Men's Hockey: Tigers draw twice after losing leads
Early leads and overtime play were this weekend’s narratives for the men’s hockey team. The Tigers (3-4-3 overall, 2-1-3 ECAC Hockey) inched closer to a redemptive season with a 2-2 draw against Rensselaer and a 4-4 tie with No. 8 Union, both of which highlighted some promising aspects of the Tigers’ play this year.
“We always expect ourselves to win, no matter who we’re playing, so we weren’t satisfied with two ties,” sophomore left winger Aaron Kesselman said. “But we played two tough teams, one ranked, and got two big road points, so we’re looking at the positives and making sure that when we play [Union and RPI] again at home, we get two wins.”
Senior goaltender Mike Condon shined in particular, making a combined 75 saves in the two road games, well above his previous average of 23.6 saves per game.
In the first minute, RPI (3-6-3, 0-5-1) nearly got on the scoreboard first when a loose puck accelerated toward the net, but Condon wedged his stick behind the puck and thrust it across the ice. He also frustrated consecutive attempts by Rensslaer’s Ryan Haggerty at the beginning of the first frame. After senior defender Michael Sdao created a 1-0 lead for Princeton, Condon came through again in the middle of the period, preventing another potential goal.
“Mike stood on his head for us this weekend, as he’s been doing all year,” Kesselman said. “He just goes hard in the paint, plain and simple. We’re confident in him, we know he’s capable of making that many saves in a weekend, and I don’t think too many teams have that kind of confidence in their goalie.”
But Condon ran into trouble in some 2-on-1 situations. Rensselaer’s Matt Tinordi leveled the score mere minutes into the middle period, when his teammate screened the Princeton keeper so that Condon failed to see the airborne shot over his left shoulder in time.
Princeton’s dominant power-play unit, ranked fourth in the country, helped out offensively to open up a lead once again just after the Tigers supported Condon by killing a penalty of its own. Junior center Andrew Calof, who sits second in the Tigers’ points column, sent the puck between Rensselaer goalie Jason Kasdorf and the cage, with sophomore right winger Tyler Maugeri and Sdao’s assistance.
But Condon found himself left alone again in what was almost a victory for the Orange and Black. With three minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the final frame, three Engineers collaborated against Condon and Curtis Leonard shot through his five-hole, forcing an overtime that failed to resolve the tie.
The next night, against Union (8-3-2, 3-2-1), the Tigers’ offense seemed to have insured against any blunders on the defensive end, as they entered the final frame with a 4-2 lead over the nation’s eighth-ranked team. Maugeri found the net just minutes into the game before junior left winger Eric Carlson, senior center Will MacDonald and sophomore defenseman Tom Kroshus all converted on opportunities in the middle frame. Most notably, Kroshus picked up his first career goal, putting the Tigers ahead 4-2 at 12:23 in the second period.
But the Dutchmen found a way to extinguish Princeton’s offensive fire in the third period while slipping two of their 15 shots past Condon, with both goals coming in the last seven minutes of the game. Princeton, meanwhile, only took four shots on Union’s cage in the final period. In extra minutes, too, the Tigers had lost their early spark, and the game ended in a 4-4 tie.
“This weekend didn’t manifest our best performance when starting games with a lead, but we’re learning how to keep sustained pressure for the full 60 minutes,” Kesselman said. “That’s going to be key for us. When we play loose, with poise, we really click and things go our way. With guys like Kroshus, [sophomore defender Aaron] Ave, MacDonald and Carlson getting back on the scoreboard, we’re all getting the confidence we need to play with that mentality and composure.”
Princeton will challenge first-place Quinnipiac twice next weekend, returning home to Baker Rink for the second game after playing seven straight on the road.
“This upcoming weekend marks the end of our long road stint, so with two big wins here, we should distance ourselves from the pack and head into the new year with positive energy and momentum,” Kesselman said.
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