This weekend, the Princeton men’s hockey team (9-14-4 overall, 7-10-3 ECAC) closes out its regular season with two crucial conference games. On Friday, Princeton will face No. 18 Dartmouth (13-10-4, 9-8-3) in Hanover before travelling to Cambridge to face Harvard (8-16-3, 5-13-2).
The Tigers are coming off a four-game losing streak, including a tough 3-4 loss to Yale this past Saturday. Head Coach Bob Prier highlighted the importance of these games in ending the slump before the postseason.
“These games are extremely important to get us back on the right track heading into playoffs,” Prier said.
Princeton faced Dartmouth in January and pulled off a major upset, defeating the then- No. 8 Big Green 2-1 on home ice. Senior goalie Mike Condon made 34 saves, which were key in winning. Prier emphasized, however, that the Tigers do not want to rely solely on the defense this time time.
“We will have to challenge their [defense] by moving our feet and taking pucks to the net,” Prier said. One day after the Dartmouth victory, Princeton defeated Harvard 3-2 in an overtime thriller, with junior forward Andrew Calof recording a hat-trick that included the overtime game winning goal.
When Princeton faced Harvard and Dartmouth in that Jan. 4-5 series, the Tigers had gone seven games without a win but were able to break the streak with the pair of victories. Princeton will be looking to repeat that success and snap its current four-game losing streak. The team has been working on executing plays and having a strong transitional game.
“We had a good week of practice working on special teams and playing with more tempo,” Prier said. “We will focus on trying to make more plays this weekend rather than simply dumping pucks in.”The Tigers know that both Dartmouth and Harvard will be difficult opponents.
“Both teams this weekend are very strong opponents with highly talented forwards; we will have to limit our turnovers to take their transition game away,” Prier said.
If Princeton comes away with a pair of wins, there is a possibility that the Tigers will be able to play at Baker Rink during the playoffs.
“These are important points — it would be great to play at Baker Rink in the first round of the playoffs,” Prier said.
The women’s hockey playoffs kick off this weekend, but the Tigers (11-16-2, 6-14-2) will not be participating this year — Princeton barely missed qualifying for the playoffs. The team needed to win games against both Brown (6-20-1, 5-17) and Yale (5-21-3, 4-15-3) last weekend to clinch the final playoff spot, and while they defeated Brown 2-1, the Tigers fell to Yale 2-4.
“Overall the coaches needed to coach better and the players needed to play better. Our compet[itive] level was inconsistent,” head coach Kampersal said. “We had stretches of heart and soul ... other times we flat-lined.”
Kampersal highlighted the play of senior forwards Corey Stearns and Kelly Cooke, noting that both were key factors in Princeton’s season and “carried the team this year.” Despite losing Stearns and Cooke to graduation, Kampersal has high hopes for next year’s Tiger team.
“We all need to have a productive spring and summer,” Kampersal said. “We are going to re-shape our culture. We will be back — stronger, tougher and more disciplined.”