Men’s ice hockey (7—14—2, 5—10—1 ECAC) snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday with a 4–1 win over Yale (11—9—3, 9—6—1 ECAC). The victory saw eleven different Tigers scoring points, with junior forwards Joey Fallon and Liam Grande scoring their first goals of the season. Senior forward Ryan Kuffner, Princeton’s all-time leading scorer, added two goals, bringing his career total to 70.
Junior forward Mitchell Smith opened the scoring for Yale with six minutes to go in the first period, beating senior goalie Austin Shaw over the right shoulder after a turnover in the Tiger’s zone. Princeton was unable to find the net in the first period, but their offense picked up in the second, putting 16 shots on goal to Yale’s nine. First-year forward Corey Andonovski almost found the net at 6:00 after stripping the puck from sophomore defenseman Phil Kemp in the offensive zone; and the Tigers’ power play forced senior goaltender Sam Tucker to make multiple saves.
The Tigers finally leveled the score at 12:06, as Fallon scored on assists from junior forward Jeremy Germain and senior forward Spencer Kryczka. Senior forward Max Véronneau almost added to the score with 15 seconds to go in the second half, hitting the post with a powerful shot.
After a defensive start to the third period, Kuffner put the Tigers ahead at 10:41, followed by a goal from Grande at 15:08. Kuffner then put the game to bed with an empty net goal at 18:15.
Saturday’s game was the first in almost a month for senior goaltender Austin Shaw, who last played against Dartmouth on Jan. 12. Shaw made 23 saves in the game and allowed only one goal.
“Always dying to get in the net, and glad I could help out the boys,” said Shaw. “And it was a big rivalry game too, so that was fun. A lot of people at the rink tonight, and it’s always fun to play in a packed house here at Princeton.”
The Tigers’ success on Saturday was, in part, fueled by a shuffling of lines, with senior defenseman Josh Teves playing as a forward on the line with Véronneau and Andonovski.
“I think everybody was on board,” said Kuffner, when asked about the line changes. “[Especially] that line where Teves came up and played with Max and Corey – I thought they were probably the best line tonight, especially energy-wise. They had the puck in their end a lot, and they had some good chances. I think they’re a great line, and I think they brought everybody up throughout the game no matter what the score was. I think that was massive.”
The Tigers will look to build on Saturday’s victory when they play Rensselaer on Friday, Feb. 15. Despite their recent struggles, they are confident in their ability to close out the season strong and make a deep run in the playoffs.
“We know we can do it. We did it last year,” said Kuffner. “We know that we just have to make sure we’re playing our best at the end of the season. I think every guy in there can tell you that we’re playing well and with confidence, and we know what we can do going down the stretch. Getting these two points was massive, but we still have six more to go. And then it’s time to go on a run. A big run.”