The last time Princeton men’s hockey (currently 6–11–2, 4–7–1 ECAC) beat Harvard (7–5–3, 4–4–2), its senior leaders, including forwards Max Véronneau, Ryan Kuffner, and Alex Riche, weren’t on the team. Friday night, those seniors played a critical role in the team’s 4–2 home win, the first over the Crimson since 2013.
“Our class has never beat Harvard, so that was good to get the monkey off the back,” said Riche, who scored the go-ahead goal on the power play early in the third period.
Harvard entered the game with one of the most potent power play units in the country, scoring on over a third of its power play opportunities on the year. The Crimson did get one power play goal in the second period from its star defenseman Adam Fox, but it was Princeton’s power play that made the difference.
In the first period, junior defenseman Derek Topatigh blasted in a one-timer from the point on the power play to tie the score at 1–1. Then, in the third period, Riche got the puck through traffic and past Harvard goalie Michael Lackey to give the Tigers a 3–2 lead.
“[Véronneau] just put it on the net. The puck was bouncing, and luckily I got good wood on it, and it found its way in,” Riche said.
Princeton started the game somewhat shakily, as Harvard controlled the puck early on and opened the scoring with a goal following a face-off play. Princeton rebounded with Topatigh’s power play goal to even the score going into the first intermission, and both teams scored a goal apiece in the second period as well. In the third, Princeton took the lead on Riche’s goal and secured the win with a Kuffner empty-net goal late in the period to make the score 4–2.
“Other than those couple [goals allowed], I think we were pretty dominant the whole way,” Kuffner said. “Even when they did have scoring chances in front of our net, we had all five guys back there at least limiting second chances.”
Head coach Ron Fogarty switched up the lines prior to the game, letting junior forward Jackson Cressey play on the top line with Kuffner and Véronneau and moving Riche to the second line. The maneuver seemed to work out well for the Tigers.
“There was some good chemistry for all four lines,” Riche said.
“We all know we just have to play for the guy next to us,” said Kuffner. “Whoever that is on a given night.”
Having lost two consecutive games against ECAC opponents by one goal, the team was glad to finally earn a narrow win of its own.
“The ECAC is so tight, it’s usually going to be one-goal games,” Riche said. “It was nice to finally come out on the right side of one.”
Unfortunately for the team, that success would not carry over to the following night’s game, as they suffered a 5–0 defeat to Dartmouth (6–8–2, 5–3–1). Nonetheless, the Tigers will hope beating a rival for the first time in years in the final weekend before an extended break will give them the momentum needed to finish the regular season strong.