To say that last year’s Princeton Tiger squad was a little young would be accurate.
Only two regular forwards, two regular defensemen and one goaltender were seniors. But this year, there is a lot of experience coming back, so perhaps head coach Guy Gadowsky has started to put his team together in New Jersey.
Grant Goeckner-Zoeller tallied 15 goals and 14 assists last season, and along with Kevin Westgarth (10-13-23) and Brett Wilson (11-10-21) will lead a Tiger offense that will hope to shine in the ECACHL.
Darroll Powe, Kyle Hagel, Lee Jubinville, and Brandon Kushniruk also return with a wealth of experience. All will be expected to send more pucks into the back of the net.
Tyler Beachell, Dan Bartlett, Cam MacIntyre, Mark Magnowski and Cam French bring offense into the system as well, and the Tigers now have a good nucleus in which to become a up-tempo team.
Beachell, in particular, holds promise as a newcomer on a team that can use the help to continue to improve.
“Tyler is a big body with tremendous hands,” said Gadowsky. “He has great vision and always makes offensive plays happen. He will make an immediate impact offensively, and could become a dominant player in the [ECACHL].
“Cam will immediately be one of the top power forwards in the league,” Gadowsky noted. “He is extremely strong and uses his body in a very physical manner. One of the top goal-scorers in the BCHL, he was a captain in the All-Star game and is one of the most respected leaders in Canadian junior hockey.”
The defense loses its top two in Brian Carthas and Seamus Young, but Brett Westgarth, Daryl Marcoux, Mike Moore and Max Cousins will lead a group that gained some experience last season. Freshmen Jody Pederson, Brad Schroeder and Kevin Crane all hope to cut down on the 3.07 goals per game allowed last season.
That, of course, leads to the goaltending, which could be the biggest question for the Tigers. Eric Leroux graduated, leaving B.J. Sklapsky and Thomas Sychtera to return with 27 games of experience (24 of them from senior Sklapsky). They will battle, along with Zane Kalemba, for the goaltending minutes.
The sooner that it gets sorted out, the sooner Princeton can start to get out of the bottom portion of the league.
The Tigers have some tools, but it has to begin to come together. If it doesn’t it will be another long season at Hobey Baker Rink.
If it does, there is no question that the Tigers can make a run at home ice in the playoffs.
Thanks to Mike Volonnino for his contributions.