The men’s hockey team split a two-game home stand with Big 10 foe Michigan State University last weekend at Baker Rink. A 3-1 victory on Friday night snapped a five-game losing streak for the host Tigers (2-7-1 overall, 1-5-0 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference), who were unable to rally the following night in a 4-2 defeat to the Spartans (5-8, 1-1 Big Ten).
One night removed from Thanksgiving, it was fitting that the Tigers were buoyed to victory by home cooking and the return of some familiar faces. After two consecutive weekend journeys to New York that resulted in four straight losses — the latter two by way of shutouts — the Tigers and the Princeton faithful were ready to return to welcoming Baker Rink. Without five key contributors for the majority of the losing streak, the home side welcomed back junior forward and assistant captain Mike Ambrosia, junior forward Kyle Rankin and senior defenseman Tom Kroshus from prolonged absences for the two-game set. Senior forward (and team captain) Tyler Maugeri and junior defenseman Kevin Liss remained sidelined with injuries. After a scoreless first period, Michigan State drew first blood 3:37 into the second, as Michael Ferrantino converted a power play opportunity to go up 1-0. However, this would mark the first and only time in Friday’s matchup in which the Spartans managed to beat sophomore goaltender Colton Phinney. Phinney, one of the brightest spots for the young Princeton team so far this season, was a stalwart in net, stopping 44 of 45 shots.
Ambrosia, playing in his first game of the season, made his presence felt a few minutes later in what appeared to be the game-tying score. However, as has happened to the Tigers a few times already this season, the goal was disallowed after the officials deemed that the whistle had blown before the puck crossed the goal line. Ambrosia and his linemates Rankin and junior Jonathan Liau were unfazed, and at 9:54 in the second period Liau buried a rebound to tie the game at one each. Within five minutes, freshman forward David Hallisey had notched his second goal of the season for what proved to be the game-winning tally. The goal was assisted by freshman forwards Connor McLaren and Joe Grabowski.
In the third period, sophomore forward Ben Foster scored an unassisted goal on Princeton’s first power play opportunity of the night after a failed attempt to clear by the Michigan State defense set him up in good scoring position. His tally marked the first time this year that the Tigers have scored three or more goals. While the insurance was welcome, Phinney would not need it, and despite being outshot 45-26, the Tigers would hold on for a satisfying 3-1 victory. The result on Friday was especially notable as it marked Princeton’s first ever win against Michigan State. The Spartans had won the previous five meetings between the two schools, with the series dating back to 1959. The Spartans embarrassed the Tigers last year, with 4-1 and 8-2 victories in East Lansing, Mich. The Tigers also matched the goal total from their previous five games, which saw them outscored 21-3 by ECAC opponents. The game the following night would take a different shape. After a flurry of shots 24 hours before, Saturday’s game saw Phinney face 32 and his Spartan counterpart Jake Hildebrand only 20. It was all Michigan State in the first two periods, as Michael Ferrantino, Matt DeBlouw and Tanner Sorenson scored the first three goals of the game for the visiting side.
In the decisive third period, however, the Tigers fought back. Rankin netted his first goal of the season, assisted by Ambrosia and Liau only 1:23 into the final stanza. Sophomore forward Ryan Siiro put another tally on the board halfway through the period — his first of the season — assisted by Kroshus and senior forward Aaron Kesselman. After first-year head coach Ron Fogarty pulled Phinney for an extra attacker late in the game, the Tigers frantic third-period rally fell short, with Michigan State’s Matt Berry sending the puck through a vacant Princeton goal with two seconds left on the board to solidify the 4-2 result.
The hockey squad will resume ECAC play this weekend, as Ivy foes Harvard and Dartmouth will make the trip down to Baker Rink to square off against the host Tigers.