Sports: May 17, 2000

Jeff Halpern '99 named NHL's Rookie of the Month
Men's hockey coach Don Cahoon departs for UMass job

Former Tiger standout Jeff Halpern '99 was named the National Hockey League's Rookie of the Month for March. The Washington Capitals center tallied eight goals and two assists over the month's 14 games, propelling his team to a 10-3-1 record that vaulted the Capitals into first place in the NHL's Southeast Division. Buoyed by Halpern's play, the Capitals overcame a slow start to the season and reached the NHL playoffs, where they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round. Halpern scored the game-winning goal in his team's lone postseason victory.

Halpern, who led the Tigers in goals and assists during his junior and senior seasons, finished his inaugural NHL campaign with 18 goals and 11 assists. Though gaudy offensive numbers have become a hallmark of Halpern's game, he credits his defensive work for his smooth transition to the NHL. "The biggest thing with a rookie is that if you can't do the job defensively they'll find a replacement for you quickly," Halpern says.

This commitment to defense can be traced to Halpern's Princeton coach, Don Cahoon, who occasionally moved the center-iceman to defense when Halpern played for him. Halpern says, "The biggest thing I took from playing at Princeton is the competitiveness of your defensive zone. Coach Cahoon put me on defense sometimes because he knew I would need to be able to play good defense to have success at this level."

Describing his rookie season as "a dream," Halpern has trouble viewing some of his teammates as peers, saying, "I still have posters of a couple of these guys hanging in my room at my parents' house."

But Cahoon has no doubt that Halpern is exactly where he belongs. "Once Jeff gained the physical strength, at age 19 or 20, to go along with the skills that he had already developed, his tremendous passion for the sport, and the character that he has, you had a complete package," Cahoon says.

Though he is still adjusting to being the low man on the totem pole, Halpern has enjoyed his rookie status, saying, "I try to shut up and speak when spoken to. It has been fun going from being a senior to being a rookie again."

On the move

Unfortunately for Princeton, Halpern is not the only one who has undergone a change in status. Cahoon, who was the head coach of the Tigers for nine seasons, recently resigned to accept the same position at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

At Princeton Cahoon revived a struggling program. "I had the support of real good people who understood the value of hard work and playing for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back. We believed and knew that we would eventually turn things around," Cahoon says. During his tenure, the Tigers made three appearances in the ECAC Final Four-winning the title in 1998-and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Cahoon says the decision to leave Princeton was "extremely difficult . . . I can't imagine working with kids that are any better than the people at Princeton." Geography may have been the deciding factor for the 51-year-old Boston native, who says, "A lot of my friends and family are close by and it should be a good way to close out my coaching career."

Halpern describes Cahoon's departure as "a huge loss for the program," adding, "You wanted to play and do well for him. You knew he cared about his players." But Halpern also believes that the groundwork has been laid for Princeton to maintain its recent success, saying, "He put the program in a position where it won't take steps backward."-M.G.

John Messuri '89 builds a dynasty

Coach leads high school program to two state championships


John Messuri '89, the all-time leading scorer for Princeton men's hockey, is still racking up numbers on the ice. As the head coach at Winchester High School in Massachusetts, Messuri is tallying wins almost as frequently as he did goals and assists when he played.

In front of 10,000 spectators at Boston's FleetCenter, Winchester recently captured its second state championship in the last three years. What's remarkable about that accomplishment is how poorly the team had performed before Messuri took over. The team had won more than two games in a season only once since 1975, had not been to the state tournament since 1962, and had not won a championship since 1955. When Messuri arrived, the team was in the midst of a 100-game league losing streak and the school was considering dropping the program. "I'll never forget my interview for the job," recalls Messuri. "The athletic director and principal both told me that we would never win. They were only looking for a coach who could make it fun for the kids to go to the rink. They told me that the school would probably drop hockey altogether in a couple of years, so don't stress out about the losses. Lucky for me I had other ideas."

During Messuri's first year Winchester won six games; in year two the team qualified for the state tournament. After winning one tournament game in his third year, Messuri's team accomplished the unthinkable by capturing the 1998 championship. "My first class of players running around the FleetCenter in front of 10,000 people, with a championship trophy, it was pretty emotional," said Messuri. In 1999, Winchester lost in the semifinals, but returned this season to reclaim the title.

