At the beginning of its season, the Princeton men’s ice hockey team set out with the goal of earning home ice for the first round of the ECAC playoffs. The team accomplished that this weekend by securing a seventh place finish in the conference with convincing home wins over Yale and Brown.
In Friday night’s game against Brown, the Tigers were more dominant than they had been all season, demolishing Brown. Princeton scored five unanswered goals in the first two periods and six total goals before Brown notched its first score. Ultimately, the Tigers would prevail, 7-2. The sophomore duo of Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner opened the scoring early, with one goal each in the first period. Sophomore defenseman Josh Teves scored an unassisted goal on a power play early in the second, and senior forward Ben Foster added another within three minutes, forcing a demoralized Brown team to replace their starting goalie. The decision would prove ineffective, however, as junior Eric Robinson scored a goal shortly thereafter with assists from junior David Hallisey and freshman Derek Topatigh. Hallisey added a goal of his own on a power play 35 seconds into the third. After Brown scored midway to the third to avoid a shutout, freshman Joey Fallon tipped in his own rebound to notch his first career goal and make the score 7-1. Brown would score once more on senior goalie Colton Phinney, who saved a remarkable 32 of 34 shots, to bring the score to 7-2, where it would finish.
Princeton entered Saturday night’s game against Yale with the understanding that a win would secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs. Undaunted by the pressure, Princeton started the game quickly, with Fallon’s second career goal coming 3:12 into the first period. Yale tied the game four minutes later on a power play goal, but the Yale offense would be shut down by the Princeton defense and Phinney, who saved 36 of 37 shots. The Tigers, however, would add three more goals, courtesy of Veronneau, Robinson, and Hallisey to bring the final score to 4-1, igniting a celebration in front of the home fans.
For a Princeton team that ended up in the cellar of last year’s ECAC and began this season with a record of 0-5-1 in conference play, finishing the season 13-13-3 and No. 7 (out of 12 teams) in the conference represents a remarkable accomplishment. However, the team has a strong desire to advance late into the ECAC tournament and will be tested in the first round by a Colgate team that has competed tightly with the Tigers this year. Princeton is 0-1-1 against Colgate, with a road loss early in the season and a home tie in January. The three-game series will take place in Baker Rink on Friday, Saturday, and, if necessary, Sunday.