Following a six-game stretch in which it did not suffer a single defeat, the Princeton men’s ice hockey team endured a setback this weekend with consecutive losses to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and No. 7 Union College. The team, playing the never ideal back-to-back road games, competed well in both games, but could not achieve its desired results.
In the first period, Princeton was granted four power plays in the first period and six in total, but failed to convert on any of them, and lost despite outshooting the opponent by a total of 43-27. Princeton was forced to play from behind for most of the game, as RPI opened a 2-0 margin in the first period. Early in the second, team goal-leader sophomore Ryan Kuffner converted a goal off a RPI turnover, and after another RPI goal, senior Tommy Davis scored an unassisted wrap-around goal to bring the margin to 3-2. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they would not come any closer than that, as RPI scored at the 18:52 mark in the third to secure a 4-2 lead that would hold, despite a blast from freshman Jackson Cressey with less than a minute remaining in the game to bring the final score to 4-3.
Facing the ECAC conference-leading Union College on the road Saturday night, the Tigers certainly had reason for confidence given their previous success against highly-ranked teams. Unlike in Friday’s game, Princeton came out of the gates with high energy against Union, outshooting them 13-7 in the first period and striking first with a Davis goal early in the second. After Union evened the score later in the period, the teams would enter the third deadlocked in a 1-1 tie. In the third, however, Union would blow the game open with two consecutive power play goals scored within a minute of each other, the second scored just four seconds into its respective power play. Again, the special teams units were a letdown for Princeton, as they failed to score on four power plays and allowed Union to convert its only two power play opportunities into goals. Princeton, however, would not become demoralized and added a goal of its own minutes later off a Cressey pass to an open Davis. Davis scored his second goal of the night and third of the weekend despite entering the weekend with only a single goal to his name. The comeback effort would ultimately come up short, as Union added an empty net goal late in the period to bring the tally to 4-2 and ice the game.
Though Princeton would undoubtedly have preferred to maintain its unbeaten streak going into the playoffs, it will have a chance to regroup with two very winnable home games against Yale and Brown to conclude its regular season. These games will be critical, both in determining Princeton’s final slot in the standings and in building momentum entering the tournament.