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Men's hockey splits weekend pair; injured Yopyk may miss rest of season

It was the kind of thing featured on one of those inspirational posters. Senior defender Darren Yopyk had just scored a goal for the men's hockey team, piercing a crowd of players in front of Harvard goalkeeper J.R. Prestifilippo for the first tally of Friday's game.

Yopyk took a knee and pumped his fist as he slid away from the clutter in front of the net. Flashes flickered as cameras caught him alone in his moment of glory: a senior living up one of his final home games.


He was Success. He was Victory. And he was leading his team down these paths.

The Tigers (10-13-3 overall, 8-8-3 Eastern College Athletic Conference) looked to be on their way to a win that night and a jump in the ECAC standings, but their fate would turn quickly and continue following the travails of their captain for the remainder of a weekend in which they lost to the Crimson (10-14-2, 8-9-2) and defeated Brown (6-17-3, 4-13-2), both by 4-1 margins.

Harvard provided the key play of the game in the closing seconds of the first period, when Crimson center Steve Moore knotted the game, 1-1, with eight seconds remaining. The goal could have been a wakeup call for the Tigers; instead, Harvard seized the momentum.

"They responded to the goal, and we didn't," head coach Don Cahoon said. "I didn't feel that we competed in the second. I told the kids they looked disinterested."

The game would only get worse, as both the Tigers and their captain went down in the third period. After a hard hit on the boards, Yopyk went down in almost the exact same place on the ice where he had previously been celebrating. A trainer rushed onto the ice as Yopyk writhed in pain with what turned out to be a lower leg fracture.


Again, Yopyk could have been featured on a motivational poster — the "that which does not kill me makes me stronger" kind.


He was Agony. He was Despair. And he probably will not play any more games in Baker Rink.

Though still within striking distance, down 2-1, the Tigers faltered in the third, allowing two goals within a span of one minute, eight seconds to stumble to a 4-1 loss.

One night later as the Tigers took on Brown, Yopyk did not provide any high-impact images worthy of being featured on a poster. But just being on the bench — crutches and all — provided inspiration for the Princeton team.

"[Darren] was another motivation for sure," Cahoon said. "Everyone looks up to Darren. He has a lot of character."

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Without the defender and captain on the ice, Princeton netted at least one goal in each period, en route to the solid 4-1 victory over the visiting Bears Saturday night.

A pair of right wings provided the offensive firepower for the Tigers, as senior Benoit Morin and junior Kirk Lamb netted two goals apiece.

Lamb netted the key goal of the game this time, a short 15 seconds after the Bears had gone up, 1-0. The equalizer gave Princeton momentum that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game, as they scored four unanswered goals.

"[The first goal] was a turning point," Lamb said. "It's almost like getting two goals — you knock them down even further than when it was tied."

Princeton now finds itself in a tight race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Tied with so many teams and barely ahead of others, this team with no outright stars must focus on the team play that got it to where it is.

The weekend split pushed Princeton into a four-way tie for third place in the ECAC, with Rensselaer, Clarkson and Dartmouth. With the two-win weekend, Harvard did not pass the Tigers in the ECAC standings, but went one point ahead in the race for the Ivy League title; Princeton can claim that banner with a win over Cornell next weekend or a share of it with a tie.

With Yopyk on the bench before Saturday's game, the remainder of the team could have been featured on its own poster. Before the opening faceoff, the Tigers clustered around sophomore goalkeeper Dave Stathos and his goal for nearly a minute. Only one thought pervaded the dense mass of Princeton players: Unity.