Monday, December 17, 2018

The View From High Up

So anyone who has ever gotten into the elevator at Princeton Stadium has had the same thing to say.

This is the slowest elevator in the world. TigerBlog, of course, stands up for the elevator, which gets an unfair rap.

First of all, he's still not completely over the fact that Palmer Stadium had no elevator, and so he remembers carrying, among other things, a copy machine all the way up to the top of the old stadium on an annual basis.

The elevator in Princeton Stadium has three stops, marked as "1," "2" and "3." The problem isn't so much that the elevator is slow, though any elevator that took that long to go from the first floor to the third floor would rightly be considered glacial.

No, this elevator is going from the ground to the press box, which is 120 feet off the ground. In that respect, it's like going from the first floor to the 12th floor in a normal building, and so it's not really that slow of an elevator.

Contrast that with the freight elevator at the Wells Fargo Center, which TB rode Saturday night. That elevator seemed to take forever to get to the top, though in fairness it seemed like the elevator wasn't so much going up to the press level as it was reaching a cruising altitude.

TigerBlog isn't sure that he's ever been so high off the floor of a venue as he was at Wells Fargo for the men's hockey game between Princeton and No. 9 Penn State Saturday night. Here's the view from up there:

Open heights are not TB's best thing. 

It took a little adjusting, especially to get past the part where he wondered what would happen if he  fell over the glass and plummeted straight down. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

In fact, it turned out to be a great vantage point for the game. TigerBlog isn't sure if the ice surface at Wells Fargo is bigger than that at Hobey Baker Rink or if it was an illusion from being up that high, but the vantage point was great for seeing how plays developed, the speed of the players, the ability to pass and even the velocity of the shots.

The game was a very entertaining one, with big performances all around. It was also an odd one, in that both teams should have lost and should have won, so perhaps the 4-4 tie was the right outcome. 

There were more than 8,000 fans in the building for the game, and the overwhelming majority of them routinely chanted "We Are ... Penn State" over and over. They probably went home the more unhappy at the tie, but as TB said, both teams could have won.

Penn State should have won because it scored four goals in a 14:35 span that covered the last 14:18 of the first period and the first 17 seconds of the second period to build a 4-1 lead. That fourth goal led a goalie change, as senior Austin Shaw replaced starter Ryan Ferland, the MVP of the ECAC tournament last year.

Shaw had played just short of 27 minutes for his career prior to being inserted against the Nittany Lions, who were on a roll at that point. So what happened?

Well, Shaw would play the final 39:43 of regulation and the five minutes of overtime, for a total of 44:43. And he would not allow a goal.

Along the way, he made 21 saves, including three in the overtime. He played with a lot of confidence, something that grew as the night went on.

Even with Shaw's performance, it was still a 4-1 game until late in the second period and a 4-2 game until less than five minutes were left in the third. Princeton rallied, scoring twice 3:26 apart to force the eventual tie.

While Shaw was an unlikely hero, the night was also a showcase of Princeton's stars, who couldn't be more fun to watch, whether it's all the way at the top of an NHL arena (the kind in which they likely will be playing in the very near future) or much closer to the ice at Baker Rink.

Princeton scored four goals. Max Veronneau had two goals and two assists. Ryan Kuffner had one goal and three assists.

From TigerBlog's view, Veronneau's speed and skill stood out even more, as he consistently created space for himself, was able to find open teammates and looked as much a speed skater as hockey player, especially on that second goal, when he outraced two Penn State players to create something of a breakaway.

Veronneau came really, really close to having three, or even four, goals. Kuffner's game-tying goal came after Veronneau hit the crossbar (or maybe snuck it under the crossbar) and then had Kuffner tap it in.

And then there was the overtime, when Veronneau, who seemed to have been on the ice about two-thirds of the game, still had enough energy to drive to the goal and put a backhanded shot that appeared to be heading in, only to have Penn State goalie Peyton Jones (a high school classmate of TigerBlog Jr.'s, by the way, so a hard guy to root against on this night) make a spectacular save to preserve the tie.

When the game was over, TB went downstairs and listened to both coaches speak to the media. Penn State's coach is Guy Gadowsky, the former Princeton coach, and it was great to catch up with him for a few minutes.

As for the current Princeton coach, Ron Fogarty, he knows his team is pretty much where it was a year ago, when it made its move after first semester exams and ended up in the NCAA tournament. Is there anyone in the ECAC who is looking forward to playing this team come playoff time again? Unlikely.

In the meantime it was a very entertaining night at the Wells Fargo Center, when, again, a tie seemed like it was the right outcome for this one.

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