Hockey: Special teams key in ECAC matchups
The men came out of last weekend’s games with close losses against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, with the final score of both standing at 3-2. While Princeton (9-12-4 overall, 7-8-3 ECAC) played well, it could not close either win, struggling when it came to the special teams battle. The difficulties have led the Tigers to work on strengthening special teams in anticipation of this weekend’s games. Last week, the Tigers had some injuries and lacked the manpower to focus on special teams in practice. This week, however, the team has been tightening up.
“We’re healthy and ready to go,” head coach Bob Prier said. “We’ve worked on special teams every day and are much more prepared.”
The Tigers will have the home-ice advantage this weekend, which bodes well for them. They have tallied six of their nine wins and are much better statistically when playing at home. Playing at Baker Rink gives the team heightened motivation to play to its strengths, Prier noted.
“We have to come out of the gate extremely hard,” Prier said. “I think we have the special teams advantage in both games. These are tight games that need hot power play. In the past, we’ve defensively played well, with not too many even-strength opportunities.”
With four games left in conference play, this weekend’s games are critical in securing a top-four seed in the playoffs. However, Prier said the Tigers are not focusing on the standings but rather on playing hockey at the highest level and letting the chips fall where they may.
“We’ve been really good at home,” he said. “We played really well this last weekend. As a team, we can’t overplay or overthink the standings. You have to win the small battles in the game, and the results will come, and so we’re taking it a step at a time.”
Saturday’s game against Yale (13-9-3, 9-8-1) will also be senior night for the men’s team.
“Saturday is a special night for the seniors,” Prier said. “It’s their last regular season home game at Baker Rink, so it will be a special time for kids that have committed four years to this program. We’re going to have some recognition for them after the first period.”
The women will be on the road for this weekend’s games, which will be the final two of their regular season. Last weekend, the Tigers (10-15-2, 5-13-2) split their games, losing to St. Lawrence but achieving a big win against No. 7 Clarkson, which kept them in contention for the play-offs.
The Tigers hold the eighth spot in the ECAC and have to win their games against both Yale and Brown in order to stay in the top eight in a league where only eight teams make the play-offs. Luckily for them, Brown (6-18-1, 5-15-0) is 10th in the league, and Yale (4-19-3, 3-13-3) is one spot below the Bears. Princeton has gone 6-6-2 on the road this season, better than it has done at home, and one of those road wins was last week’s upset of Clarkson (24-8-0, 16-4-0), currently third in the league.
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