Men's Hockey: Special teams unexpectedly falter as Tigers drop pair of ECAC matches
The narrow lead would hold, capping off a contest that saw Princeton (9-12-4, 7-8-3) squander a 2-1 lead within the last six minutes of the match. Following a strong second period in which the Tigers tallied two goals scored by Kleebaum and senior defender Michael Sdao, Clarkson began its comeback with 5:30 remaining in the third period. A well-designed play screened Bonar, forcing him to misjudge the puck on Simon Bisette’s long-range shot from the left wing near the blue line that slipped into the net, tying the game at two.
“I think what happened towards the end of the game is that we were just playing to hang on, which is uncharacteristic of us, particularly at home,” Princeton head coach Bob Prier said. “When they tied it I think we came on pretty strong, but then we took a costly penalty there. Our special teams really weren’t clicking, and that’s the difference this time of year.”
The special teams battle also proved to be an important factor in Saturday night’s matchup against St. Lawrence at Baker Rink. In that match, the Tigers allowed three consecutive power play goals in the first two periods, resulting in a difficult 3-0 deficit heading into the third frame. The Tigers’ power play unit was unable to convert on any of its eight opportunities in the game. As a result, Princeton’s special teams, which ranked near the top of the nation on both sides of the puck prior to this weekend, dropped to 16th in the nation offensively and 15th defensively. Though disappointed in his squad, Prier gave St. Lawrence (15-11-4, 8-6-4) credit for playing well on special teams.
“That’s a talented power play that they have there,” Prier said. “They’ve got two of the top three scorers in the country up front, and the second leading scoring defenseman in the country on the blue line. They had it going for them, but I thought we did a good job. We were resilient in coming back hard, and I thought we outplayed them overall. But in terms of special teams, we just didn’t have it.”
The Tigers nearly came back from the 3-0 deficit in the third period, when junior forward Jack Berger and sophomore forward Aaron Kesselman scored key goals with fewer than five minutes remaining. Kesselman’s goal, assisted by Berger and freshman forward Jonathan Liau, occurred with only 48 seconds left to play. Ultimately, though, Princeton ran out of time, dropping their second straight match 3-2.
The Tigers will now focus their attention on next weekend’s important home games against Brown and Yale. The team hopes that it will still be able to claim one of the top four seeds in the playoffs. Despite this weekend’s results, Prier is confident in his team.
“I think there are a lot of good things we can take out of this weekend. We’ll do some film review, we’ll keep it positive, and we’ll go forward from there,” Prier said. “Last time we got swept, we turned around and swept the next weekend. We’re a very confident team, and we know we’re going to be in a good spot here coming into the playoffs.”
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