Messuri's overall coaching record is 79-30-14, and his teams are 10-3 in state tournament play-undefeated at the FleetCenter. Messuri says he is also undefeated when he dons his Princeton hockey hat on the bench. "I am proud of many things that have happened here," says Messuri. "Our program has grown from 18 to 50 players. . . . The players who play here are going on to play in college, and we even have a player who was drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round."

-Patrick Fennelly

Sports Shorts

Men's assistant basketball coach Joe Scott '87 has resigned to accept the head coaching position at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A point guard during his playing days at Princeton, Scott is the fourth head men's basketball coach in the history of the academy. Scott, who also has a law degree from Notre Dame, had just completed his eighth year on the Princeton coaching staff. John Thompson III '88 will move into the first assistant position, which Scott had occupied since the 1996-97 season.

William W. Green has been named the Tigers' new head men's golf coach. Dick Hunt, formerly the head coach, will remain with the team as an assistant coach.

Susan Rea '00 has been selected to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America first team. This is the third time the women's soccer player has earned this honor. Rea maintains a 3.98 grade point average in chemical engineering and will spend the next two years at the University of Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar. In addition, Rea was an All-Ivy soccer selection in 1997 and 1999 and recently completed the Boston Marathon.

Peter Yik '00 and Julia Beaver '00 highlight a list of 10 Princeton Tigers who earned Academic All-Ivy honors for the winter season. Yik and Beaver each won a second consecutive national individual squash championship. Blair Irwin '00 (squash), Yen Tay '00 and Lisa Leslie '01 (swimming), Kate Thirolf '00 and Mason Rocca '00 (basketball), Andy Shyong '00 (diving), and Darren Yopyk '00 and Kirk Lamb '01 (ice hockey) were also selected.

Brie Galicinao '02 hurled a perfect game for the softball team on April 14 against the University of Pennsylvania, just the third perfect game in school history. Andrew Hanson '01 set records for extra-base hits and total bases in one game when he hit for the cycle in the baseball team's April 18 game against Columbia. Hanson went six for six with two home runs, a triple, two doubles, a single, and seven runs batted in for the game.

Dog sledder realizes dream in Alaska
Dan Dent '63 completes the Iditarod on his second attempt

Literature often pits man against beast. But for Dan Dent '63, man, beast, and nature formed an alliance that fulfilled a dream.

On March 19, 2000, Dent-a financial manager in Baltimore-mushed a sled powered by 14 dogs across the finish line to complete the historic Iditarod Race. The Iditarod is an Alaskan sled dog race that begins in Anchorage and crosses 1,131 miles of arctic tundra before finishing in Nome. It is equivalent to sledding from New York to Miami. Dent completed the race in 14 days, five hours, seven minutes, and 28 seconds. Coincidentally, he finished 63rd, giving him a second reason to hold that number close to his heart.

This marked Dent's second attempt at completing "The Last Great Race." A year ago, as a rookie, he was forced to drop out after suffering deep bite wounds from breaking up a fight between members of his dog team. Dent, who was also racing to raise money in pledges to benefit the Baltimore Police Athletic League, tried to continue his quest despite his misfortune. Doctors and race officials, however, stepped in and ruled Dent's injuries too serious, fearing an infection would spread. Dent's physical wounds did heal, but the psychic scars lingered.

It wasn't long before Dent decided to take a run at the 2000 race. He equipped himself with an experienced team of 29 dogs, underwent an arduous strength training regimen, and took numerous trips to Alaska to work with his dogs. At age 58, his window of opportunity was closing.

"From Thanksgiving Day forward, I was in Alaska 50 percent of the time," said Dent. "I had to train with the dogs to gain familiarity and experience. It was the most important factor in finishing."

In the months leading up to the Iditarod, Dent's days were long and exhausting. A typical day entailed taking a team of 10 dogs on a 60-70 mile journey in the morning, breaking for lunch, rotating a new team of dogs, and taking off on another 60-70 mile trek. He repeated this process in the evening. In all, Dent would mush 18 hours per day. The remaining six hours were spent feeding his dogs, massaging them, and grabbing a couple of hours of sleep.

