Princeton men’s hockey (10–16–3 overall, 8–12–2 ECAC) might just be peaking at the right time.
The team ended the regular season on a high note with a pair of road wins this weekend, defeating Yale (13–13–3, 11–10–1) 3–2 on Friday and Brown (11–13–5, 8–9–5) 5–1 on Saturday. The Tigers will enter the ECAC tournament with a three-game win streak and four-game unbeaten streak.
The Tigers’ success was fueled by a four-goal weekend from senior forward Max Véronneau, who pushed his season goal tally to 13, second only to senior forward Ryan Kuffner. Véronneau and Kuffner have been key components of the Tigers’ success throughout the season, providing valuable senior leadership.
“Leadership is critical for any team, and that comes from senior class and hopefully from the underclassmen as well,” said head coach Ron Fogarty. “Our seniors are going to draw on their experience from three years and more importantly from last year of getting through the playoffs and winning an ECAC championship. They’ve always done a great job for us, and I’m really proud of the seniors this season.”
Coach Fogarty had strong praise for Kuffner in particular, whose historic accomplishments have been well documented. Kuffner, who was recently named the ECAC Hockey Player of the Month for February, is Princeton’s all-time leader in goals and is third in total points.
“He’s been a great student athlete and a great ambassador for Princeton hockey and athletics,” said Fogarty. “He’s never taken a practice off, and it’s exactly that type of person we want for Princeton hockey.”
The Tigers also benefited from strong performances this weekend by first-year goalie Jeremie Forget, who followed up a 30-save performance against Yale with a career-high 32 saves against Brown. With 62 total saves and a league-best .954 save percentage this weekend, Forget was named ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week.
The weekend’s wins were just the third and fourth times Forget has played this season. Princeton has also used sophomore Ryan Ferland and senior Austin Shaw in net this year.
With Saturday’s win, the Tigers extended their winning streak to three, a strong finish for a team that at one point in the season lost seven in a row. Fogarty attributes some of this recent success to defensive improvements.
“We’ve been playing stronger defensively throughout the entire rink, where we had been a little porous before,” he said. “There’s been a lot of attention to that and to grinding it out and playing with more grit.”
Having earned the nine-seed, Princeton will travel back to Providence to begin its ECAC tournament with a best-of-three series against Brown. The Tigers split the season series against Brown 1–1, including Saturday’s victory.
Princeton will hope this year’s conference tournament follows a script similar to last year’s. Princeton finished seventh in conference last season before launching a surprise run to an ECAC championship. That run began with a sweep of Brown.
When asked how the team is preparing for the high-pressure atmosphere of playoff hockey this time around, Fogarty said he didn’t plan to make any major changes.
“The only thing different is that you’re preparing for the same team twice or maybe three times. Your preparation is consistent and similar from September. If you start doing things differently now, you’re not going to be good, so we just continue to do what we believe gives us the best opportunity to win against Brown.”
As a championship-winning coach, though, Fogarty understands what it takes to succeed in the postseason.
“The road to a championship is littered with adversity,” he said. “You have to handle the ups and downs and remain focused on the task at hand.”