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M. hockey goes winless on weekend, falls to 10th in ECAC

On last year's trek to upstate New York, the men's hockey team opened its Eastern College Athletic Conference campaign with wins over Clarkson and St. Lawrence to begin its early-season surge towards the top of the league's standings.

This weekend, a slumping Tiger team went on the same trip — at a different point in the season — and with much different results.

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After a 5-2 drubbing at Clarkson Friday and a 4-1 loss at St. Lawrence Saturday, the Tigers were swept further from the top of the ECAC as their losing streak extended to five games.

Friday night, Princeton (6-12-3 overall, 4-7-3 ECAC) started out slowly as sophomore goalie Dave Stathos let in three of the 13 shots that he faced in the first period before being pulled in favor of freshman Nate Nomeland. The freshman came up strong — making 30 saves in the second and third periods — but the Tigers could not make up the early deficit against the Golden Knights (9-11-3, 4-6-3).

"We just weren't clicking on all cylinders," Nomeland said. "It's a tough situation to come in during the game, but I thought I did everything I could."

The offense was poor all weekend as Clarkson goalie Karl Mattson only had to make 16 saves on 18 shots to record his first collegiate win.

This was not surprising for an anemic Princeton offense, which has scored two or fewer goals in six of its last seven games, and lost on all six occasions. The lone Tiger win in those last seven games came in a 4-2 win over Harvard on Jan. 8 in Cambridge, Mass.

"We're in a slump right now, and the puck just seems to be bouncing the wrong way all the time," Stathos said.

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The Tigers actually held a 1-0 lead briefly in the first period after sophomore defenseman David Schneider scored a power play goal assisted by senior forward Benoit Morin and junior forward Kirk Lamb. The Knights then scored three straight goals to put the game out of reach. The other Princeton goal was scored shorthanded on a breakaway by speedy sophomore forward David Del Monte.

Stepping up

The Tigers had a much better effort against the Saints (15-6-2, 10-2-1) on Saturday, as the game was still close at 2-0 until halfway through the third period, when St. Lawrence defenseman Dale Clarke tallied two goals within a five-minute span to put the game out of reach at 4-0.

"We showed a much better effort against St. Lawrence," senior defenseman Darren Yopyk said. "Any time you lose, it's tough, but we can take some momentum away from this game."

Head coach Don Cahoon went back to his starting netminder against the Saints, and Stathos did not disappoint, recording a personal best of 39 saves on the night.

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"Dave takes so much responsibility for the how the team does. It was good to see him get back on his game," Nomeland said. "We all know that he's our man in net, and I'm just here to do what's needed."

The Tigers' offense started slowly, though, only putting four shots on net in the first period. The offense then picked it up, firing 27 shots on goal in the second and third periods. But Saint goalie Derek Gustafson was up to the challenge, pitching a shutout until sophomore defenseman Dave Bennett beat him off a pass from freshman forward Scott Prime with 20 seconds left. It was Prime's first career point.

"[Gustafson] had a good game, but we just weren't getting a lot of good second-chance opportunities," Yopyk said.

Shooting gallery

The Princeton defense also did not put up a strong effort on the weekend, giving up 88 shots on goal in the two games.

"It's tough when there are that many shots on net in two games, but I hope we can regroup this week and go into next weekend ready to pick up some wins," Stathos said.

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