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Mired in Slump Heading Into Holiday Break, PU Men’s Hockey Aims to Tighten Up Defense

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey team bringing a 3-12 record into its holiday break, the numbers don’t lie.

Among the 12 teams in ECAC Hockey, Princeton is last in goals scored (2.07) in all contests and has given up the second most goals per game (3.87).

In the wake of its final action before the hiatus, which saw Princeton lose 3-0 at No. 11 Union and 5-2 at Rensselaer, Tiger head coach Bob Prier didn’t hesitate in pinpointing his team’s biggest issue.

“We need to work better in the defensive-zone,” asserted Prier, whose team is 2-8 in ECACH play and tied with Dartmouth for last in the league standings. “We are on the wrong side of checks; we are trying to pickpocket the puck and do it the easy way.”

In Prier’s view, getting stingier on defense will go a long way towards helping the team be more productive offensively.

“If we play stronger defensively, the offense will come,” said Prier. “I am not worried about us scoring goals. It’s not that we can’t score goals.”

Prier is also looking for his players to be tougher all over the ice. “We need to play with more pride and work ethic,” said Prier, whose team went 1-5 in its last six games before the break, getting outscored 31-12 in that span.

“We need to work extra hard around the puck. We are working hard in the open ice, flying up the rink but that is easy. We need to battle harder in 1-on-1 situations. Our breakout needs to be better. We need to play more fundamentally sound and stay between our opponents and the net.”

Having dealt with injuries to such key players as Andrew Calof, Alec Rush, Tommy Davis, Tyler Maugeri, and Ben Foster, it has been hard for the Tigers to go full throttle in practice.

“We haven’t had the bodies and we have barely had contact in practice because we want to keep the guys healthy,” said Prier.

“It’s harder work to stay low and knock guys off the puck. We are not able to battle in practice and that is carrying over into the games.”

But with plenty of games left, Prier believes his team can use the break to regroup.

“We need to get the guys fresher so we can battle more,” said Prier, whose team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule by playing in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.

“We have lots of the season left. After the RPI game, I said to the guys that we have faced just about everybody in the league and there is no one we played where we thought we have to figure out a way to beat them. The league is so tight. We need to clean up some things and we have as good a chance as anyone to win these games.”

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