Jack Berger and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s hockey squad got an up close and personal view last weekend of what is making Quinnipiac one of the hottest teams in the country.
Playing a home-and-home set against the Bobcats, the Tigers dropped a 3-1 decision at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn. on Friday evening before losing 3-0 to Quinnipiac the next day at Baker Rink. The wins extended the Bobcat’s unbeaten streak to 10 as they have risen to No. 9 in the national polls.
Although junior forward and captain Berger had hoped to lead Princeton to a pair of victories over the weekend, he believes the Tigers still gained something valuable from the experience of battling the Bobcats (12-3-2 overall, 8-0 ECACH).
“We wanted to get more points than zero, we wanted to win both games,” said Berger, reflecting on a weekend which left Princeton at 3-6-3 overall and 2-3-3 in ECAC Hockey action.
“We have a lot of positives, that is the hottest team in the league, maybe in the country, right now, and we definitely hung with them and we know that is a team that when we are playing our game, we can take it to them so we get a little confidence out of that.”
Berger liked the way Princeton started the game Saturday as it looked to rebound from the defeat on Friday.
Our first period was definitely better than the first periods we had last year,” said Berger, assessing a period which saw the Tigers get outshot by a slim 12-10 margin.
“That is something we have been trying to focus on and it has been coming out a little better. It wasn’t our best period but it was good. We were happy to be in the game like that and we felt good going into the second.”
While things went awry for the Tigers in the second period as they surrendered two unanswered goals, Berger didn’t think there was a wide gulf between the teams.
“I think we felt pretty good, there were a couple of details we weren’t taking care of,” said Berger. “I think we were in the game, it could have gone either way but we didn’t get the bounces.”
With Princeton headed to winter break, Berger thinks the hiatus will do the team some good.
“I think we are optimistic, we have a really good group of guys this year, asserted Berger.
“We get a lot of guys back after Christmas. We are doing a lot of good things. It will be nice to have some home games coming up and I think we are going to keep staying committed to our game and I am confident it is going to work out for us.”
In Berger’s view, the Tigers could be a force when they get back into action later this month by playing in the Catamount Cup from December 29-30 at the University of Vermont.
“I think we are really close to being a pretty good team,” said Berger. “I think the guys believe in what we are doing this year and they are going to work for it and keep plugging away.”
Princeton head coach Bob Prier concurred with Berger’s analysis. “It is not like we have to go back to the drawing board or anything,” maintained Prier.
“We just have got to improve on the way we play and the systems. The guys are doing pretty darn well at this point. It is just more of those individual turnovers at lines that we have really got to sharpen up and making sure we are staying inside our checks defensively. It is fundamental things.”
Prier had no qualms with the effort he got from his team in the game on Saturday.
“I thought that was as physical as we have played all year,” said Prier. “When you have a guy like Andrew Ammon out who is your energy guy, a tough kid, other guys stepped up and I think they did a really good job against one of the top three or four teams in the country right now. I thought we played much better than we did last night so it was a big improvement. I think we were more physical, we played with more emotion, we played with more energy so it was good to see.”
While Princeton would like to have a better record going into the break, Prier is optimistic about the team’s prospects going forward.
“We are scoring a lot of goals in the first half and we have to learn how to keep them out of our net,” added Prier.
“We have had a decent first half and there is a lot to build on once we get a little depth. We have a lot of guys that are going to come back, we will be getting guys like Ammon back, [Mike] Ambrosia back, [Will] Ford back, and [Tucker] Brockett back. We are not as good as Quinnipiac right now but I tell you what, we are going to be awfully damn close or as good in the second half with the depth that we are going to have in the lineup.”
Berger, for his part, is determined to provide good leadership to help the Tigers get on the winning track.
“You want to just try to be as committed to the things that the coach stresses as much as you can,” said Berger.
“You try to lead by example. You just have to keep guys on the right track. You have to keep them upbeat and confident because I think everyone here really does believe that we have a good team. We just have to play like that every night.”