Calof making his mark at Princeton with points

Andrew Calof might be an easy guy to miss at Princeton.

At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he’s not a bruiser and he doesn’t put people through the boards. He doesn’t get caught up in scrums or get stuck in the corners. He doesn’t throw the puck away or skate all over needlessly.

He simply waits until the right moment pops up and fires — or else dishes the puck off to a teammate who’s in a better scoring position. Either way, there’s a strong chance the puck will find its way to the back of the opposing net at Hobey Baker Rink.

The one place you definitely won’t miss Calof is on the score sheet, where the Nepean, Ontario, native is leading the Tigers in points for the third consecutive season.

As a freshman in 2010-11, Calof scored nine goals and added 24 assists for 33 points in 32 games. He also posted back-to-back three-assist performances against Brown and Colgate and was the ECAC Hockey rookie of the year.

“I didn’t expect it,” he said of his early success. “Coach [Guy Gadowsky] put me with incredible players. I didn’t score as much but I gave them the puck and they helped me along.”

As a sophomore, he registered 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in 33 outings. Included in those totals were 10 multiple-point games, including five points in the final two contests of a first-round ECAC playoff series against Yale.

His second-year accomplishments came while adjusting to a new head coach in Bob Prier.

“Each coach has his own philosophy, and I like what we’re doing now,” Calof said. “He’s doing an incredible job.”

Calof’s role hasn’t really changed since Prier took over the Princeton bench in the fall of 2010.

“You finish your hits and play within the system, but he gives you individual freedom,” he said.

Calof, 21, began the 2012-13 campaign with a five-game scoring streak, including a two-goal, three-point night in a 5-3 win over visiting Cornell on Nov. 9. His second goal came on the power play with just 2:53 remaining in regulation, broke a 3-3 tie with the then-No. 4 team in the nation and stood up as the game-winner.

“His awareness is incredible, and he can feel if a check is on him,” Prier said of Calof. “He plays the game at a different speed. He knows he has time, and he uses it well.”

Calof added two-assist efforts at Sacred Heart, Union and Vermont before he victimized another Ivy League opponent in spectacular fashion at Baker Rink on Jan. 4.

After staking Princeton to a 2-0 lead against Harvard just under nine minutes into the second stanza, he and his teammates watched as the visiting Crimson rebounded to forge a 2-2 tie with a little over seven minutes left in the third period.

Cue Calof, who connected 58 seconds into overtime before an over-capacity crowd to lift the Tigers to their first win since Nov. 23, snapping a seven-game winless skid.

“I tried to pass to someone in the slot,” he chuckled. “It banked off something and went in, so I was very fortunate.”

Following the end of Princeton’s traditional exam break in January, Calof tallied a goal and three assists in a 5-2 triumph over visiting Sacred Heart on Jan. 27 to match his career high for points in a game, as the Tigers won for the fourth time in five outings.

Calof first skated from left to right and past several defenders in the offensive zone to set up Mike Ambrosia in front for a game-opening, power-play goal. He then put home a rebound himself in the second period for a 3-0 advantage.

“If you check him, he still has the ability to make plays,” said Prier, who said he feels Calof could merit strong Hobey Baker Award and All-America consideration. “He has a calmness and poise, and he makes people around him way better.”

With a hand in all three goals Princeton scored in a 4-3 loss to Yale on Feb. 23, Calof reached 35 points for the season and 99 for his 91-game collegiate career.

He has 38 goals and just 28 penalties in his time at Princeton.

“He has a high-end skill level, at high speed,” Prier said. “His lateral movement is incredible, and he’s agile on his feet. He has incredible deception and awareness, and he can change gears like the great players do.”

Calof is also trying to help the Tigers get back to the perch they once occupied before he arrived at Old Nassau — namely, the 2008 ECAC Hockey tournament title, and back-to-back NCAA tournament berths in 2008 and 2009.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s the goal, to hopefully win the ECACs and a national championship.”

Before enrolling at Princeton, Calof starred with his hometown Nepean Raiders, where he accumulated 234 points (111 goals) in two seasons, including 31 power-play goals and 10 game-winners. He also took home MVP honors at the Canadian Junior Hockey League All-Star Game, skated for Team Canada East at the World Junior “A” Championships, and claimed the CJHL’s A.K. Nielson Award for both academic and hockey excellence.

Calof knew Princeton was the place for him after he took a visit to the central New Jersey campus.

“An Ivy League education was what I wanted,” he said. “The coaches were first-class, they [players] were genuinely happy to meet you, and it felt more like a family environment.”

Undrafted, he’d like to have reason to keep putting on his skates after accepting his diploma next year.

Calof attended a prospect development camp with the New York Islanders last summer.

“I’d like to keep playing hockey,” he said. “If that’s not possible, I’ll have an Ivy League education to fall back on.”

Calof is a chemical and biological engineering major.

“I’m also interested in climate change,” he said. “I took a class in Environmental Policy as a freshman and enjoyed it.”

The son of Western Ontario graduates, he got his start in hockey at the behest of his parents.

“It’s part of the culture in Canada, that you’re going to learn how to skate,” said Calof, who also starred in soccer. “I ended up playing a lot of sports but I chose hockey. I’ve enjoyed it the most, and it’s worked out well for me.”

It’s worked out well for the Tigers, too.