For Eric Meland and his classmates on the Princeton University men’s hockey team, there was a short-term goal when they took the ice at Baker Rink for Senior Night.
“We wanted to win,” said senior defenseman Meland. “A win would go a long way to securing home ice so it isn’t our last game here.”
The night’s festivities, which included a ceremony at the first intermission with the six seniors and their families, prompted Meland to reflect on the longer-term significance of his Tiger hockey experience.
“Princeton hockey really helps you grow as a person,” said Meland, whose fellow seniors include Rob Kleebaum, Will MacDonald, James Kerr, Michael Sdao, and Mike Condon.
“You go through ups and downs and you do it as a team. It is always nice to look at the guy across from you and know that he is going through everything you are going through. Successes and failures are shared by all.”
Battling No. 13 Yale before a packed house of 2,374 at Baker Rink, the Tigers battled hard to make it a successful evening. Coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss to Brown on Friday, the Tigers took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period.
“We came out with more jump,” said Meland, who assisted on a Jack Berger goal that opened the scoring. “I think the effort was there.”
The rivals were knotted 2-2 heading into the third period and Meland put the Tigers up 3-2 with 10:48 left in regulation.
“In my position back there, I have the ability to sneak in the back door,” said Meland.
“I saw Rob Kleebaum had the puck on the side of the net and he slid it across the front of the net. I happened to be a victim of circumstance and I was able to backdoor it.”
Unfortunately, Yale came back and scored two goals in the last 10 minutes of the game to pull out a 4-3 win.
“It is game of bounces but we control our own fate,” said Meland, reflecting on the Yale rally that dropped Princeton to 9-14-4 overall and 7-10-3 ECAC Hockey, tied for ninth in the league standings.
“We can’t blame anybody but ourselves for this loss; it is something we can learn from.”
Meland, a 6’1, 190-pound native of Grand Forks, N.D., has proven to be a good learner as he has moved to defenseman from forward.
“I was excited about it; you have a little more time on the puck on defense,” said Meland, who has 13 points on two goals and 11 assists this season and 60 career points on 16 goals and 44 assists.
“I was excited to fill an offensive defenseman role and do everything I can to help the team win this year.”
With Princeton playing at Dartmouth (13-10-4 overall, 9-8-3 ECACH) on March 1 and at Harvard (8-16-3 overall, 5-13-2 ECACH) on March 2, the Tigers will need to get on the winning track to move up to eighth place and earn home ice for the first round of the ECACH playoffs.
“We can go out there and give it our all; it is a matter of the puck bouncing here or there,” said Meland.
“It is a results-based game so it is just a matter of bearing down at this point.”