The good news about the 2003-04 Princeton Tigers is that the club improved upon its win total over the previous campaign. The bad news is the Tigers won just five games.
Recent history has not been kind to the sextet from New Jersey. They have not had a winning season since 1998-99 and are coming off back-to-back 20-loss campaigns.
Enter Guy Gadowsky.
The former Alaska-Fairbanks head coach, who turned around the struggling Nanooks program, was hired this summer to replace Len Quesnelle. The comparisons between the two schools and their respective hockey situations began immediately.
“All experience helps you,” Gadowsky explained, “but I don’t think something that worked at [Fairbanks] will automatically work at Princeton. We’ll look at our challenges and overcome them. The same process will be used and our initial goal will be to create high standards.”
No stranger to raising the bar, Gadowsky is also keenly aware of the learning process as he discovers and defines the team that sits before him.
“I will learn about our team and the players along with them,” he said. “The staff will learn with them. But we have to learn about ourselves first; learn on our own time and in pressure situations.”
In his third season at UAF, Gadowsky’s Nanooks, who lost a combined 44 games in 1999-00 and 2000-01, won 22 contests. The Tigers have won 20 games in a season just once.
Clearly, only time will tell if Gadowsky’s magic will pay dividends at Princeton. For now, he’s starting small … as in getting to know his players.
“Everyone here has been very helpful,” he said, “and [the transition] has been easier than expected. And while I haven’t had the chance to see the team, I do know that all of the athletes at Princeton are very bright. I’m impressed.”
The new ECAC coach certainly has some building blocks. Returning to Hobey Baker Rink are sophomore Grant Goeckner-Zoeller, last year’s leading scorer with 15 assists and 20 points, and junior Patrick Neundorfer, who led the Tigers with eight goals in 2003-04.
On the blueline, a group that includes junior Seamus Young and sophomore Daryl Marcoux, will look to lead a more solid unit in front of the Princeton net. Speaking of which, expect junior Eric Leroux — who played 28 games last season — and sophomore B.J. Sklapsky — who started more often late in the year — to battle it out between the pipes.
Gadowsky will have a few more answers when he is finally able to hit the ice with his full squad on October 15. At that point, the education of a coach and his players will begin in earnest.
“We’re just going to try to be ourselves,” explained the bench boss. “I don’t know if we have a specific style, but we like quick hockey, offensive hockey and physical hockey.”
Princeton will hit the ice for an exhibition game against Windsor on October 22. It then opens the season hosting St. Cloud State and Alabama-Huntsville the following weekend, before launching into November’s ECAC action.