PRINCETON, N.J. — Princeton had lost five games, all by one goal, entering Saturday’s match with visiting Colgate, which just wanted to win its first Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey League game of the 2006-07 season. It was the latter school that broke out on Saturday as the Raiders tallied three power-play goals, all with a two-man advantage, to power them to a 4-2 victory at Hobey Baker Rink.
“The power play is an area we’ve concentrated on,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan afterwards. “It’s been pretty anemic, and it was a little crisper tonight. Our penalty-killing was very good, and our goalie played very well.”
Colgate, which fell at Quinnipiac Friday, improved to 4-7-2 overall and 1-4-1 in ECACHL play, while the host Tigers, who came up one goal short to visiting Cornell on Friday, fell to 1-6-1 on the year and 1-5-0 in league tilts.
Princeton outshot Colgate, 51-29, on the evening but was just 2-for-13 on the power play compared to the Raiders’ 3-for-9 prowess with the man advantage. The two teams combined for 24 minor penalties, 13 for Colgate and 11 for Princeton.
Third-year Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased with his team’s effort, even if it was not rewarded in the final result.
“If we continue to play this way, it will definitely turn,” he said, while noting that his team had outshot all but one opponent so far this season after not outshooting anyone last winter until the Tigers’ eighth game.
“They’re working for it,” added Gadowsky. “The mistakes we made tonight were hard-working mistakes. I don’t think there were any lazy penalties.”
The Raiders took a 1-0 lead at 4:03 of the first period off a 5-on-3 power play after Princeton’s Grant Goeckner-Zoeller and Mike Moore were whistled off 30 seconds apart for unsportsmanlike conduct and hooking, respectively.
Junior forward Jesse Winchester did the honors, beating Princeton senior netminder B.J. Sklapsky high to the stick side from the top of the right circle after playing give-and-go with defensemen Jason Fredricks and junior center Tyler Burton for his third goal of the year.
The host Tigers responded just over four minutes later, only five seconds into their own power play, with Colgate’s Tom Riley off for hooking. Princeton sophomore center Lee Jubinville won the face-off in the right circle of the Colgate zone back to senior defenseman Kevin Westgarth, who fired it on net.
Princeton senior captain Darroll Powe was credited with the game-tying marker at 8:28, his third goal of the year, as he got the puck past Colgate junior goalkeeper Mark Dekanich.
The Raiders again used a two-man advantage to retake the lead with just under three minutes remaining in the first session, as sophomore blueliner Nick St. Pierre beat Sklapsky from the top of the right circle at 17:29 with just two seconds remaining in a tripping call against Powe. Moore was also off at the time for Princeton, for holding an opposing player’s stick.
Sophomore defenseman Jason Fredricks and Burton assisted on St. Pierre’s score, his third of the campaign. Princeton outshot Colgate, 19-5, in the first period, with Goeckner-Zoeller leading all skaters with four shots on net.
Princeton had two chances on a four-on-three situation midway through a seemingly undisciplined second stanza, as sophomore center Brett Wilson deflected a shot from the right point by freshman blueliner Jody Pederson, only to see Dekanich make the save with his blocker. Dekanich then used his left pad several seconds later to stonewall Pederson’s uncontested slapper from the right side.
Freshman forward Dan Bartlett, manning the right point for Princeton on the power play, showed a predilection for putting the puck on net and had several chances in the second period, but none that found the back of the Colgate cage. Jubinville redirected a feed from his right just wide of the right post for the Tigers with just over five minutes left before the buzzer, before Colgate completed its “hat trick” on the 5-on-3 shortly after.
Senior left wing Marc Fulton fired home a puck that came to him from the left side for a 3-1 lead at 16:50, as Riley and freshman forward David McIntyre, one of two NHL draft choices playing in the game along with Dekanich, assisted. The Raiders then struck at even strength at 18:26 for a three-goal lead as rookie forward Jason Williams scored on a wrist shot from the slot after being set up by junior center Jesse Winchester and Burton, who finished with three assists.
Princeton outshot Colgate again in the middle period, 20-16, but still had just the one goal to show for its efforts. The Tigers was also blanked on four power-play opportunities in the middle 20 minutes.
Goeckner-Zoeller’s night of near misses finally culminated in his third goal of the campaign with 4:58 remaining in regulation as he beat Dekanich from the left circle off assists from Wilson and Pederson just after a minor penalty to McIntyre had expired and with 45 seconds still remaining in a holding infraction against Colgate senior defensemen Alex Greig.
The Tigers had another power-play chance with a minute left, just before Sklapsky was pulled for a sixth skater, but Dekanich handled Goeckner-Zoeller’s looping shot from the left circle. Sklapsky then returned for the final 27 seconds of play after Wilson was sent off for tripping as the Tigers suffered their first loss of the fall by more than one goal. Goeckner-Zoeller led all skaters with nine shots on goal.
“I think we have an improved team,” said Gadowsky of his Tigers. “We’re having some trouble keeping the puck out of our net, but we’ll make the adjustment.
“I feel badly for them, not getting wins for their effort,” he continued, admitting that Princeton’s players were extremely disappointed in losing a game they felt they could have and probably should have won.
“We’re getting higher-quality shots and getting traffic in front,” said Gadowsky. “Their goalie did a tremendous job tracking them (shots), but that’s what we want to do and we’re not going to change. I was happy with our play in all three periods and I thought that 5-on-5 we played well and got chances. It’s easy to look and say that special teams was the one glaring area that we lost, but it’s difficult to give up 5-on-3 opportunities and expect to come out ahead.”
Dekanich finished with a career-high 49 saves for Colgate, breaking his personal mark of 44 stops from a 6-6 tie at Brown back on Nov. 4. Sklapsky, playing in just his second game this season for Princeton, made 25 saves for the Tigers in his 26th career appearance.
“This weekend I felt great,” said Dekanich, whose NHL rights are owned by the Nashville Predators. “I saw the puck well, and my teammates did a great job in front of me. I’ll work in practice and hope I feel this way next week.
“It’s my job to stop the puck, and I’ll focus on that.”
“We’ll have to continue to work on our power play,” said Vaughan, now in his 14th season at the Raider helm. “It’s a big part of the game now, the way they’re calling it, and our team needed something positive. Now we’ll get home and refocus on next week.”
“I still think that traffic in front is a good way to score goals,” said Gadowsky on the other side. “I liked the way our team played. I really did, and other than the 5-on-3s, they gave us a pretty good chance to win.”
The two teams will meet again on Feb. 16 in Hamilton, N.Y. to close out their season series The Tigers will now hit the road at Harvard and Dartmouth for the Thanksgiving weekend, while the Raiders will head to Troy, N.Y. to take on first Ohio State and then Niagara or Rensselaer in the Rensselaer/Bank of America Tournament.