Hockey: Surging Tigers, hosting league opponents, look to stay competitive in ECAC
Condon, named ECAC Goaltender of the Week on Feb. 12, has greatly improved his game since last year. Last weekend, in a road sweep against Colgate and Cornell — always fierce rivals of the Tigers — Condon made 75 saves and allowed only two goals for a .974 save percentage. Most notably, he stopped a season-high 39 shots on Saturday night against the Big Red, blocking 30 in the first two periods. Thus far this season, the 6-foot-2-inch, 195-pound native of Needham, Mass. has a 2.42 GAA and a save percentage of .926, making him the 31st most effective Division-I goalie in the nation. Bonar, a solid alternative netminder, possesses a 2-3-1 record this season with a .897 save percentage and a 3.29 GAA.
“The obvious choice for Friday night [against Clarkson] is to play Mike. Coming off the weekend he had, he’s hot right now, and we’ll keep riding him. Otherwise, day-to-day, either guy could start Saturday,” head coach Bob Prier said.
Prier added that Condon has showed more composure as the season progresses.
“As a result, the guys in front of him trust in the system to a greater extent; they’ve started playing better too,” he said. “Condon has improved a ton on the rebound. He’s using his size really well and making sure he’s closing the space in the net. We got four points last weekend in large part because we had the best goalie in the ECAC. But Sean is in a position where he can continue to challenge [Mike] for ice time, no doubt about it.”
St. Lawrence, for its part, will attack the Tigers’ defensive wall with the help of two of the top three scorers in the ECAC, Greg Carey and Kyle Flanagan. Carey has picked up 42 points on 20 goals and 22 assists, while Flanagan is right behind him with 37 points on 13 goals and 24 assists. Clarkson’s greatest offensive weapon, meanwhile, boasts a 14 assist and eight-goal count with 22 points.
“The key factor will be our limiting the turnover,” Prier said. “The guys have taken more responsibility with the puck. Since November when we last faced these two teams on the road, our guys have cut turnovers drastically. The growth of the team and the trust factor between them has also elevated quite a bit. Again, that in part comes down to a goaltender who has been hot, but also to the fact that our special teams have been clicking.”
Princeton’s powerplay, which has been in the top 10 in Division I hockey often this season, now ranks No. 5 with an 18-of-80 PPG/PPO for 22.5 percent. The Tigers are nearly unstoppable on the penalty kill as well — a special team the Tigers struggled with earlier in the season. They are eighth on the penalty kill with a 98-of-112 PK/PKO for 87.5 percent. The Golden Knights have converted on 18 of 110 chances for 16.4 percent, while the penalty-kill has staved off 102 of 132 for 77.3 percent. The Saints, closer to Princeton’s special team ability, have converted on 29 of 139powerplay opportunities for 20.9 percent and have killed 105 of 131 penalties for 80.2 percent.
“There aren’t a lot of power plays out there that have the ability to move the puck effectively up-top and down-low,” Prier said. “That creates more options and more space. [Senior defender Michael] Sdao is always open for the one-timer if a defense tries to get too aggressive.”
Sdao leads the Tigers’ defense in points with 12. Junior forward Andrew Calof, meanwhile, leads the team in scoring with 30 points on 10 goals and 20 assists. He also received the Hockey Commissioners’ Association National Division I Player of the Month Award in January, when he led the nation in scoring with 12 points.
In five games, the top-line forward scored five goals and added seven assists, posting 2.4 points per game during the first month of the year. With 10 goals and 20 assists on the season, he ranks 22nd among D-I players in points. The Tigers built a foundation on Calof’s breakout month to maintain a 4-1-0 record. The five games put them back in the hunt for a first-round bye in the ECAC post-season tournament.
“Our focus is to take care of business at home,” Prier said. “We’ve played well at home and have a mental advantage going into the next four matchups.”
The women’s hockey team will also play the New York teams on Feb. 15 and 16, but on the road. Senior forward and assistant captain Kelly Cooke, who scored 11 goals in her first three seasons at Princeton but has become a go-to scorer with a team-high of 13 goals in 25 games this season, will lead Princeton and attempt to maintain its playoff chances. The Tigers are 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in the ECAC while No. 6 Clarkson is 23-7 overall, 15-3 in the ECAC. St. Lawrence is 16-11-3 overall and 11-5-2 in the league. The Tigers have actually met better results on the road, with a 4-9-0 home record and a 5-5-2 away record.
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