It took 48 minutes, four seconds, and a half-dozen monstrous saves by Zane Kalemba … but Princeton eventually avoided becoming Colgate’s second big upset of the week.
The Tigers made the most of Kalemba’s 27 stops — many of them downright incredible — to best the upstart Raiders 3-0 in the first game of the ECAC Hockey semifinals at the Times-Union Center.
“It clearly wasn’t about our effort,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan.
“He’s a winner,” said Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky of his netminder. “I think everyone in the league knows that … anyone who’s ever seen us play knows that.”
It took a few minutes for the teams to warm up to each other on the unfamiliar ice, but after five minutes of how-do-you-do icings and imperfect possessions, Colgate opened things up.
Tyler Burton dashed between the Tigers defense eight and a half minutes in, and threw a hard deke from forehand to backhand on Kalemba. The sophomore ‘keeper was up to the challenge, though, stoning Burton on both the initial and rebound shots with a big left pad.
Burton was left shaking his head again five minutes later on a truly luckless opportunity. With Peter Bogdanich in the corner, senior Ben Camper streaked down the left-wing slot for a one-timer. The pass went straight through the hassled Camper, however, and Kalemba was caught down and out in anticipation of the Camper tip.
Burton found himself all alone on the opposite side of the crease with the puck on his blade and nothing but netting in front of him. The 40-point senior suffered a brutal case of the yips, and shoveled the puck along the ice toward the far post … the only place Kalemba could ever hope to reach it, which he did.
The second-seeded Tigers tested Mark Dekanich intermittently, but it was Garden State native Kalemba who shone brightest in the first period. The Raiders attempted 13 shots on net in the opening score, and Kalemba both saw and stopped every one of them. The Nassau Cats ripped 13 goalward as well, but only five got through to “Dex.”
The ‘Gate kept up the pressure to open the second, as David McIntyre stepped from the box at the optimal moment to create a three-on-two rush. A quick dish to Winchester down the right side sprung McIntyre in the middle, forcing Kalemba to make a spectacular spread-eagled glove save on the latter’s tip to keep Colgate off the board.
The second frame was an attritional battle, with only a dozen shots between the teams and little in the way of offensive pressure. With 20 to go in the scoreless slugfest, the Hamilton club held a 19-12 shot advantage.
“Colgate did a heck of a job stopping our rush, and we had a hard time generating shots,” said Gadowsky.
The third opened with Colgate on the attack once more. Jason Williams and Ethan Cox caught the Tigers in a two-on-one, but Cox’s tip of the perfect feed caught Kalemba’s iron, and a bit of Kalemba as well.
As the pro-’Gate crowd feared, all the missed chances ultimately kept Princeton in the game and put the Raiders in the hole. Freshman winger Matt Arhontas broke the draw –and a few hearts as well — nine minutes into the third, picking up a turnover in the Colgate zone. He then beat Dekanich knee-high through the five-hole off a left-wing breakaway.
“For anyone who followed [the juniors], no one is surprised what Matt Arhontas is doing,” praised Gadowsky.
An immense end-to-end momentum swing all but put the Raiders to bed. First, Cox had another golden opportunity to tie the game while scrumming in front of the Tiger crease. Picking up the puck with a little bit of space, he spun around to deposit a backhand into another open net.
But Kalemba dove once more, and got the glove on it along the ice to send Princeton on the counterattack. Kevin Lohry received the rubber on the rush, and the freshman from Sioux City, Iowa beat Dekanich low for the second time in the period.
“We didn’t finish, and [Kalemba] made some spectacular saves,” said Vaughan. “You’ve gotta tip your hat to him.”
Lohry sent the Orange and Black on to Saturday’s finals for good with his fourth goal of the year, an easy slider into the empty net with 21 seconds left.
The shutout was Kalemba’s third of the playoffs, setting a single-season ECAC record and tying the overall mark shared with current goalies Bud Fisher (Quinnipiac) and David Leggio (Clarkson), and former Cornell netminder David McKee. His shutout streak currently stands at 149:46, following Friday’s blanking and last Sunday’s null set against Yale.
Princeton seeks its second tournament crown in its third try, after winning in its last visit in 1998.