Take a day at a time, a goal at a time, and just try to accomplish small goals along the way.'"
And so the final question, then, is: does Stankievech value one thing — the ECAC championship or the Rhodes Scholarship — more than the other?
Answered Stankievech, "I do know one thing. If I wasn't on this team, with these guys and this coaching staff, I wouldn't be a Rhodes Scholar. This is pretty special because it's not just me, it's 26 guys and three coaches who are part of my family.
"So I think this one, in a way, is a lot more enjoyable."