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Cornell’s Ben Syer to take the reins as new head coach of Princeton men’s ice hockey

Two men posing with a hockey jersey at a press conference with the Nike and Princeton logos displayed in the background
Ben Syer embracing the Orange and Black alongside Princeton Director of Athletics John Mack ’00.
Photo courtesy of @princetonhockey/X. 

“Today, it is a tremendous day for Princeton University, Princeton athletics, and most especially Princeton hockey,” Princeton Director of Athletics John Mack ’00 said in a press conference Saturday. “We said from the beginning, we were looking for the right leader for our program.” 

Enter Ben Syer, the new head coach of the Princeton men’s hockey team.


“It’s just a really exciting, exciting day to be here, and to start the journey moving forward here with Princeton hockey,” Syer said in his opening remarks. 

Back in March, after the closing of a trying Tiger season (10–16–4 overall, 8–11–3–3 ECAC), it was announced that long-time head coach Ron Fogarty would not be returning for an eleventh season with Princeton. Fogarty led Princeton to a surprise ECAC Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2018, the Tigers’ only such appearance during his tenure. 

“We’ve had stability, our last coach was here for 10 years. While stability is relative, 10 years is a really long stable period,” Mack said. “I think what we’re looking for is, you know, all the things that Ben brings — it’s not a matter of a timeline. If he’s here for five years and someone else plucks him, it means he’s done a really good job in changing our program. Obviously, I hope he’s here a lot longer than that,” Mack continued. 

Syer joins Princeton after 25 years of assistant coaching with college hockey powerhouses Quinnipiac and Cornell. More recently, Syer served as assistant coach with the Cornell Big Red for the last 13 seasons. Syer is most well-known for his defensive acumen, as the Big Red have allowed a mere 2.21 goals on average per game in the last 13 years, a mark that is third-best in all of Division I during that same period. Under Syer, there is no doubt his focus will be on improving Princeton’s 3.50 goals allowed per game average in the seasons to come.

“The standard that we’re looking for, as a group and as a program, is that we want to be the hardest working and most relentless team in the ECAC,” Syer explained. “It’s something that we can control. And it’s something that we’re going to set forward on our journey here to establish not just on Fridays and Saturdays, but on Mondays through Thursdays.” 

“You have an ability, as an individual and as a player, to be able to compete, to be able to backtrack, to be able to block shots, to show some of those intangibles that not only help in that defensive system, but really also show your commitment to being a Tiger teammate,” Syer continued. 


Syer is also commended across collegiate hockey for his eye in recruiting new talent, which he plans to use to shape the Tiger roster in years to come. At Cornell and Quinnipiac, he has coached 23 drafted NHL players, including current Winnipeg Jets forward Morgan Barron and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sam Malinski. As he shifts to Princeton, the focus on recruiting will be paramount to the growth of the Princeton program.  

“I hope that the experience that I’ve had over the last 13 years recruiting to Cornell lends itself to great productivity in terms of recruiting here, because I do think it is different,” Syer said. “I think it starts with the individual and the personality that thrives at an institution such as Princeton, or as you reference an Ivy League school, and I think there’s some certain characteristics that certainly set themselves apart with all those individuals.”

For now though, Syer is focused on the boys already wearing orange and black and the support staff already existing within Princeton hockey. Wanting to establish rapport with the existing roster and the staff, he intends to connect with each player and staff member both on and off the ice in individual meetings throughout the coming weeks. 

“I think it’s really important to be able to get all the right pieces and get a chance to meet with the players and so forth,” Syer said. “But, you know, obviously they’ve brought in some very good players here in the last couple of years here as well. And so, I want to make sure that I get an opportunity to be able to speak with the guys that are currently on staff and improve from there.” 

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For a team that finished second-to-last in the ECAC conference this year, the hiring of Ben Syer marks the first step towards rebuilding a winning program. 

“If we can raise the floor of our program, so that in our down years, we’re finishing sixth, seventh; in our best years, we’re competing for championships. That’s the standard here,” Mack remarked.

“When you do that, when you raise the floor,” he continued, “It gives you a better opportunity to shoot for the stars. And that’s what we want.” 

Cole Keller is a head Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

Ava Seigel is an assistant Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

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