PRINCETON, N.J. — Facing elimination a week after posting a .500 regular season, Princeton will live to play at least one more night.
The Tigers recorded a dramatic 2-1 win in overtime over visiting Brown on Saturday night before 1,074 onlookers at Hobey Baker Rink, on a goal just 1:50 into the extra session by sophomore center Brett Wilson.
The Calgary native put a rebound past Brown rookie goaltender Dan Rosen in Game 2 of an ECACHL first-round playoff series to give his team its fifth win in their last seven outings.
“It popped out to me and I put it off his (Rosen’s) skate and in,” said Wilson. “I was standing on the side of the net, so I had a pretty good view of it.
“Sometimes you need to get a good bounce that goes in.”
The result tied the best-of-three series at one game apiece, following Brown’s 4-3 triumph in sudden death here on Friday night. Rosen made 33 saves for Brown (11-14-6), which was outshot by a 35-22 margin, on Saturday while senior netminder B.J. Sklapsky finished with 21 stops for the Tigers. Princeton (14-14-3) went 1-for-7 on the power play in the rematch, while Brown was blanked in four man-advantage attempts.
“I’m excited for our team,” added Wilson. “We didn’t want to end our season tonight, but we don’t have too much time to celebrate.”
The third and deciding game will be contested at Baker Rink on Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m., with the winner advancing to the second round of the ECACHL Tournament next weekend.
Saturday marked the fourth time in four meetings this season that the Tigers and Bears went to overtime, including last night’s game. Princeton recorded a 3-2 victory here in sudden death back on Jan. 13 before the two Ivy League schools skated to a 1-1 tie in Rhode Island on Feb. 2. Tonight’s success was also Princeton’s first playoff victory since a 3-2 win over Colgate in ECAC Final Five play back on March 18, 1999 in Lake Placid, a stretch of 17 post-season games.
“I thought we played well,” said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky following the latest overtime. “It was a game no one deserved to lose. We did a better job of staying out of the (penalty) box tonight, and it was almost 62 minutes of hard-fought hockey.”
Princeton senior forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller had the first good chance of the game just under two minutes in when, after breaking his stick on a slap shot from the right circle, the Los Angeles native returned with a replacement and got off another shot from the slot that was stopped by Rosen.
Brown got its first solid opportunity with 15:37 left in the first period when sophomore wing Sean Muncy, who tallied the game-winner the night before, picked off a Princeton clearing attempt and wristed a shot from the high slot that was gloved by Sklapsky. Three-and-a-half minutes later, Brown junior wing Jeff Prough saw his slapper from the top of the right circle kicked away by the Saskatchewan native.
Just ten seconds into a tripping penalty to Princeton freshman center Kevin Kaiser at 8:30 of the opening period, it was the host Tigers who nearly opened the scoring. Junior defenseman Mike Moore carried the puck down the left side and chipped it ahead at the blueline to sophomore wing Lee Jubinville. Jubinville broke into the Brown zone two-on-none with senior captain Darroll Powe but couldn’t get a clean pass to him across the crease for a point-blank attempt on Rosen, who made 15 saves in the first 20 minutes of play.
“He played very well, and he certainly gave us an opportunity,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo of Rosen.
Brown junior defenseman Paul Baier, a Los Angeles Kings draft choice, fired a one-timer from low in the Princeton slot with just over six minutes remaining after being set up by freshman center Sean McMonagle from the right side, but the shot was blocked in front. McMonagle then had a chance of his own with 3:53 left, but his attempt was partially deflected and slid wide of the left post.
“I though we weren’t moving in the first period,” said Grillo following the game. “The second half we played very well, but we need to come out with more zip tomorrow night.”
The Bears went on the attack to start the second stanza as senior wing Brian Ihnacak, a Pittsburgh Penguins draftee, broke in close and tried a backhander that Sklapsky stopped with 15:22 left. That attempt was followed by a blast a half-minute later from the top of the left circle by sophomore wing Ryan Garbutt that struck Sklapsky in the chest.
Wilson got behind the Brown defense and took a pass off the left boards with 10:14 left in the period to come in alone on Rosen, but the freshman netminder got a piece of Wilson’s upstairs attempt on the stick side.
“He’s a great goalie,” said Wilson. “We have to try to get pucks to the net, and crash it to get rebounds and quality chances.”
Brown senior captain Sean Dersch fired from atop the crease with 8:27 left as the Bears rushed the Princeton net, only to be stopped by Sklapsky. The puck was ultimately pushed wide by a scrum of skaters, with the Princeton goalie down and the right side of the net exposed.
The Bears then sandwiched a pair of penalties around one for the Tigers, and it was Princeton who finally broke on top in a 4-on-3 situation as freshman wing Cam MacIntyre fired a shot from the left circle that eluded Rosen at 13:31. It was MacIntyre’s ninth goal of the campaign, and was set up by Jubinville and senior defenseman Brett Westgarth. Brown responded at 15:38 as freshman center Devin Timberlake accepted a pass from junior wing Chris Poli in the slot, whirled around, and then let go with a shot that beat Sklapsky to tie the contest. Sophomore blueliner Matt Palmer also picked up an assist on the play, Timberlake’s third goal of the season.
The Bears killed off an interference call on Palmer to start the third period, and then went on their third power play of the evening as Princeton senior defender B.J. Mackasey was banished for holding at 5:10. Garbutt had two point-blank tries at the right post, but Sklapsky sealed the net off with 13:25 left in regulation. Seconds later Ihnacak tried to walk around Sklapsky at the left post, but he couldn’t get back in front for a stuff attempt. Ihnacak had earlier been stopped by Sklapsky on a wrist shot from the left circle just after the Mackasey infraction had been whistled.
The teams then exchanged a pair of penalties, and Ihnacak again tried to beat Sklapsky on a backhander at the left post with 4:53 remaining, but he was tied up by a Princeton player and couldn’t get much on the shot. Prough recorded the last solid chance of regulation as he one-timed a shot from the high slot with 35 seconds left that hit Sklapsky up high.
“I saw it halfway,” said Sklapsky afterwards. “If he had tried to pick a corner he might have beaten me, but I was lucky to get a shoulder on it.”
It ended quickly in the extra period. Jubinville let go with a shot from the right side that was stopped by Rosen, but the puck dropped to the ice by the right post and was put in on the short side by Wilson, his eighth goal of the year, with Powe also assisting. Wilson was subsequently mobbed by his Tiger teammates across the ice from the benches for forcing one more game, and one last home game for Princeton’s nine-man senior class.
Princeton is now 4-3-3 in overtime contests this season, while Brown has gone 3-3-6 in such games.
“We’ll think about it tonight,” said Grillo, when asked if he planned to make any changes for Sunday. “We’ll refocus and get after it again tomorrow.”
Gadowsky himself expects nothing less than another battle Sunday night to see who will advance.
“This was a good game, and both teams played consistently hard,” he said. “We’re happy to do this again; but Rosen and Brown are both playing well, and I don’t think there’s any chance it won’t be a close, hard-fought game.”