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Men's hockey again unable to win two; key injuries costly for Tigers

In the 1994-95 season, the men's hockey team defeated Cornell, 4-3, in overtime in the front end of a home Eastern College Athletic Conference weekend. Princeton went on the next night to blow out Colgate, 7-3, completing the sweep. That was the last time the Tigers had a four-point league weekend.

This weekend was another ECAC weekend, another split decision.

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Princeton lambasted Harvard, 7-3, Friday night at Baker Rink on the strength of five second-period goals in a five-minute stretch. The next night, however, the Tigers (12-7-4 overall, 6-7-3 ECAC) came out flat in front of backup sophomore goaltender Craig Bradley against Brown (8-13-1, 7-8-1). They fell apart in the second period, ultimately losing by a three-goal margin, 4-1.

In defeating the Crimson (8-13-2, 7-8-1), the Tigers played some of their best hockey of the year. Although the first intermission found Harvard leading, 1-0, on the strength of Chris Bala's centering pass that ricocheted off sophomore defenseman Darren Yopyk's skate past senior goaltender Erasmo Saltarelli, the Tigers played even with the bigger, more physical Crimson forwards.

"I thought we played great in the first period," head coach Don Cahoon said. "We just didn't have anything to show for it."

Then the dam broke.

Senior center Matt Brush, senior right wing Joe Pelle, junior left wing Scott Bertoli, junior center Syl Apps, senior right wing Robbie Sinclair. Five different players on three different forward lines lit the lamp, beating Crimson goaltender J.R. Prestifilippo time and again.

Two minutes, 43 seconds into the second period, Brush deflected junior center Jeff Halpern's shot to even up the contest. Just 32 seconds later, Apps took a shot from Prestifilippo's right side that bounced off the net-crashing Pelle into the net. The Tigers then knew they had rattled the Crimson netminder and began to fire at will.

Disappearance

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Lost among the scoring barrage was the absence of senior right wing and Orange Line member Casson Masters. Early in the game, Masters caught his skate on the ice in a collision with a Harvard skater, causing his left knee to bend awkwardly.

Examination after the game determined the injury to be a second-degree medial collateral ligament tear. Masters is expected to be out a minimum of two weeks.

As unfelt as Masters' absence had been in Friday night's blowout, his loss loomed large the following evening against Brown. Sophomore right wing Benoit Morin – filling in for Masters on the Orange Line – and the Tigers lacked any consistent offensive attack all night. Princeton was lucky to find itself tied, 1-1, after one period of play. The team looked tired and a step slow all night.

Silver lining

The lone Tiger goal came with 3:09 left in the first period after there was a pileup of bodies in front of Bear goalie Scott Stirling. The puck popped out to freshman left wing Shane Campbell, who flicked it past the unknowing ECAC/Heaton Goaltender of the Week.

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In place of regular starter Saltarelli, Bradley served as Stirling's opposite Saturday.

"I thought Bradley played okay," Cahoon said. "It would have taken a Herculean effort (to stop Brown). We never generated the offense that we needed (in front of him)."

The shorthanded Tigers remained unable to appropriately protect the younger Bradley, as Masters was not the only Princeton regular to be watching the game in street clothes.

Junior defenseman Michael Acosta has been out for a week with a knee injury and is expected to stay off the ice for at least three more. Yopyk and junior left wing Brian Horst also sat out the 4-1 loss.

Attrition

The remaining Tigers proved unable to overcome their depleted ranks. During the last half of the second period and throughout the third, they could not keep up with the healthy Bears. The final Brown goal came on the Princeton power play, when the puck hopped junior defenseman Steve Shirreffs' stick at the point. Bear center Jeff Lawler picked up the loose puck, beat Shirreffs down the length of the ice and put it through Bradley's fivehole.

The bench will not get any deeper. Brush is nursing a sore ankle, while Morin and freshman center Ethan Doyle both have back spasms.

The Brown loss meant another lost opportunity to climb into the all-important fifth seed for the playoffs and the home-ice advantage it entails. A win would have vaulted Princeton into a tie for fifth place with Cornell (12-9-2, 8-7-1, 17 points), but instead the Tigers remain in a three-way logjam for sixth with the Crimson and the Bears (15 points).

The Tigers have never hosted an ECAC quarterfinal playoff series. The last time they hosted a preliminary league playoff game: 1994-95.

BROWN 4, PRINCETON 1

Brown 1 3 0 – 4 Princeton 1 0 0 – 1 First period – 1, B, James Duval (Tyler Garrow, Ryan Longfield), 10:42. 2, P, Shane Campbell (Ethan Doyle, Chris Corrinet), 16:51. Second period – 3, B, Jade Kersey (Adrian Smith, Brent Hoiness), 9:21. 4, B, Paul Giblin (John DiRenzo, Christian Warrington), 10:45. 5, B, Jeff Lawler (Jimmy Andersson, Damian Prescott) SHG, 14:41. Third period – none. Shots – Brown 30, Princeton 22. Saves – Brown: Scott Shirling 21; Princeton: Craig Bradley 26. Power-play opportunities: Brown 0 for 6; Princeton 0 for 5. Attendance – 1,748.

PRINCETON 7, HARVARD 3

Harvard 1 2 0 – 3 Princeton 0 5 2 – 7 First period – 1, H, Chris Bala (Steve Moore, Matt Scorsune) PPG, 10:57. Second period – 2, P, Matt Brush (Jeff Halpern, Steven Shireffs) PPG, 2:42. 3, P, Joe Pelle (Syl Apps, Brad Meredith), 3:15. 4, P, Scott Bertoli (Shirreffs, Robbie Sinclair) PPG, 5:15. 5, P, Apps (Pelle, Meredith), 6:34. 6, P, Sinclair (Shirreffs, Bertoli), 7:31. 7, H, Bala (Moore, Ben Storey) PPG, 18:33. 8, H, Scorsune (Clayton Rodgers, Bala), 19:43. Third period – 9, P, Sinclair (Bertoli, Peter Zavodny), 16:18. 10, P, Apps (Chris Barber), 19:29. Shots – Harvard 19, Princeton 35. Saves – Harvard: J.R. Prestifilippo 28; Princeton: Erasmo Saltarelli 16. Power-play opportunities: Harvard 2 for 5; Princeton 2 for 5. Attendance – 1,947.

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