Even though the Princeton University men’s hockey team has only played eight games this season, the Tigers have proven they can fight back from a deficit.
In a win over No. 4 Cornell on November 9, the Tigers were down 3-2 in the third period but then reeled off three unanswered goals to post a 5-3 win. A week later, Princeton trailed 2-1 at No. 16 St. Lawrence but fought back to earn a 3-3 tie.
Last Friday at Sacred Heart, the Tigers forged another comeback, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to pull out a 4-3 victory.
While Princeton head coach Bob Prier admires his team’s pluck, he would prefer to see it start playing from ahead.
“We have done OK with uphill battles but we need to start playing better early in each game,” said Prier.
“We have to get off to better starts. We need to be ready to tear the door down and be ready to play every night.”
In assessing the win over Sacred Heart, Prier acknowledged that his team didn’t play all that well.
“A win is something we needed to get back on track as a team,” said Prier, whose team had lost 7-2 at Clarkson in its last outing before Friday.
“We didn’t play particularly well. They threw everything at us. It was good to see us battle back and get the win.”
It was good for Princeton to see junior forward Andrew Ammon break out with a career night in the victory over the Pioneers as he notched all four goals for the Tigers.
“Andrew was rewarded for a good week of practice,” said Prier of Ammon who came into the game with one goal on the season.
“His play away from the puck was great. He played physically and was the best player on the ice for us.”
The trio of Ammon, Tyler Maugeri, and Andrew Calof has provided the best production so far for the Tigers.
“That line has been great; they are one of the best lines in the league,” said Prier of the line who rank 1-2-3 in scoring on the Tigers with Maugeri leading the way at 11 points, Calof at 10, and Ammon having notched nine.
“It is a good line but we can’t go far with just one good line. Right now it is that line and Eric Meland doing the scoring. Eight games into this, I would have thought that we would be showing more scoring depth.”
Princeton’s lack of scoring balance and some sloppy play doomed it a day later as it fell 3-1 at UMass-Lowell in moving to 3-4-1 overall.
“I thought it was one of our best games of the year as far as playing systems and controlling the puck and the play,” said Prier of the game which was deadlocked at 0-0 until UMass-Lowell scored three goals in the last two minutes of the second period. “We had a bad turnover late in the second period that changed the momentum.”
The Tigers, true to form, didn’t fold after falling behind but could only manage one goal over the last 20 minutes of the contest.
“We recovered and had a great third period; Kesselman got a good goal, Willie MacDonald made a great pass,” said Prier.
“Against a team of that caliber in their building, you have to eliminate things like turnovers and playing with one hand on the stick. These are things that we have harped on and they are costing us.”
Prier knows that his team needs to play sharper if it is going to come up with wins this weekend when it heads to New York to play at Rensselaer (3-5-2 overall, 0-4 ECAC Hockey) on November 30 and at No. 8 Union (8-2-1 overall, 3-1 ECACH) on December 1.
“RPI is coming off two wins this weekend and they are a pretty good team in their building,” said Prier, whose club is 2-1-1 in ECACH action, good for a tie for fifth in the league standings.
“They have lost twice to Union and once to Harvard so their record is not indicative. Union is a great team that plays a solid team game. They rarely make a mistake. They are committed to doing the right things and doing them properly.”
In Prier’s view, his team needs to be committed to bringing it from the opening face-off.
“We need to take the initiative, and not be reactive,” asserted Prier. “It’s going to be a nice challenge. We can’t be making the same mistakes; we have to get off to a good start.”