Things are trending in the wrong direction for the Tigers heading into the ice hockey postseason.
In their quest to get a home playoff game, the men’s team (8–18–2 overall, 7–13–1 Eastern College Athletic Conference) hosted the Colgate Raiders (14–16–4, 9–9–4 ECAC) Friday and the Cornell Big Red (17–8–4, 12–6–4) Saturday. The Tigers lost both games, meaning that they needed to beat Harvard on Sunday to have any hope of hosting a first-round series in the ECAC playoffs. Against Colgate, Princeton blew a late third period lead, losing 4–3. In an attempt to rebound, the Tigers got shut out 4–0 against Cornell.
The game against Colgate was back and forth throughout; neither team seemed to be able to find a consistent rhythm. The Tigers opened the scoring when first-year forward Jack Cronin took a cross-ice pass from junior defenseman Pito Walton and whipped home a power play goal to make it 1–0. The goal was Cronin’s second of the year and proved to be the lone goal of the first period. The Tigers entered the second period with a one-goal advantage.
The Raiders promptly responded four minutes into the second to tie it 1–1 on a goal by forward Arnaud Vachon. 10 minutes later, sophomore defenseman Mike Kennedy found a loose puck in the crease and tapped it home for a 2–1 Princeton lead, his second goal of the year.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Colgate forward Griffin Lunn scored a power play goal with 45 seconds to go in the period. His goal tied the game 2–2 heading into the third period.
In the third, the Tigers quickly regained the lead with an unassisted shorthanded goal from junior forward Spencer Kersten to make it 3–2. Kersten stole the puck around the Raider blue line and broke in all alone, finding the back of the net for his sixth goal of the year.
The Tigers held the lead for 12 more minutes until two Colgate goals in the span of 1:36 gave the Raiders the lead. The first came when defenseman Tommy Bergsland walked in off the point and blasted a slapshot home to tie the game 3–3. Then, forward Josh McKechney found an open spot in the zone and ripped a wrister top shelf to make it 4–3.
The small lapse proved to be costly for the Tigers, who could not answer. The loss came despite the Tigers outshooting the Raiders 38–34 and generally outplaying them in the third period.
On Saturday, against Cornell, there was no such back and forth. The Big Red scored 46 seconds into the game and never looked back. Cornell forward Sullivan Mack took a cross-ice pass from forward Matt Stienburg on the break and beat Tigers senior goalie Jeremie Forget short-side to make it 1–0. That was all for the opening period, as Forget stopped the next 14 Cornell shots and kept it to a one-goal deficit entering the second.
The score held for most of the second period, with Forget doing his best to keep the Tigers close. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the streak broke with 4:08 to go in the period as Big Red defenseman Sebastian Dirven scored for Cornell to make it 2–0. The Tigers went into the final period down two and struggled to create scoring opportunities.
This trend continued, as Cornell continued to dominate. Forward Liam Motley scored with 9:14 to play to make it 3–0, and then forward Kyle Penney added an empty netter with 6:33 to go after Princeton pulled Forget from the goal.
After the two losses, the Tigers played Harvard Sunday afternoon. They lost, meaning they will travel to play Union (12–17–4, 9–11–2) on the road to begin the ECAC playoffs.
Ben Burns is an Associate Sports Editor at the ‘Prince’ who typically covers basketball, hockey, and soccer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bwburns5_.