The Princeton Tigers will open their 105th regular season on October 28th when they travel to the Joyce Center to face off against host Notre Dame.
Last season marked the beginning of the Guy Gadowsky era at Princeton and the change under his guidance could certainly be seen.
The most noticeable change was the creative offense and the more wide-open style that had been put into place. The result was increased scoring and a more exciting Princeton Tigers hockey team to watch. The Tigers saw their goal scoring output increase from 62 in the 2003-04 season to 81 last season. Gadowsky, who is from Edmonton, patterns his team’s style after the great Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s.
“I absolutely want to continue to play a more wide-open system this year. I grew up in Edmonton and in the 1980s had a great model to watch. So, it’s a goal of ours to play that style,” said Gadowsky in a recent interview with Hockey’s Future.
He’ll have some outstanding players to do that with this season, but top scorer Dustin Sproat won’t be among them. Sproat, an All-Ivy League Second team selection had his eligibility run out at the end of last season, despite being a junior. He led the Tigers with 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) playing in all 31 games.
Leading Princeton this season will be an outstanding group of returning forwards led by senior Patrick Neundorfer and juniors Grant Goeckner-Zoeller and Darroll Powe.
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Neundorfer, who will return as team captain, finished fourth in scoring with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 31 games. Two areas where he proved to be particularly invaluable were on the power play and in faceoffs. Of his nine goals, eight came on the power play. He led the team in that category. He became the Tigers faceoff specialist as well.
The dynamic Goeckner-Zoeller finished last season with 32 points (six goals, 26 assists) playing in 30 games. He missed one game due to a shoulder injury.
Powe is the one player that Gadowsky feels will be one of the Tigers’ emerging players this season.
“I think he’s just on the verge of having a breakthrough year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has it this year. He is an extremely strong player. He’s powerful and fast. He would be my pick as the emerging player,” said Gadowsky.
Powe finished last season with seven points (five goals, two assists) in 30 games. He was one of only two players on the roster who scored a short-handed goal last season.
In addition to the returning players, Princeton will also welcome four newcomers up front that include a pair of forwards out of the Alberta Junior “A” League in Lee Jubinville and Brett Wilson.
Jubinville comes to Princeton from Camrose, where he posted 39 points (21 goals, 18 assists) in 64 games last season.
“He’s a cerebral player. He’s extremely intelligent all over the ice. Everything he does is very calculated. He’s not big but he’s deceptively very strong. Lee is the type of player that will give you offense without sacrificing any defense,” said Gadowsky of Jubinville.
Wilson comes to Princeton from the Calgary Royals, where he amassed 98 points (40 goals, 58 assists) in 64 games. He also racked up 118 penalty minutes.
“Brett’s offensive gifts are tremendous and his creativity is excellent. He’s a great kid who has a special knack offensively and we expected that and we’re really hoping that he’ll continue that here,” said Gadowsky of Wilson.
The two areas that Princeton is looking to improve this season are overall team defense and the penalty kill. The Tigers struggled mightily in both areas last season. They finished with the 56th ranked defense in the nation, giving up an average of 3.87 goals per game. The Tigers penalty killing ranked 57th with an efficiency rating of 77.1 percent.
“Our penalty kill percentage has to be a lot higher and that’ll be our number one goal starting right off the hop. The other side of that are just our goals against. I think that the penalty kill has a lot to do with that. So the big picture here is the goals against and the little component that we can get to achieve that is penalty kill. We want to become much more consistent defensively and still be able to maintain our offensive output and creativity,” said Gadowsky.
To make the defensive improvements possible, Princeton returns nearly their entire defense intact. The lone departure was that of All-ECAC and All-Ivy League First Teams selection Luc Paquin, who has graduated. Paquin, an excellent offensive defenseman, led Tigers and was second in the ECACHL in scoring among defensemen with 24 points (six goals, 18 assists).
With the loss of Paquin, much of Princeton’s defensive responsibilities this season will fall upon seniors Seamus Young and Brian Carthas. Young, an excellent skating defenseman who was paired with Paquin last season, will be counted on to contribute offensively among the defensive corps. He finished last season with ten points (all assists) in 25 games.
Young’s new defensive partner this season will be Carthas. The South Boston native finished his junior campaign with six points (two goals, four assists) playing in all 31 games. Carthas, who is a converted defenseman, was very solid in his overall play last season.
“Brian and Seamus will be one of the groups quarterbacking the power play that’s for sure,” said Gadowsky of the Young-Carthas pairing.
The lone newcomer to the Tigers defensive corps is Andrew Leavitt. He comes to Princeton from St. Albert (AJHL), where he had 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) along with 75 penalty minutes in 64 games. Leavitt is the brother of former University of Wisconsin forward Alex Leavitt.
“I think he’ll be a player who’ll make the transition to our level very quickly because of what his game is and what he does well equates to a higher level. He’s just very solid and he makes the correct play as quick as possible. He’s a strong positional, well-rounded defenseman. He moves the puck very well but he’s just not flashy about it. He moves the puck well offensively but is always in good position defensively. He’s deceptively quick. He’s not a huge guy but he’s not fun to play against either. His strengths are his intelligence and how he reads the play,” said Gadowsky of Leavitt.
Another area that will be intact from last season when Princeton’s 2005-06 season gets underway is in goal. All three goaltenders return led by senior Eric Leroux. He finished last season posting a 6-13-2 record that included two shutouts. Despite a losing record, the London, Ontario native put up very respectable numbers in save percentage (.909) and goals against average (3.19). Leroux has been tabbed as the starter in the Princeton net this season.
“He’ll be our starting goaltender this year but I hope that he’s going to get challenged by the other goaltenders. We do have a lot of confidence in him and it’s definitely his spot to lose,” said Gadowsky.
It will be a three-way battle for not only the backup job but also to stay on the roster between the returning junior B.J. Sklapsky, sophomore Jeff Mansfield and newcomer Thomas Sychterz. Sklapsky saw playing time in 11 games, posting a 2-5-0 record.
Mansfield saw playing time in three games posting a 0-2-0 record. Mansfield, who is hearing impaired and communicates through sign language, was named USA Hockey’s Disabled Athlete of the Year last season.
Sychterz (pronounced “sickters”) comes to Princeton from Lachine (QJAHL). He is noted for his work ethic and focus.
If the Tigers can resolve their defensive woes, they’ll be right in the mix in the hotly contested ECACHL and will be that much more difficult for the opposition to have to play against.
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)
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