Archive for February, 2013

Clarkson Hands Princeton Crushing Conference Loss

February 16, 2013

There is no such thing as a free pass in the ECAC.

But a first-round bye in the conference tournament is pretty close, and the Princeton Tigers were in prime position to hold on to one of those spots coming into their weekend series with Clarkson and St. Lawrence.  But the Golden Knights turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win, and now the Tigers will have to face the Saints, who just knocked off the No. 1 team in the country.

“This isn’t a step back at all,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier.  “We’ll just regroup and come back tomorrow.”

As for tonight, Princeton didn’t seem to have their legs in the first period — perhaps due to a stomach virus that’s been traveling through the team — but junior goaltender Sean Bonar, starting in place of a sick Mike Condon, stopped all 15 shots he faced to keep the game scoreless through one period.

“I thought maybe we played a little tentative (in the first period),” Prier said.

“I was expecting a better start out of us, I felt like we had a really good week of practice.  The guys looked pretty good.  I thought we had a good second half of the first period, and I thought we controlled the game there until the third.  They were pretty desperate in the third, like teams are when they’re down, but we changed the way we played.  We changed the way we played because of the score, the clock, and that’s uncharacteristic of us.”

Ah yes, the third period.  That did not go well for the Tigers.  They got outshot 11-8, but it felt like more than that.  Rob Kleebaum — who had a very strong game on both sides of the puck — and Mike Sdao got the Tigers out of an early 1-0 hole in the second period, but the Golden Knights poured in the pressure in the final 20 minutes.

With just 5:30 left to play, Simon Bessette’s seemingly innocent wrist shot from the outside of the left circle somehow eluded Bonar, and T.J. Moor put Clarkson ahead for good just 2:23 later on the power play.  Prier was asked directly if the flu that has been ravaging his team led to the late loss, but refused to use that as an excuse.  However, when also asked about Bonar’s play in the first in relation to the goal(s) he’d like to have back in the third, Prier only offered “he played well,” without any further comment.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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Previewing Princeton vs. Clarkson

February 15, 2013

Friday night’s matchup at Baker Rink is hardly a must win for Princeton, but should the Tigers overlook the lightly regarded Golden Knights, it could come back to hurt them in a big way.  With six conference games remaining, Princeton (9-10-4, 7-6-3 ECAC) is in a tight battle for the final three first-round byes remaining in the ECAC Tournament, with the top-ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats having all but secured a spot.

The second through tenth spots in the conference are separated by all of six points, with Princeton clinging to the fourth and final spot that would give them a first round free pass (they’re actually in a three-way tie with 17 points with Dartmouth and RPI) by having one more goal than the fifth-place squad.

Clarkson has two NHL draft picks on its roster in F Ben Sexton (BOS) and G Cody Rosen (NYI), but Rosen has only played a handful of games this season, sitting on the bench in favor of freshman Greg Lewis.  Princeton, of course, has D Mike Sdao as their lone NHL-drafted player, but Andrew Calof has been the star of the show for the Tigers for most of the season anyway.

Calof, a 5-foot-10, 165 pound junior, is tied for 22nd in the nation in scoring with 30 points despite having played in just 23 games.  Perhaps a more accurate assessment of his skill would be to look at his points per game ratio (1.30), which is good for ninth in the nation among qualifying top 50 players.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Masked Men: Petr Mrazek

February 10, 2013

Masked Men: Barry Brust

February 6, 2013

5FW Originals: McElhinney Making Most Of AHL Return

February 2, 2013

mcelhinney (2)I’ve been everywhere, man.

Curtis McElhinney hasn’t written a book — it sure seems like he’s got a good title, at least — but he’d have quite a few stories to tell once his playing career has a come to a close. But for now, he’s just hoping to make sure those final few chapters include a return to the National Hockey League.

The 29-year-old was Calgary’s sixth-round pick in the 2002 draft, and rather unexpectedly established himself as a prospect in the organization with strong play for their then-AHL affiliates in Omaha and Quad City. He made his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season for the Flames, and established himself as the full-time backup the following season.

And then frequent flyer miles started piling up.

At the 2010 trade deadline, he was shipped off to Anaheim in exchange for Vesa Toskala. After less than a calendar year in Orange County, he was again traded for a goalie; this time to Tampa Bay in exchange for Dan Ellis. Just four days later, he was claimed on waivers by the Ottawa Senators.

Prior to the 2011-12 season, he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, for whom he appeared in two NHL games. But he didn’t last the year there either, getting dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Antoine Vermette deal.

“It’s a lot of travel,” McElhinney told The Trentonian through a laugh.

“I think the first time you get shipped out of somewhere, it’s a little difficult to accept, but after that, I think it’s just the nature of the beast unfortunately. There’s some positives to it in getting to meet a new group of guys and some new people, and you try and the most of it.”

Now, McElhinney has found some stability…if there ever is such a thing for him. But, to be clear, McElhinney does not fit the textbook definition of “suitcase goalie.” Talent has never been an issue, and that much has been on full display this season — his 2.28 goals against average and .926 save percentage earned him a second career appearance in the AHL All-Star Game with the Springfield Falcons.

“I’m pretty good at fitting in in new areas nowadays,” joked McElhinney, who understood having to come back to the AHL this year.

“The situation just with the injury and Phoenix having to unload a contract was totally understandable. I wasn’t doing much for them at the time sitting out, so I think the situation worked out for both organizations. Fortunately for me, I was able to find a home in Springfield this year.”

The trade-off is an interesting one for the approachable London, Ontario native.

On one hand, he found himself stuck behind workhorses like Miikka Kiprusoff and Jonas Hiller during his time in the NHL and never was going to get an opportunity to be a regular starter. In the AHL, he’ll get the bulk of the games, but be further away from the spotlight.

“It was tough (establishing yourself),” he said.

“Obviously, I’d like to think if I was able to go back and do it now, it would be a little bit easier just based on the experience, but to do that when you’re so used to playing so many games, it certainly presented its challenges. It was a learning experience for me, it was where I wanted to be.

“Now, it’s nice to get into a routine again. You’ve always been used to playing, especially growing up…but when you get up to the NHL, and you’re talking about 30 guys (who start), it’s tough. There’s not a lot of guys and there’s not a lot of movement at that position, so there are going to be backups regardless of how we’ll you’ve done at juniors or the AHL and whatnot. It’s certainly a transition, and for people that have been used to playing so much their entire lives, it’s challenging at times.”

Now, McElhinney finds himself in an interesting situation yet again. With the Blue Jackets goaltending situation in a perpetual state of flux — Sergei Bobrovsky was brought in to challenge Steve Mason for the starting job, but they currently rank 26th and 27th out of qualifiying NHL goaltenders in GAA, respectively — the well-traveled backup could be in a perfect position to get another opportunity at the big time.

“I’d like to think so,” said McElhinney when asked if he could get a chance there.

“It’s tough to tell with the shortened season as far as what their views are going to be on it and what they do, but you don’t want to wish anybody any negative results in their games. But at the same point, you’re still looking for a break and another chance yourself. Hopefully, there will be one at some point this season.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com