This Friday, the men’s hockey team will travel to Clarkson for the first round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament. The Tigers will be looking to outplay their longtime rivals in a best-of-three series, featuring game two on Saturday and a third game, if necessary, on Sunday.
Despite a difficult season, the No. 12 Tigers have shown that they are more than capable of beating the Golden Knights. Indeed, in their first meeting of the season, Princeton shut out the Knights in a convincing 3-0 victory. The Tigers controlled the rhythm of that match, scoring a goal in each period. In addition, junior goaltender Colton Phinney earned his first shutout with 31 saves.
The Orange and Black will need to replicate their performance at Clarkson this week if they hope to beat the Knights. The Clarkson squad has shown itself to be a formidable force on the ice. Clarkson managed to take the win in its second match against Princeton earlier this month with a 5-2 victory over the Tigers. This time it would be the Knights, who surged late in the last period with three goals, who iced the tight match.
The Knights and Tigers have already met 11 times in the ECAC playoffs. Clarkson currently leads the tally 8-3, having knocked the Tigers out of contention in their last four meetings.
Making matters more difficult is Clarkson’s recent momentum. While the Knights failed to capture a single win in 2015, they came out of the New Year determined and ready to play. Since then, Clarkson has skated its way to fifth place in the ECAC, winning 10 matches. Indeed, they ended the regular season with a weekend sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth.
While Clarkson may have history on its side, a Princeton victory would not be unprecedented. In fact, the Princeton squad pulled off an away win during its match-up against Clarkson in the 2014 ECAC tournament. The Tigers won the hotly contested match in overtime.
Although the Tigers have struggled as of late, the opening of the ECAC tournament provides a great opportunity for the Princeton squad to revitalize its campaign. With the regular season behind them, Princeton will try and focus on winning vital conference matches and moving past earlier defeats.
In fact, while its record might not show it, the Princeton squad has shown itself capable of forcing tough matches. Indeed, the Tigers have had four overtime encounters this season and played many games determined by a single goal. The team will now be looking to string these moments together for a road victory in the first round of the ECAC. As the first round of ECAC starts, we should see some thrilling action as the Tigers try to extend their season.