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Men’s hockey swept by Union, eliminated from ECAC playoffs

<h5>The men’s hockey team lost eight consecutive games to close out the season.</h5>
<h6>Photo courtesy of GoPrincetonTigers.com</h6>
The men’s hockey team lost eight consecutive games to close out the season.
Photo courtesy of GoPrincetonTigers.com

Just one day after the women’s hockey team (13–15–5, 9–10–3 Eastern College Athletic Conference) was knocked out of the playoffs, the men’s team (8–21–2, 7–14–1 ECAC) also dropped out of the postseason.

Their season ended over the weekend following a series of losses to Union (14–17–4, 9–11–2) in the ECAC playoffs. The Tigers lost Game One of their series to the Dutchmen 3–2 on Friday, and then lost Game Two 5–1, dropping the best-of-three series two games to none. Union will move on to the second round of the ECAC tournament, but will have to wait to see who they will play depending on results elsewhere. 

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In game one, the Tigers got off to a rough start, as forward Matt Allen scored 2:22 into the game giving Union a 1–0 lead. While the Dutchmen managed 15 shots on goal in the opening period altogether, that was the only one they managed to sneak by senior goaltender Jeremie Forget, whose strong play in net kept the score 1–0 heading to the second period. 

Princeton managed to tie the game midway through the second period. After a save by Union goalie Connor Murphy, senior forward Christian O’Neill beat everyone to the loose puck behind the net and fed it in front to junior forward Liam Gorman, who buried a one-timer past Murphy to make it 1–1. Forget remained excellent, stopping all 13 shots from the Dutchmen in the second frame. 

In the third, Union broke through. Dutchmen forward Gabriel Seger buried a power play goal to put Union up 2–1 with 9:28 left. Defenseman Brandon Estes followed that up with another goal with 2:34 to go, making it 3–1 in favor of the Dutchmen. 

However, Princeton was not done just yet. With 1:15 to go, the puck found first-year defenseman Noah de la Durantaye in the high slot, who side-stepped a poke check and found the back of the net through traffic. The goal cut the lead to 3–2, giving the Tigers a shot to tie the score in the final minute. 

Murphy and Union stood tall and a late bid to tie the game fell short for Princeton. Down 1–0 in the series, the Tigers needed a win on Saturday to keep their season alive.

Unfortunately for Princeton, Union was intent on ending the series as soon as possible. In the opening period, the Tigers outshot the Dutchmen 12–6, but Dutchmen forward Caden Villegas scored the lone goal; once again Princeton found themselves heading to the first intermission trailing by one. 

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In the second period, the Tigers ramped up the pace of play and put more pressure on Murphy. However, once again Union scored the lone goal of the period, as forward Liam Robertson scored off a turnover midway through the period to make it 2–0. The score stood through the end of the period, and Princeton headed to the final period in need of a comeback. 

However, Princeton just could not get going, while Union suddenly leapt to life. Forward Collin Graf scored two goals 2:04 apart, and just like that, Union had doubled their lead. His first came off a turnover , while the second was on the power play. Forward Chaz Smedsrud added one with 2:19 to go and the Dutchmen led 5–0, a lead they were unlikely to give up. 

The Tigers broke the shutout with 44 seconds to go on the power play, as senior forward Corey Andonovski blasted one final one-timer from the left circle to make it 5–1. The goal was too little too late, and Princeton headed off the ice for the final time this season in defeat. 

With the Tigers’ season over, many key players have had their final skate for Princeton. The team will have to replace nine seniors, including their starting goalie, Forget, their leading scorer, Andonovski, and their captain, senior defenseman Matthew Thom. On the brighter side, the Tigers will return their second, third, and fourth leading scorers in sophomore forward Ian Murphy, junior forward Spencer Kersten, and sophomore forward Adam Robbins, respectively. Many of the first-years and sophomores will also come in next year with a season of experience under their belts. 

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Ben Burns is an Associate Sports Editor at the ‘Prince’ who typically covers basketball, hockey, and soccer. He can be reached at bwburns@princeton.edu or on Twitter @bwburns5_.

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