Men’s hockey falls at Union, RPI, as Josh Teves breaks assists record| February 18, 2019
Sometimes, there are games where you just don’t get the breaks you need to win. The puck bounces the wrong way, the opponent gains momentum at an inopportune time, or a crucial call goes against you, and you lose despite competing well.
Princeton’s men’s hockey has had more than its fair share of such games this year.
The misfortune continued this weekend — Princeton (7–16–2 overall, 5–12–1 ECAC) lost a pair of games in upstate New York, falling 6–2 to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (9–18–3, 6–10–2) on Friday and 3–2 to Union College (15–9–6, 8–8–2) Saturday. They have now lost six of their last seven games, and they sit second from the bottom in the ECAC standings.
One bright spot in the weekend came courtesy of senior defenseman Josh Teves. He recorded his 68th career assist, most ever for a Princeton defenseman, in the second period of the Union game. He found senior forward Ryan Kuffner on a two-on-one fast break, and Kuffner did the rest, beating the goalie top shelf to open the scoring.
Union scored two goals of its own to take a 2–1 lead, before senior forward Max Veronneau found the net on the power play with less than four minutes remaining to tie the game and seemingly force overtime.
However, a chaotic sequence in the Princeton zone ended with the puck in the Princeton net with just 14 seconds left, and the Tigers fell 3–2.
Against RPI the night before, senior goaltender Austin Shaw made his second consecutive start in net in place of usual starter sophomore Ryan Ferland. Shaw made a career-high 36 saves but allowed six goals, and Ferland had his job back the next night.
“We needed a switch up,” said head coach Ron Fogarty about his decision to start Shaw in last Saturday’s 4-1 win over Yale. “He’s worked hard in practice and deserved the opportunity, and he delivered.”
While Shaw helped earn Princeton a much-needed win last weekend, Friday’s result against RPI indicates that Princeton needs more than a new face in net to start winning again.
Luckily for Princeton, every team in the ECAC qualifies for the conference tournament. Last year, Princeton finished seventh in the regular season before winning the ECAC tournament and earning an NCAA tournament bid. They will need a similar dose of postseason magic this year.
Despite the unconvincing regular season results, the team remains confident in its chances.
“We know we can do it, we did it last year,” said Kuffner. “We just have to make sure we’re playing our best at the end of the season. I think every guy in [the locker room] can tell you we’re playing well and we’re confident.”
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” joked Fogarty after the win against Yale. “You tell me who was third in the ECAC last year. Now who’s got the championship trophy in their building? We do. Anybody’s got to come through us and play us to get the trophy from us. I like our chances.”
Teams looking to win the ECAC championship will likely not have to literally come through Princeton, as the Tigers are slated to finish in the bottom four of the conference and play all its tournament games on the road — but you get the idea.