PRINCETON, N.J. — The final power play of the night proved to be the decisive one.
Princeton senior forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller connected at 1:29 of overtime on the only shot of the extra session to lift host Princeton to a 3-2 win over ECACHL rival Brown before 1,703 fans at Hobey Baker Rink on Saturday. The two teams had gone scoreless in a combined 14 power-play attempts in regulation.
“It was a broken play,” said Goeckner-Zoeller, who tallied two of the three Princeton goals, of the game-winner. It came after Brown was penalized for having too many men on the ice just 53 seconds into the fourth period.
“The goalie was down and I tried to push it into the far side,” added the Los Angeles native. “It went off the inside of his pad and in, and it’s a big win for us.”
It was also the third overtime victory of the season for the Tigers, who dropped a 3-2 regulation decision to visiting Yale last night. Princeton had gone winless in its previous 27 overtime contests entering the current campaign.
“I give our guys credit,” said third-year Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky. “They came out determined and tried to erase Friday’s slow start. They played hard and it paid off.”
Princeton, which now heads into a two-week academic break for exams, improved to 9-9-2 overall and 6-7-1 in league play, while Brown falls to 7-7-3 on the year and 3-6-1 in the conference. The Tigers outshot the Bears, 42-22, and went 1-for-8 on the power play while Brown was blanked in seven man-advantage attempts. Freshman goaltender Dan Rosen finished with 39 saves for the Bears, while Princeton senior netminder B.J. Sklapsky stopped 20 shots in picking up his second win of 2006-07.
The first dangerous scoring chance of the night came two-and-half minutes in as a slapper by Brown freshman center Devin Timberlake from the right circle was sticked aside by Sklapsky. It came moments after Brown freshman wing Aaron Volpatti had been knocked down at center ice by Princeton junior blueliner Mike Moore, but still managed to get the puck across to Timberlake for the shot.
Princeton’s first solid opportunity came two minutes later when Rosen stopped Princeton sophomore wing Brandan Kushniruk’s wrist shot from the left circle, just before Princeton captain Darroll Powe was banished for charging at 4:21.
The Bears’ best chance on their first power play came with 13:45 remaining in the opening period when junior wing Chris Poli’s shot from the right circle was stopped by Sklapsky. The Tigers then picked up their first power play when Brown sophomore defenseman Matt Palmer was penalized for hitting from behind at 7:09, and Princeton almost got on the board just over 20 seconds into the man advantage.
Rosen stopped a shot and watched the rebound bounce to his left where it was corralled by Goeckner-Zoeller, who stepped to his right and fired upstairs, only to see Rosen bat it away with his blocker. Rosen then stopped a screened shot from the left point by Princeton senior defender Brett Westgarth a minute later as time wound down on the man advantage.
Brown picked up another power play at 9:41, as Princeton senior forward Kevin Westgarth was tabbed for high-sticking, but it was Princeton earning another close-in chance with 9:14 left, as junior center Landis Stankievech one-time a shorthanded shot almost point-blank on Rosen, who made the stop.
The teams went back and forth after returning to equal strength before Princeton began to press, with the Tigers finally breaking on top at 14:41 as senior defenseman Daryl Marcoux skated untouched into the slot and shelved a rebound into a half-open net after Rosen had made a save to his right. The goal, Marcoux’s first of the campaign, was assisted by rookie winger Kevin Kaiser and Kevin Westgarth.
Brown began a press of its own after the goal, and was rewarded for its efforts just 1:23 before intermission. Sophomore center Matt Vokes took a feed from junior linemate Jeff Prough off a 3-on-2 rush, and fired a shot from the right circle inside the far left post to knot matters with his seventh goal of the season.
Princeton then took the lead back just 1:14 into the second stanza as Goeckner-Zoeller clanged a shot from the right circle off the iron and in for his fifth marker of the year, off set-ups from freshmen Cam MacIntyre and Kevin Crane.
“It went off the far post and in,” said Goeckner-Zoeller of his first goal in seven outings. “That’s the place I’ve been shooting to for a long time. It was getting to the point where it wasn’t going in, but I’m glad one finally did.”
“It’s amazing the chances he’s had,” said Gadowsky of Goeckner-Zoeller, who led all players with six shots on goal. “He doesn’t get frustrated, and that’s what I love about him. He keeps working and obviously it was a huge game for him tonight.”
