Men's Hockey: Hosts split, stay at No. 2 in ECAC
With 6:01 remaining in the first period of the men's hockey team's matchup against Rensselaer on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers surged forward after earning the power play. Freshman forward Mike Ambrosia orchestrated a nifty give-and-go from the wing, exchanging quick passes across the ice with junior defenseman Alec Rush before finding space in front of the Engineers' net.
Ambrosia's powerful finish lifted Princeton to an early 1-0 lead that would set the tone for the Tigers' 4-1 home win over Rensselaer (6-10-5 overall, 1-4-3 ECAC) and allow Princeton (6-8-4, 5-4-3) to recover from Friday nightís difficult loss to No. 16 Union (10-7-4, 4-3-3), also at Baker Rink.
"It was a huge game, extremely important," head coach Bob Prier said. "It was an opportunity to bounce back and get on the right track again."
Despite the three-goal margin of victory, Princeton did not dominate Rensselaer nearly as much as the lopsided score suggests. Sophomore defenseman Tom Kroshus tallied his second goal of the season at 16:03 of the first frame, and the Tigers tacked on two empty-net goals from junior forwards Andrew Ammon and Andrew Calof in the third period. But following a strong first period in which Princeton outshot the Engineers 9-5 and tallied an early two-goal lead, Rensselaer dominated possession and pressured the Tiger net incessantly. Princeton managed only four shots over the remaining two periods, compared to the Engineersí 20. Fortunately, senior netminder Mike Condon's impressive 24-save effort maintained Princetonís lead throughout the match.
"Sound goaltending gives everyone on the team a boost and allows us to play loose," Prier said.
Goaltending also played an essential role in the Tigers' tough 3-2 loss to Union on Friday night. Princeton only mustered 19 shots in the entire contest, and the Dutchmen dominated the puck for the entire match while producing 45 shots. Junior goaltender Sean Bonar saved an astonishing 42 of them, tying his career high and nearly singlehandedly keeping his team in the game.
"He had a great game tonight," Prier said. "That's obviously not how we want to play. We certainly donít want to have a team come into our rink, have the puck that much, outshoot us that much. They had far more will and determination and desire than we did."
Princeton did jump out to an early lead, grabbing a goal only 25 seconds after the opening face-off when junior forward Jack Berger found senior forward Will MacDonald in front of the Union net. MacDonaldís top-shelf score awarded the Tigers only a brief lead, however. A string of four two-minute minor penalties on Princeton culminated with Union forward Kyle Bodie capitalizing on the Dutchmenís 5-3 advantage 9:29 into the game and tying the match at one.
"A lot of breakdowns, a lot of penalties," Prier said. "They capitalized on their five-on-three opportunity and then they got the game pretty far out of reach."
Despite the sharp difference in shots and possession, the Tigers stayed in the match and nearly orchestrated a comeback. Trailing 3-1 following two additional first-frame Union goals scored by forwards Max Novak and Daniel Carr, Princeton tightened the gap when sophomore forward Tyler Maugeri scored at 12:21 of the second. Maugeri received the puck on the right side from freshman forward Michael Zajac, rocketing a hard shot from the circle. Despite this goal, Princeton could not recover, and lost 3-2.
"We lost probably 80 percent of the stick battles in the first half of the game in our own rink, and that's something thatís unacceptable. Youíre not going to win many games like that," Prier said.
After splitting this weekend's home set, the Tigers will now enjoy a two-week break for exam period. Despite the time off, Prier is confident his team will be ready when it returns to the ice against Sacred Heart at Baker Rink on Jan. 27.
"This break is very beneficial, a perfect time to give our bodies a rest from banging," said Prier. "The boys have been extremely physical for that last couple of weeks in both practices and games."
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