February 28, 2008
Dodge's Late Decision Boosts Clarkson

By Joe Gladziszewski

Telling Princeton and Clarkson followers four years ago that their teams would face each other Friday night, essentially playing for the ECAC Hockey regular season championship, would have likely raised eyebrows and earned the predictor a trip to the psychiatric ward.

Continuing on to tell them that Nick Dodge would be an important player in the game would have been less shocking, but they probably would have figured that Dodge would be wearing the orange and black of the Tigers, not the green and gold of the Golden Knights.

ECAC Hockey Notebook

Nick Dodge and a strong senior class lead Clarkson into this weekend with a chance to win the regular season ECAC Hockey title for the first time since 2001.

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As the 2003-04 season came to its end, Princeton was mired in a five-win season and finished in last place. Head coach Len Quesnelle had been pursuing Dodge, a talented all-around center playing for the Oakville Blades who was valedictorian of his high school and scored impressively on the SAT.

Quesnelle saw in Dodge some of the traits that made former Princeton centers Jeff Halpern and Syl Apps so successful, and Dodge made a verbal commitment to attend Princeton.

"He was a great kid that had a lot of character and came from a great family," Quesnelle said of his recruitment of Dodge. "As a centerman he is a very dynamic player and you can see that in the ECAC over the last three-plus years, he's scored some big goals. Good centers are hard to find, and he is one, and he has a huge heart."

Quesnelle was relieved of his coaching duties at Princeton in early March, and Dodge was in limbo as he hadn't been accepted at Princeton and was anxious to begin college and a collegiate hockey career. A mutual friend of Dodge's family and Clarkson associate head coach Greg Drechsel alerted both parties to the situation, and Dodge – who had been recruited by Clarkson prior to his Princeton verbal, along with Yale and Rensselaer – was announced as part of the Clarkson class of 2008 in April of 2004. It wasn't until May of 2004 that Guy Gadowsky was named as Princeton's next head coach.

All of the pertinent parties gather in Potsdam, N.Y. on Friday when the Tigers and Golden Knights take the ice at Cheel Arena, and both programs have come a long way in the last four years. Princeton has improved its record every single year under Guy Gadowsky and Clarkson is back on the verge of being a national contender and perennial ECAC Hockey power after a pair of ninth-place finishes in the regular season earlier this decade.

Dodge has gone on to score more than 100 points in his career and has earned All-America and All-ECAC Hockey recognition. He is a reliable player with a well-rounded game and is great on face offs, and many of his opponents respect him.

Dodge is part of an outstanding senior class that also includes Steve Zalewski, David Leggio, Grant Clitsome, Mike Arciero, and David Cayer. Their on-ice achievements include a 74-59-15 overall record in the last four years, a return to the NCAA Tournament, and last year's ECAC Hockey Championship. The group is playing its final regular season home weekend at Cheel, and will be honored prior to Saturday's game against Quinnipiac.

"They have all made a huge impact on our program," Clarkson coach George Roll said of this senior class. "They've been a big part of our turnaround. They are good individuals and strong students, and have been role models for our team on the ice and in the classroom. They have definitely earned the respect of our campus and community."

Friday night, the Golden Knights get a chance to play an important game at home in front of a friendly crowd with an opportunity to clinch the regular-season title. As a trophy is at stake, they're treating the game with import that it deserves.

"I think for both teams, and you can say what you want that it doesn't mean anything, with the struggles we've both had, the chance to win a Cleary Cup is an important positive for both of our programs," Roll said. "When you set your goals at the beginning of the season, one of them is to win the regular season."

That task for Clarkson won't be easy, but they'll be thankful that Nick Dodge is on their side.


The Princeton Perspective: If the last statement from Clarkson coach George Roll is still fresh in your mind, turn your eyes away from the computer screen for a second and get ready for a different take on things.

When asked if his team was excited about its opportunity to compete in a big game against a nationally-ranked team and position itself for its first ever ECAC Hockey regular-season title, Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky downplayed the significance of the game. "We've talked about playing a very good Clarkson team on Friday night, not about league titles," he said. "But they're smart kids, they know what's at stake."

It's this one-game-at-a-time approach that has helped Princeton get to this point, which is a guaranteed first- or second-place finish in the league and a first-round playoff bye, plus a home-ice series at Baker Rink in the quarterfinal round.

