By DANIEL J. CASSAVAUGH
Princeton freshman goalie Sean Bonar and Ivy League co-rookie of the year Andrew Calof combined to put St. Lawrence into a must-win situation after beating the Saints, 4-1, in Game 1 of the ECAC Hockey first round playoff series on Friday.
Princeton (17-11-2 overall), which had been 0-5-1 in six previous playoff encounters with St. Lawrence, moved into a position to eliminated the Saints (10-20-5) in Game 2 at 4 p.m. today. The Saints now must win two consecutive games — something that’s happened just twice this year — to keep the season alive and move on to the ECAC quarterfinals next week.
“We’re biting and scratching and clawing to keep playing,” SLU coach Joe Marsh said. “It’s always difficult to end a team’s season.”
Princeton seems to know how to beat St. Lawrence, however. In two regular-season meetings, the Tigers won 5-1 and 5-3. Friday’s 4-1 playoff triumph proved St. Lawrence’s upcoming task will be difficult.
“We’re going to have to play with desperation,” Marsh said. “We’ll have to try to play as hard as we can for the full 60 minutes. Hopefully we live to fight another day.”
St. Lawrence came out strong in the opening moments of the first period Friday, firing several shots on Bonar. But the freshman netminder stopped them all — eight in total. Calof, a likely candidate for ECAC rookie of the year, gave Princeton an early edge with his eighth goal of the season just 1 minute, 40 seconds into the game. He beat SLU goalie Robby Moss after a flurry of shots from Princeton’s forwards.
“The first five minutes, we had some great chances,” Marsh said. “Early in the game, they got the break; they got an even-strength goal.”
The Saints continued to fight back, but Bonar was immovable. He stopped SLU’s freshman scoring leader Greg Carey just outside the crease and stuffed a Nic Vangog close-range effort. Carey even drilled a shot off the pipe. An equalizer was not to be had as Princeton went to the first period intermission ahead 1-0.
The real troubles came in the second period as Princeton capitalized on a reeling St. Lawrence squad. At 6:18, Eric Meland and Kevin Lohry assisted on Matt Arhontas’ game-winner.
Frustrated, St. Lawrence picked up a penalty only a minute later, and Michael Sdao scored just five seconds into the man-advantage for a 3-0 edge. It caused Marsh to pull Moss in favor of Matt Weninger.
Kyle Flanagan gave St. Lawrence some life with a power-play goal at 11:34 of the second, and another Princeton penalty allowed the Saints a critical opportunity. But Bonar, who is one of three options for Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky, stymied their efforts with eight more saves in the period.
He made his case to start the rest of the series. Gadowsky expressed before Game 1 that his goalie decision between Bonar, Mike Condon and Alan Reynolds would be on a game-by-game basis. Bonar, though, has now defeated St. Lawrence twice and allowed only two goals in 60 total minutes this season, making him the likely starter today.
In the third period Friday, Princeton continued to accumulate significant zone time and fired 12 shots on Weninger. St. Lawrence struggled to keep control of the puck and managed just six shots against Bonar in the frame.
Calof, who had been relatively quiet since the first period, found Rob Kleebaum at 7:22 of the third to put St. Lawrence down for good.
Bonar finished with 22 saves, while Moss made 12 before exiting. Weninger stopped 20 shots in nearly 30 minutes of action.