Men's Ice Hockey: End of roadtrip crucial to Tigers' postseason hopes
Princeton defeated both squads this season on consecutive nights in early November, beating then fourth-ranked Cornell 5-3 and Colgate a resounding 4-0 at Baker Rink. In both matchups, the Tigers amassed early first period leads and entered the final frame up two goals. Princeton also outshot its opponents in both contests. This past success should give the Tigers some much needed confidence, especially after their last two losses.
“I think that we certainly go into the weekend with a mental edge due to our success earlier this season,” head coach Bob Prier said.
This time, however, the matchups will occur on the road, where the Tigers have experienced great difficulties this season. Whereas Princeton has compiled an impressive 6-2 record before standing room only crowds at home, the road has been a far less forgiving environment. The Tigers are 1-6-3 away from Baker Rink and have gone without a win in their last six road matches since drawing with Union on Dec. 1. Still, Princeton is not intimidated by the prospect of playing on the road.
“We cannot even think about the past — it is ancient history,” Prier said. “We have to keep the puck safe, no costly turnovers or bad penalties.”
As has been the case all season, penalties will certainly play an important role in this weekend’s matchups. The Tigers have been impressive on power plays this season, ranking near the top of the nation on both sides of the puck. Princeton’s 11th-ranked penalty killing unit allowed only one goal in nine combined chances against Colgate and Cornell earlier this season, and the group has continued to shine.
However, the Tigers’ offense has recently faltered. The fifth-ranked Princeton power play unit that converted on over a third of its combined power play chances against Colgate and Cornell in November has found the net on only one of eight opportunities during its current two-game losing streak. In addition, the Tigers were outshot by an imposing 92-45 margin over the same two-game stretch.
“There were many factors: poor positioning, poor fundamental checking and poor rebound control all contributed,” Prier remarked. “We need to improve in all these areas.”
This weekend’s matchups represent a pivotal point in the season for Princeton. Caught in a five-way tie in the ECAC standings and within only six points of the league’s second-place spot, the Tigers can make important gains with victories this weekend. Doing so, though, will require Princeton to overcome the obstacle of winning on the road. For Prier, the formula for success is all in the fundamentals.
“We need to eliminate poor penalties and throwaways,” Prier said. “That’s our biggest goal.”
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