The game soured into a series of penalties following the Goeckner-Zoeller goal, with Brown committing five of the next six infractions and even allowing the Tigers 20 seconds with a two-man advantage, but neither team was able to convert. Princeton players thought they had gone up by two goals with 12:56 left in the period, but Rosen lay flat on his back on a loose puck in his crease to snuff the threat. Poli then went off at 9:51, followed by offsetting minors to Brown freshman defenseman Jeremy Russell and Princeton sophomore center Brett Wilson. The Tigers generated several solid chances, but Rosen was equal to the task, including an outfielder-style catch of a puck that sailed high above the slot before settling in his outstretched glove.
Princeton freshman center Dan Bartlett was whistled off for a pair of penalties at 11:04 and 13:29 respectively, and the Bears milled about the Princeton zone for most of the two power plays only to see Sklapsky make several saves, while firing wide themselves on a few occasions. Princeton sophomore wing Lee Jubinville skated in off the right wing boards with 2:30 left in the session and shot from the slot, but Rosen stopped him. Sixty seconds later the Bears hit the post at the other end to leave the Tigers up by a goal after 40 minutes, with the squads scoreless in five power-play attempts apiece to that point.
The two teams served up matching minors just two minutes into the third period before Brown picked up its sixth power play as Marcoux was sent off for tripping at 3:33, but the Bears still couldn’t tie the game. Goeckner-Zoeller was then sprung loose down the left wing with 14:13 left and walked in alone from the blueline, seeking his second goal, only to be rejected by Rosen’s blocker. The Bears then went back on the power play at 9:08 when Sklapsky was caught for tripping, but Brown’s best chance was a cross-ice pass to Volpatti at the right post that rocketed through his skates. Freshman defender Scott Van der Linden went off for Brown for boarding at 12:55, but the first chance on the ensuing power play went to the shorthanded Bears, as Timberlake fired from the right circle and Sklapsky had to look behind him to ensure he had made the save, the puck nestled underneath his pads.
Timberlake then led another right wing rush just before the power play expired, but Brown couldn’t get a shot off from the slot. Princeton was stopped by Rosen down the far end on its own next rush, and then the Bears finally tied it up as Prough picked up a loose puck and went wide down the left side in the Princeton zone. He then pulled up before the goal line and cut to the net, where he slammed the puck past Sklapsky with 4:42 remaining in regulation.
“That was a great effort,” said 10th year Brown head coach Roger Grillo of Prough’s play, his third goal in two games and his ninth score of the winter. “He used his speed to the outside and drove the net and scored a big goal for us.”
The Bears seemed energized by the goal and attacked the Princeton net in a frenzied fashion, forcing Sklapsky to make a number of saves, with several other shots sailing just wide. Brown continued to carry the play over the next few minutes, but then senior wing Antonin Roux was charged with hooking at 18:36 to put Princeton up by one skater. The Tigers moved the puck around the Brown zone, but Rosen stopped their last effort in regulation when he took Moore’s shot from the left circle in his midsection with eight seconds left on the clock. Brown then took the too many men penalty less than a minute into overtime, and Goeckner-Zoeller provided the heroics 36 seconds later to end it.
“The puck went wide and their big guy – I don’t remember his name – was lying in the crease and I couldn’t get to the post,” recalled Rosen. “My leg hit his body and the puck went in. Unfortunately it was a bad bounce for us, but we didn’t put ourselves in a good position with the too many men on the ice (penalty).”
“It’s a tough way to lose a big game,” said Grillo. “I think we’re in a little bit of a rut, and we need to work our way out and get our confidence back. We’ll look to get things rolling in the second half of the league season and tighten up a few things.”
Gadowsky isn’t worried about his players now spending 15 days without a game as they break for exams.
“We have high-quality guys with good time-management skills,” he said, while adding that the break will also give his team time to heal some bumps and bruises. “I expect to come back with (much) the same tempo as tonight.
“I’m happy with the way our guys are playing, and we’ll take it just one game at a time.”
Brown plays at Colgate and Cornell next weekend, while Princeton returns to action on Jan. 29 at home against Robert Morris. The Bears and Tigers will complete their two-game season series on Feb. 2 in Providence, where the teams skated to a 3-3 tie last year.