The Princeton men’s hockey team (1-4-1 overall, 1-3-0 Eastern College Athletic Conference) dropped two road tests this weekend in New York, falling to conference leader Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (5-6-0, 4-1-0) 3-1 on Friday and defending national champion Union College (6-5-1, 1-4-1) 6-1 on Saturday.
After the men’s squad initiated the fall campaign with a strong showing through three games, including a 2-2 stalemate against Ivy rival Yale in a nonconference showdown and a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Cornell at home, the team has since dropped its last three contests by a combined score of 14-3. These numbers, however, do not tell the whole story.
In both weekend matchups, the Tigers were without two of their captains, as junior forward Mike Ambrosia and senior forward Tyler Maugeri were sidelined with injuries. Junior forward Kyle Rankin, senior defender Tom Kroshus and junior defender Kevin Liss were also prevented from competing due to injury. These early-season ailments have proved challenging for first-year coach Ron Fogarty, forcing him to mix and match forward lines and defensive pairings. This lack of constancy has made it difficult for the young team to build chemistry within its units.
In Friday night’s showdown, RPI scored twice in the opening 12 minutes of the game, putting the Tigers on their heels. The Princeton side managed to create some quality scoring chances throughout the night, but were unable to break through until sophomore forward Ben Foster scored with eight minutes remaining in the contest to make the score 3-1 (senior assistant captain Aaron Ave and sophomore Ryan Siiro assisted the goal). The Tigers were also robbed by some bad luck, as Siiro’s first period tally came off the board after a video review determined that the net had come off its moorings before the puck entered the goal. A couple of the Tigers' shots also rang off the posts, with these near misses deciding the fate of the game.
Despite the end result, there were plenty of encouraging signs for Fogarty and his players. Sophomore goaltender Colton Phinney continued his strong play, stopping 32 of 35 shots. Additionally, after committing a whopping 13 penalties against Colgate less than a week earlier, the Tigers were sent to the penalty box only three times — a vast improvement.
In Schenectady the following night, the game was not as competitive. Down 1-0 midway through the first period, Ave, assisted by Foster, scored his second goal of the season on a power play. However, Union would seize control of the game from there, scoring five unanswered goals to drop the Tigers. Princeton was again plagued by penalties, as Union converted three of its five power play opportunities. Freshman Ben Halford made his first collegiate start in net, stopping 31 of 37 shots. The offense remained in a funk, only managing to muster 16 shots on goal.
The Tigers will return to New York next weekend for another round of road battles against ECAC opponents St. Lawrence University (7-4-1, 3-1-0) and Clarkson University (3-5-4, 1-1-2).