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Men's hockey looks to end five-game losing streak

Two weekends ago, the men's hockey team stepped back onto the ice after a three-week hiatus from league play. What they encountered was a high-powered Rensselaer team and the tough, physical Union Flying Dutchmen. And what they earned were two losses.

That weekend began the Tigers' current four-game Eastern College Athletic Conference losing streak, a run that has dropped Princeton (6-12-3 overall, 4-7-3 ECAC) from the middle of the standings to a spot near the basement.

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"We're going through a tough time," head coach Don Cahoon said. "We clawed and fought for everything we could to stay in the middle of the pack."

The Tigers have a chance this weekend to climb back up the standings by avenging the losses that started the slide — Princeton visits Union today and Rensselaer tomorrow.

Let's get physical

The Flying Dutchmen (7-15-1, 5-7-1) — perennially among the cellar-dwellers of the ECAC — have used a physical, hardworking style to chisel out a few wins this season, putting them percentage points ahead of the Tigers in the standings. Princeton expects more of the same tonight when it tries to leapfrog Union in the standings.

"Union is going to be really physical," Cahoon said. "They'll make it a grind with lots of clutching and grabbing. We're going to have to scratch and claw for every goal."

Princeton faces the Engineers (16-7-2, 8-4-1) the following night, a team whose style of play is the polar opposite of Union's. Led by forward Brad Tapper — whose 26 goals and 11 assists put him seventh in Division I scoring — Rensselaer utilizes a fast-paced offense boosted by a high level of talent.

"[Rensselaer] is highly skilled," Cahoon said. "They make the ice very wide and use a run-and-gun game."

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Tapper is the focus of this offense and has excelled in his position.

"You pay special attention when he's on the ice," junior forward Shane Campbell said. "Any time you have a guy like that on the ice, everyone is made aware of it."

Tunnel vision

The Tigers cannot focus too strongly on Tapper, however, because they then run the risk of forgetting the other talented players on the ice.

"We can't get so consumed [with Tapper] that one of the other wings explodes," Cahoon said.

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This is exactly what happened in the last game between the teams, when Princeton limited Tapper to only one goal. Left wing Marc Cavosie took advantage of the opportunity to step up into the spotlight, netting a hat trick in the Engineers' 6-2 victory.

'Efficient'

"We can't beat [Rensselaer] at their own game," Cahoon said. "We're going to have to play defense and be efficient on special teams."

The Tigers also need to step up their offense, which has scored a paltry eight goals in their last five games. Princeton is confident that it can turn its game around by the end of the season, starting with this weekend.

"We started turning the page in the St. Lawrence game [last weekend] when we dominated most of the game," Campbell said. "We're going to try to continue that into this weekend. Luckily, we're in a league where the standings don't really matter; it's just how you're playing at the end of the season."

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