The physical and psychological commitment was staggering, but integral to his development as a musher. Training in Alaska also helped Dent adapt to the brutally cold race conditions. Temperatures regularly drop 20 to 30 degrees below zero, and stiff winds augment the chill factor during the race. According to Dent, however, the time spent in Alaska was most important because it allowed him to build a trusting relationship with his dogs.

"The bottom line is this: You can have all the motivation in the world, but in the end, you have to make a deal with the dogs," Dent said. "If you don't understand their behavioral patterns and peculiarities, and if they're not comfortable with you, the team will falter. The dogs must have total confidence in you and your leadership."

After completing the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race as a final preparation for the Iditarod, Dent selected 16 dogs from his crew and headed to Anchorage with two objectives: Finish the race and finish with as many dogs as possible.

The team raced well, but not without complications. About five miles from a checkpoint, Dent's gang line broke. He was able to hold on to two dogs, but the others scattered. Dent and the two dogs made it to the checkpoint by pushing the sled most of the way. Luckily, his dog team wandered to the checkpoint later that evening.

In the end, Dent finished with 14 dogs. One was left back because of arthritis, and another came into a checkpoint with an elevated heart rate. Rather than put the dog at risk, Dent left it behind.

Finishing with 14 dogs-the third highest number among team finishers- brought Dent great pride. As he put it, "It's all about the dogs."

Waiting at the finish line were Dent's wife, Mary, and daughter, Melissa, along with several other friends and supporters. It was a scene he will never forget.

"My family was so supportive, especially my wife," Dent said. "There are other sports that combine man, beast, and wilderness, but none approach the combination of the three from such a team aspect. It gave me a totally different perspective and was a remarkable experience."

-Mark Gola

Scores and Schedules

Men's teams


(16­7 overall, 5­2 Ivy)

Princeton 5, Dartmouth 1

Princeton 8, Cornell 1

Columbia 4, Princeton 2



(8­2 overall, 5­0 Ivy)

Princeton 12, Harvard 6

Princeton 9, Cornell 5

Syracuse 16, Princeton 4

May 20 NCAA Quarterfinals at Rutgers*

May 21 NCAA Quarterfinals at Johns Hopkins*

May 27 NCAA Semifinals at Maryland*

May 29 NCAA Final at Maryland*



(20­14 overall, 12­4 Ivy)

Princeton 7, Pennsylvania 1

Princeton 6, Pennsylvania 5

Princeton 4, Temple 1


Outdoor Track

(2­1 overall, 0­0 Ivy)

May 18-21 NCAA Championship at Duke*


Heavyweight Crew

(6­1 overall, 2­1 Ivy)

May 21 EARC Sprints at Worcester, MA

June 1-3 IRA Regatta at Camden, NJ


Lightweight Crew

(3­1 overall, 2­0 Ivy)

May 21 EARC Sprints at Worcester, MA

June 1-3 IRA Regatta at Camden, NJ

Women's teams


(17-2 overall, 7­0 Ivy)

Princeton 6, Dartmouth 3

Princeton 8, Cornell 1

Princeton 8, Columbia 1

May 18 NCAA Finals at Pepperdine*



(12­3 overall, 5­1 Ivy)

Princeton 19, Pennsylvania 4

Dartmouth 16, Princeton 13

Maryland 17, Princeton 6

May 19-21 NCAA Semifinals and Finals at the College of New Jersey*



(18­22 overall, 6­4 Ivy)

Dartmouth 6, Princeton 0

Villanova 3, Princeton 0

Princeton 1, Villanova 0


Open Crew

(7-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy)

May 26-28 NCAA Championship at Camden, NJ


Lightweight Crew

(2­1 overall, 1-0 Ivy)

June 1-3 IRA Championships at Camden, NJ


Outdoor Track

(2­1 overall, 1­0 Ivy)

May 18-21 ECAC Championships*

May 31-June 3 NCAA Championships*


Notes: · Scores are current as of April 28 · * if team qualifies

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