Since the very start of the season, Princeton has been led in scoring by the high-scoring trio of Lee Jubinville, Cam MacIntyre, and Brett Wilson. That group played on a line for most of the first half of the year, and was reunited last weekend in a pair of wins over Colgate and Cornell.

Gadowsky said that even his line combinations could change from game-to-game, an echo of the method that has been employed on Old Nassau. "We're just trying to improve every game," he said. "We were able to do that (reunite Jubinville-MacIntyre-Wilson) because the other lines have been successful and our scoring has been balanced."

Breaking Ties: In case you're interested, the tiebreaker procedures for the league standings are as follows:

  1. Comparison of game results between tied teams (head to head).
  2. Wins (League).
  3. Comparison of results of games against the top four teams.
  4. Comparison of results of games against the top eight teams.
  5. Goal differential in head-to-head competition.
  6. Goal differential in games against the top four teams.
  7. Goal differential in games against the top eight teams.
Great Weekend Getaway
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Dartmouth at Cornell (Fri.)
Harvard at Cornell (Sat.)

Big Red fans love to chant "Four Point Weekend" on Saturday nights as much as they love to chant "Harvard Sucks" on, basically, every single day of the year. Getting two wins this weekend guarantees Cornell a top-four finish, and it'll mean victory over hated Harvard. Volleying the aforementioned cheers back-and-forth at Lynah on Saturday would cap a special weekend above Cayuga's waters.

While You're There: Downtown Ithaca features the Ithaca Ale House with several tasty drafts and bottles certain to appease anyone's taste.

Stick Salute

Here's to free online Web streaming of college hockey games, and also to SportsNet New York for picking up local productions of ECAC Hockey games and broadcasting them on a number of weekend nights this season. It's allowed those college hockey junkies in other parts of the nation to catch ECAC Hockey games on their satellite sports packs.

Bench Minor

I'm believe that success in big games doesn't just happen. Experience is gained, lessons are learned, and you often have to lose a few of them to prepare yourself for the next time they come around. For Princeton to shrug its shoulders at its opportunity this weekend is disrespectful to the league's championship. At the very least, it's a chance to prepare for future one-game scenarios that they might have the opportunity to play in next month, with a possible NCAA berth at stake.


• While Clarkson and Princeton have guaranteed themselves of finishing first or second in the league, six teams still have the potential to finish in third or fourth and get next weekend off to prepare for a home series in two weeks. Harvard is in the best shape, with 24 points to currently sit alone in third place. Earning three points on its road trip to Colgate and Cornell Cornell and Union are tied for fourth, with 23 points each. Quinnipiac is sixth with 22 points and Colgate and Yale are tied for seventh with 20.

• Harvard goalie Kyle Richter was credited with a goal in last Friday's game against Yale. It was the first goal ever recorded by a Crimson goalie. The goal was credited to Richter after he made a save during a delayed penalty call against his team. Yale goalie Alec Richards vacated his net, and a Yale player attempted a centering pass from behind the Harvard net, that was off the mark and went all the way down the ice into the empty net. As the last player to touch the puck, Richter was credited with the goal.

• Colgate's Peter Bogdanich scored the game-winner in overtime of the Raiders' 4-3 win at Quinnipiac on Sunday. It was Bogdanich's 23rd birthday.

• That loss was Quinnipiac's second consecutive overtime defeat on the weekend, as the Bobcats lost 3-2 to Cornell on Michael Kennedy's OT winner. The Big Red are 2-0-3 in five overtime games this year. Quinnipiac, on the other hand, is 0-2-4 in games requiring more than 60 minutes.

• Union has six ties on the season and Corey Milan has been the goaltender of record in all six of them. The Dutchmen were 9-2-6 on home ice this year.

• Brown's Jeff Prough has played in 119 consecutive games, which is a program record.

• Dartmouth seniors Nick Johnson, J.T. Wyman and Jon Grecu were honored in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday and then combined nine points in a 7-2 win over Yale.

• Clarkson's Steve Zalewski now has 100 career points after scoring a power-play goal on Friday.

• Rensselaer junior Seth Klerer played in his 100th game last weekend.

• Congratulations to all of the seniors who were honored in home games last weekend or will be honored this weekend. Four (sometimes more) years of dedication and commitment to being on a team and striving for success on the ice and in the classroom is worthy of praise.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Joe Gladziszewski can be reached at gladdy@insidecollegehockey.com.