After starting the 2008–09 season at a record pace, the men’s hockey team slowed down in the second half of its season — but not by much. Key victories down the stretch against Cornell and Yale earned No. 6 Princeton (20–7, 14–6 ECAC) a first-round playoff bye and positioned the Tigers two points behind the first-place Bulldogs in the ECAC Hockey standings with a pair of games remaining.
The Tigers finished the first half of the season in second place, and a 5–1 rout of Harvard in their first game of 2009 helped cap an impressive 15–2 run in the first 17 games. But then the squad hit its only slump of the season, losing four of the next five games. The losses, all in conference games, dropped the Tigers back to fourth place.
Princeton regrouped, winning six of seven games late in the regular season, including wins against two of the nation’s best teams in February.
Avenging an early-season loss to No. 11 Yale, Princeton shut out the Bulldogs, 2–0, Feb. 21 in what was arguably the team’s most important win. Junior goaltender Zane Kalemba, whose 1.58 goals-against average ranked first in the nation, was stellar against Yale, making 31 saves to earn his second shutout of the season. Defenseman Jody Pederson ’10 and center Kevin Kaiser ’10 scored Prince-ton’s goals.
“There was a fantastic atmosphere at Baker Rink, and both teams responded with excellent hockey at both ends,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I thought we played a very good game for three periods and came out with a big win.”
Against No. 10 Cornell on Feb. 7, the Tigers found themselves down 1–0 late in the third period. Kalemba went to the bench, giving Princeton an extra skater, and junior Dan Bartlett scored with 36 seconds left to tie the game. Princeton then scored the game-winner just 18 seconds later when defenseman Taylor Fedun ’11 scored on a 3-on-1 rush.
“The game against Cornell was absolutely huge for us as a team in many ways,” defenseman Brad Schroeder ’10 said. “We literally had to keep pressing until the buzzer in order to get that win. We had chances, but nothing went in for us until the last minute. I think that game both showed and strengthened our mental toughness as a team and has given us confidence as we move forward.”
Freelance writer Andrew Robinton ’04 lives in New York City.