Coming into the 2013-14 campaign, the Princeton University men’s hockey team is in search of consistency.
Last winter, the Tigers went 10-16-5 overall, showing flashes of good play but then taking steps backward. In regular season action, the Tigers swept Cornell, Harvard and Cornell but, in turn, were swept by NCAA champion Yale, Quinnipiac, and Clarkson. Princeton ended the season on a down note, losing 2-0 to Cornell at Baker Rink in a best-of-three opening round series in the ECAC Hockey playoffs.
As Princeton head coach Bob Prier looks forward to his third season at the helm of the Tigers, he wants his players to be sharper on a daily basis.
“It comes down to routine and habits,” said Prier, whose team opens the season by hosting the Liberty 2013 Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark where the Tigers will play Dartmouth on October 25 and Yale the next day. “We need to practice with a purpose and when we are starting to divert, get back to what we need to do.”
In Prier’s view, the Tigers need to enjoy making that effort. “We are fortunate to be part of this process,” said Prier. “We have to have an attitude of gratitude.”
Prier certainly feels thankful to nine seniors on his roster. “We need to use experience to our advantage,” said Prier, whose team posted 6-3 and 4-3 wins over Ryerson University in exhibition games last weekend at Baker Rink.
“They have been here for a while, they have seen almost everything. They have come back from three goals down to win and they have seen other teams do that to us. They know how to hang on and win games. They know that they need to stick to the process.”
There is plenty of experience at forward where Princeton welcomes back leading scorer, senior Andrew Calof (14 goals and 24 assists in 2012-13) along with senior captain Jack Berger (3 goals and 9 assists), senior Andrew Ammon (8 goals and 8 assists), junior Tyler Maugeri (9 goals and 14 assists), sophomore Mike Ambrosia (5 goals and 6 assists) and junior Tucker Brockett.
“Calof has got to be the best player on the ice every night for either team,” asserted Prier.
“He has the ability to do that. When you have the best player, that puts you in a good position. Berger had a lot of weight on his shoulders as a junior and being the team leader. He has had that experience and he knows that he can’t put too much pressure on himself. He was making plays this weekend. He looked more comfortable with the puck and was playing more relaxed. Ambrosia is far more healthier this year. Maugeri has another year under his belt. Ammon works hard all the time, he is learning to pull up some of the time. Tucker played well over the weekend.”
A pair of freshmen, Ben Foster and Ryan Siiro, are already pulling their weight.
“Foster and Siiro are older kids who were seasoned in junior hockey,” said Prier.
“Ryan does a good job of protecting the puck and Ben is one of those really good all around players. He can be physical, but he can also skate and shoot.”
The Tigers figure to boast a well-rounded unit of defensemen, led by junior Andrew Ave, senior Jeremy Goodwin, together with freshmen Quin Pompi and Marlon Sabo.
“Ave looked really good over the weekend, he is playing with more jump,” said Prier, who will also use senior Kevin Ross, junior Tom Kroshus, sophomore Kevin Liss, freshman Tommy Davis, and freshman Hayden Anderson on defense.
“Goodwin had a strong weekend, he was really physical. Pompi did well, he is real mobile and really responsible with the puck. Sabo is a big body and we need those.”
At goalie, Princeton is hoping for strong play from senior Sean Bonar and freshman Colton Phinney.
“We hope Sean has a big year, he was worked on things that he needed to improve on,” said Prier of Bonar, whose posted a 3.24 goals against average and a save percentage of .901 last winter as he went 2-5-1.
“He is playing with poise and is doing better controlling rebounds. He wants to win, he wants to do well. Colton had a strong game on Saturday. He has a good compete level, he never gives up on the puck. Once he adjusts to the speed of the shots, he is going to be fine. We think both goalies can be really good. We are going to start Sean and see how he does.”
The Tigers are fired up to be starting their season at the 17,625-seat Prudential Center, the home of the New Jersey Devils affectionately known as “The Rock.”
“We are really lucky to be playing at a venue like the Rock,” said Prier, noting that the games don’t count towards the league standings and a champion of the event will be determined based on wins and goal tiebreakers.
“It is close to home and should be an exciting tournament. Dartmouth is returning most of their guys, so they shouldn’t be different from last year. They are big and skilled. It is nice to play a defending national champion like Yale so early in the season.”
The weekend will give the Tigers a chance to start developing the consistency they will need to be a force in the ECACH.
“Our league is so strong, every night is a battle,” asserted Prier. “We are a better team at this point than we were last year.”