In coach Guy Gadowsky’s first season behind the Princeton bench after making the transition from Alaska-Fairbanks, he brought to the ECACHL some of the up-tempo offense perhaps more common in the West.
The Princeton players — who had attempted to use the trap under former coach Len Quesnelle — and fans identified with the exciting, open style of hockey that Gadowsky imported from Alaska.
“We still have to establish our standards and our identity [this year],” Gadowsky said. “And I think we made strides last year but certainly that’s still going to be a focus this year.”
The changing style and the new offensive-oriented identity of Princeton hockey produced telling results: the often-stagnant Tiger offense finished sixth in the league with an average of more than two-and-a-half goals per game.
In the standings the Tigers finished in 10th place after coming in dead last the previous two seasons. In fact, the Tigers’ 2004-2005 win total of eight matched their combined total from 2002-2003 and 2003-2004.
Despite that success, though, one of the biggest questions this season is how to replace the offense provided by last year’s leading scorer Dustin Sproat and Luc Paquin, who provided 24 points from the blue line.
“Last season we had the top-scoring forward in the league and the top-scoring defenseman in the league and both of them have moved on,” he said. “So the shape of our team has drastically changed.”
Junior forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller will be counted on to replicate his 32-point sophomore season to offset the losses of Sproat and Paquin. Captain Patrick Neundorfer is Princeton’s second-leading returning scorer and figures to join Goeckner-Zoeller as the key figures in the Tigers offense.
But Gadowsky doesn’t believe an easy replacement exists for the two players who have departed.
“I think we have a chance to replace Dustin Sproat and Luc Paquin by committee,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s fair to pin those hopes on any one individual.”
On the blue line, senior Seamus Young and sophomore Mike Moore will lead a unit that at times struggled to keep the Tigers in games last year, allowing almost four goals per game.
Gadowsky sees Moore as the Tigers’ prime candidate to dramatically improve on last season’s performance.
“Mike Moore is a defenseman who was voted our unanimous Rookie of the Year,” Gadowsky said. “He had an outstanding season; he had excellent statistics for a freshman, but really it’s what the stats didn’t show that I think he really sets himself apart.
“He’s very physical player; he’s a tough kid that moves very well. So I think he’s a guy who is going to play a bigger and bigger role this year.”