PRINCETON, N.J. — The east end balcony at Hobart Baker Memorial Rink prominently displays the sign “Make Hobey Proud.”
The late, great Hobey Baker may not have been too happy on the day his namesake arena celebrated the dedication of its newly refurbished orange-and-black lobby, complete with photographs from throughout Princeton University’s rich ice hockey history. Not because of the ceremony, but the outcome of the game that preceded it between No. 18 Princeton and No. 8 Clarkson.
The visiting Golden Knights (7-3, 4-1 ECACHL) scored three times in each of the first two periods of their matinee meeting with the host Tigers (3-2, 2-2 ECACHL) en route to a 6-2 win before 1,442 on-lookers at Baker Rink, as Clarkson senior center Steve Zalewski scored a career-best four goals.
Fourth-year Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky didn’t offer any excuses as to why his team came up on the short end of the score, and gave credit where he felt it was due.
“I think it’s more that Clarkson’s an excellent team,” said Gadowsky of the final result. “They beat us in every way, and there were no surprises. It wasn’t a good game for us, and we just weren’t able to match them.”
Both teams had suffered their first losses of the season on Friday night, with Clarkson falling at Quinnipiac and Princeton losing to St. Lawrence, both one-goal defeats.
“I thought we bounced back well and played with enthusiasm and determination,” said fifth-year Clarkson coach George Roll afterwards. “I’m proud of the effort and how we played the way we did, after what happened last year in this building.”
The Golden Knights were drubbed, 7-1, by the Tigers at Baker Rink last season as Princeton swept Clarkson for the first time since the 1989-90 campaign.
Senior goaltender David Leggio finished with 33 saves for the Golden Knights this time out, while Princeton junior netminder Thomas Sychterz took the loss after making nine stops in the first period. Freshman backstop Alan Reynolds made 16 saves in playing the final 40 minutes for Princeton in his collegiate debut. Clarkson finished 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Tigers went 1-for-5 with the man advantage and outshot the Golden Knights, 35-31, overall.
“Last night was a bit of a down night,” said Zalewski of the 3-2 loss to Quinnipiac. “We were eager to come back and get a split on the road, and we were really motivated at the start of the game.”
Clarkson junior left wing Shea Guthrie scored just 3:01 into the contest, as he put home a loose puck that bounded into the slot in front of Sychterz.
The Golden Knights managed to kill off a five-on-three Princeton power play shortly after Guthrie’s goal. Princeton senior center Landis Stankievech, playing his first game this fall after sitting out with an injury, had the Tigers’ best offensive chance of the period when he broke in alone down the left side and cut to his backhand in front of Leggio, but the Clarkson netminder turned him away.
Zalewski made it a 2-0 affair at 14:25 when he took a pass from classmate Nick Dodge in the high slot and wristed a shot past Sychterz for his fourth tally of the year and the first power-play goal surrendered by Princeton so far this season.
Zalewski, a fifth-round draft choice of the San Jose Sharks in 2004, made it 3-0 at 17:22 with his second goal of the afternoon when he jammed home a loose puck at the left post. He was assisted by Reed and sophomore right wing Matt Beca on what proved to be the game-winning tally.
“He’s been great,” said Roll of Zalewski. “He’s been getting chances and generating offense, and his linemates also played well. Matt Beca had a great game, and there’s just great chemistry on that line.”
Zalewski, Beca and sophomore left wing Tim Marks combined for six points, nine shots, and a plus-8 rating in the victory, Clarkson’s 12th win against Princeton in their last 15 encounters.
Reynolds replaced Sychterz in the Princeton net for the start of the second period. The teams went back-and-forth in the middle session, with Princeton sophomore wing Tyler Beachell having two in-close chances denied by Leggio. Zalewski earned the hat trick with 5:32 left in the period on a wrist shot from the right circle that went in off the far post. He followed up with his fourth score of the day at 16:46 for a 5-0 Clarkson lead.
“It felt good, and it was a nice relief,” said Zalewski of his first college hat trick. “I’ve been a little snake-bitten lately, and it was nice to see the pucks go in.”
He hopes today’s game will prove to be a catalyst for the rest of his 2007-08 campaign.
“I sure hope so,” said Zalewski. “I’ll keep trying to play hard and play well, and if the pucks go in, that’s an extra bonus.”
Princeton finally got on the board with 2:39 left in the middle period when a puck centered by junior wing Lee Jubinville from the right corner glanced off classmate Brett Wilson in front and went in for Wilson’s first goal of the year. Leggio discussed the play with the officials, ostensibly for interference, but the goal stood. The Golden Knights got that one back just 42 seconds before the second intermission when freshman Scott Freeman fired home a high shot from the left circle, his first goal in a Clarkson uniform.
The Tigers got the only goal of the final stanza on a power play when sophomore center Kevin Kaiser converted a rebound left by senior captain Mike Moore at 12:57 for his first goal of the year. However, the Tigers could draw no closer in dropping back-to-back regular season games for the first time since February. Reynolds made nine saves and allowed no goals over the final 20 minutes.
“He made some big saves, and it was nice to get him in there” said Gadowsky of the freshman. “He’s not going to see very many better teams, and it was a great experience for him.”
The rest of the Tigers will also have to learn from this experience and move on to the rest of the season.
“Hopefully we’ll improve and will get a chance to prove that we’re better than we were today,” said Gadowsky.
Princeton will now take on Quinnipiac in its next three games, including a non-league contest, while Clarkson will host Yale and Brown next weekend.