Princeton Men’s Hockey: The Story So Far
For Princeton Men’s Hockey, the past few years have been a time of transition, but the team is clearly on the rise. When Head Coach Ron Fogarty arrived prior to the 2014 season he inherited a team that had gone 6-26 the season before. The 2014-15 campaign ended in a 4-23-3 record, and ’15-16 saw only one more win gained as the Tigers finished 5-23-3. But last season was a turning point as the team finished 15-16-3 and 8-11-3 in the ECAC to earn a playoff berth. They would knock off Colgate to advance only to get swept by Union.
Princeton’s substantial progress had largely gone unnoticed in ’15-16, except by the lone Tigers beat reporter at the time, Jashvina Shah. However in ’16-17 it became obvious to many more how far the team had come. However, with the end of that season brought the departures of a large senior class of Marlon Sabo, Hayden Anderson, Garrett Skrbich, Ben Foster, Quin Pompi, Tommy Davis, Ryan Siiro, and the rock of a goaltender that is Colton Phinney. Though a large core of players remained going into 2017-2018.
With two weeks left in the regular season, Princeton is still competing to land in the top eight in the ECAC conference and snag a home playoff series, as the team has posted a 10-10-3 record with a 7-8-1 conference mark. This weekend their home regular season finale against RPI and Union gives them a chance to gain some ground before traveling to Clarkson and St. Lawrence. It has been a season of ups and downs to say the least. The fact that Princeton is in this position just two years after a series of losing seasons is a sure sign of achievement.
The beginning of the season saw wins against Holy Cross, RPI, and Yale, while the team lost narrowly to a now highly ranked Cornell team, as well as Union, and also strangely to Brown. The Tigers also skated to a 0-0 tie against Colgate during this period. They would then go on to split a series with Bemidji State before losing to Quinnipiac, winning against Dartmouth, and losing to Harvard.
What would follow is a win at Arizona State, then a narrow loss to the Sun Devils, before returning home to Hobey Baker Rink and tying then #1 St. Cloud twice in a row. They followed up this interesting juxtaposition of opponents by falling on the road to Cornell, Colgate, and Harvard before stopping the streak at Quinnipiac and also defeating Dartmouth again.
Three more wins would follow versus St. Lawrence, then #3 Clarkson, and against Brown last Friday, before losing a rough game to Yale 7-2 at Ingalls Rink. It was an unusual game in which the Tigers gave up two hat tricks to a Bulldogs team that found a weakness and exploited it. Despite the loss Coach Fogarty is optimistic.
“The team has played well through the last 6 games,”Fogarty said via email. “We know our identity, realize our strengths, while working on our weaknesses. The newcomers and upperclassmen have been as one since the first day on campus. It is a tight group that wants to leave their mark on Princeton Hockey.”
It has been a strange year in the ECAC with only Cornell, Clarkson, Union, and Harvard having winning records in conference play. Colgate, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, and Quinnipiac are all bunched up next in the standings. Just looking at Princeton’s voyage through conference play has shown how unpredictable the season has been.
In net, freshman Ryan Ferland got the nod over longtime backup Ben Halford, and has posted a 10-9-3 record with a .905 save percentage and a 3.23 goals against average. The save percentage is slightly lower than Phinney’s the year before though the Ferland’s GAA sits above the 3.06 Phinney posted. Nonetheless, Princeton has transitioned from a team that needed Phinney to keep them in games in earlier years to a more complete contingent.
A small core of returning players produced the offense as junior Max Veronneau has 12 goals and 23 assists so far, and fellow junior and line-mate Ryan Kuffner leads the team with 19 goals and 14 assists. Two critical seniors have been potent as well as David Hallisey has 15 goals and 29 points and the dangerous Eric Robinson has 11 goals and 8 assists.
Defender Josh Teves, who has battled injuries, has also been a key offensive force with 18 assists and 3 goals. Also, sophomore Jackson Cressey continues to grow and has eight goals and 25 points, and freshman Reid Yochim leads newcomers with 4 goals and 6 assists. The team’s power play percentage of 80.9% is also fifth in the nation.
It will be an exciting few weeks to come in the ECAC and Princeton has weathered the major turnover in the roster to stay right in the mix.