Down 5-3 with less than 10 minutes left to play in the third period against RPI, the Princeton men’s hockey team (3-7-1 overall, 1-6-1 ECAC Hockey) was faced with the possibility of a downright disastrous weekend. Having been thrashed 7-3 the night before to skillful conference opponent Union College (10-3-2, 6-1-1), Princeton was at risk of dropping a game against an RPI squad residing at the bottom of the ECAC standings and lacking Princeton’s talent. However, Princeton refused to concede the game without a fight and ultimately emerged with an enthralling 6-5 overtime victory.
During Friday’s game against Union College, Princeton held a 2-1 lead through one period after goals from the dynamic sophomore duo of forwards Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner. However, Princeton suffered a defensive lapse in the second period, ceding five goals and putting themselves in too large a deficit to climb out of. Princeton would ultimately drop the game 7-3.
Princeton struggled throughout Saturday’s game to defend the power play, uncharacteristic for the team, which entered with one of the best penalty kills in the nation. RPI (3-14-1, 1-7-0) scored its first goal minutes into the game on a 5-on-3 power play, and scored another just 26 seconds later on a 5-on-4. Two additional power-play goals later, RPI had extended its lead to 4-1, with the lone Princeton goal coming off the stick of Veronneau on a Princeton power play. Minutes later, however, junior forward David Hallisey beat RPI goalie Cam Hackett, and Veronneau added another goal on a powerful shot to cut the deficit to one. Both Princeton goals came on power plays, and so, remarkably, the first seven goals of the game were scored on the power play. Midway through the third, RPI notched a fifth goal, bringing the score to 5-3. The Tigers once again responded, as Hallisey scored his second goal at the 14:21 mark to pull the Tigers within one goal. With just 46 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled, Kuffner tied the game. In overtime, in yet another power play, freshman forward Jackson Cressey tipped in a shot by sophomore defenseman Josh Teves to win the game, as the Princeton bench and home crowd erupted in celebration.
Though head coach Ron Fogarty expressed frustration at his team’s defensive performance this weekend, particularly on the penalty kill, he praised their focused mentality.
“We didn’t deviate,” he said. “We created scoring chances and power-play opportunities by going hard to the net. The focus was (to play) a 60-minute game, no matter what the score was, and we played 64.”
The emergence of Veronneau, who scored his first goal of the season against Union and was awarded the ECAC Player of the Week honors for his seven-point, four-goal weekend, was another major storyline. “I just kept shooting, hoping that one would go in eventually,” Veronneau said concerning his mentality.
Princeton also benefitted during Saturday’s win from strong play by Cressey, who, in addition to scoring the winning goal, won 18 of 29 face-offs.
The win was Princeton’s third in its past four games, and the first in conference play. Princeton will face Quinnipiac (11-5-2, 6-2-1), one of its toughest foes so far, in a home game next weekend. The team, however, is not intimidated. “We’ve got a tough matchup next week,” Veronneau said. “But I think we can hopefully win a couple games and keep going from there.”