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Miracle on Ice, Part II

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – A season of disappointment, a tournament of impossibility, but in the end, a celebration of the unbelievable – a championship.

In the arena where 18 years ago another underdog hockey team leaped into the national spotlight by winning a game in which no one gave them a chance, the men's hockey team (18-10-7 overall, 7-9-6 Eastern College Athletic Conference) defeated Clarkson (23-8-3, 16-4-2), 5-4, in double overtime to capture the ECAC tournament and earning Princeton an automatic bid to its first-ever NCAA tournament.


Just 42 seconds into the second overtime, junior forward Syl Apps scooped up a loose puck in front of the Princeton bench and went on a solo breakaway down the ice with two Golden Knight defenders in pursuit.


From the left side of the net, Apps flipped a shot over Clarkson goalie Dan Murphy's left shoulder. Unbeatable since he replaced Chris Bernard midway through the second period, Murphy's glove snapped closed with the certainty of a save, but a millisecond later the lamp lit and an ecstatic Apps leaped into the air in celebration.

Long discounted as a tournament contender, Princeton came to the championship game the hard way. After finishing seventh in the regular season, the Tigers had to go through No. 4 Brown in a best-of-three series, then two-time ECAC defending champion Cornell and finally top-ranked Yale to set up the meeting with Clarkson for the championship.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd play ourselves back to a No. 7 seed and have to play six games in nine days to win," head coach Don Cahoon said. "The first few shifts told the story that we were here to play. The concept of winning the championship, not just being at the championship was the team's, not (the coaches). There wasn't much coaching."

Importance of health

Cahoon's coaching, particularly his decision to rest injured players at the risk of losing some games near the end of the regular season, however, may have been the key factor in the Tigers' success in the tournament. The recuperated defensive corps limited opponents to an average of 27 shots and three goals per game, including holding Yale to just 19 shots and one goal.

"I think the team in front of me has been unbelievable," senior goalkeeper Erasmo Saltarelli said. "I haven't had to deal with many shots these last two weekends."



Against Clarkson, though, the defense faltered, allowing 49 shots and four goals. Especially weak was the penalty-killing unit, as Clarkson scored three of its four goals on the power play. Princeton could not counter on its power-play opportunities, going an abysmal 0 for 5.

Despite poor overall special teams play, the Tigers won by making few mistakes and more importantly capitalizing on any Golden Knights' slip. Besides Apps' goal, which was set up by a poor exchange by Golden Knight defensemen at the Clarkson bench, Princeton scored three of its other goals off Clarkson errors.

Midway through the first period, junior center and tournament Most Valuable Player Jeff Halpern scored a shorthanded breakaway goal, beating Bernard to tie the game, 1-1.

After giving up two easy slapshot goals in the first period, the Tigers countered with junior defenseman and ECAC first-team selection Steve Shiffeffs scoring on a wide-angle shot that just crept across the line for a goal early in the second.

Smooth move

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One minute, 58 seconds later, Halpern scored again on a penalty shot to put Princeton in front. The penalty shot, only the third in ECAC tournament history, was called when Clarkson defender Phillipe Roy covered the puck with his body in the crease. Halpern scored by taking the puck to the right side of the goal, faking a hard shot to the left and then pulling the puck around the diving Bernard for a easy backhand toss.

"When I came back to the bench, the guys were all laughing," Halpern said. "That's the only move I've got."


The goal also put Halpern atop the Princeton record books for most goals scored in a season with 28, breaking a 40-year-old school record.

The Tigers scored once more in the third when senior right wing Casson Masters knocked in a rebound off sophomore right wing Benoit Morin's slapshot.

After the fourth Princeton goal, Clarkson head coach Mark Morris pulled Bernard for Murphy. Clarkson scored in the second and third period to tie, throwing the game into sudden death overtime. Throughout overtime, Princeton had several opportunities, but the Tigers could not beat Murphy for 51:22 of play, as he continued to make amazing glove saves.

With the win, Princeton advances to the first round of the 12-team NCAA championship tournament. It will face Michigan Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.