While it has been a rough winter for the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it has sunk to the cellar of the ECAC Hockey standings, the Tigers may have hit rock bottom last Friday when they hosted St. Lawrence.
Getting outshot 50-25 by the Saints, Princeton lost 7-1, giving up five unanswered goals after it had narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the second period.
Afterward, Princeton head coach Bob Prier didn’t mince any words as he assessed his team’s performance.
“That’s as bad a loss as we have had all year,” said Prier. “They outworked us, outplayed us. They probably won 90 percent of the stick battles and 90 percent of the face-offs, which means that they wanted it way more than we did in our own rink.”
In the loss to St. Lawrence, the Tigers were plagued by their tendency this winter of starting slowly.
“I thought we came out a little flat; we looked a little tired,” said Prier. “We obviously weren’t as prepared as they were. I take full responsibility for that. We felt like we were ready to go but we have to figure a way to come out of the gate a little bit stronger. We will do everything we can to do it and bounce back and come back and get some of these tough points here.”
When the Tigers narrowed the gap to 2-1 midway through the second period on a goal by freshman Ryan Siiro, Prier thought his team might be able to right the ship.
“I think it was turning; we just weren’t real responsible with the puck shortly thereafter,” lamented Prier. “I think we maybe tried to do a little bit too much and we had lot of turnovers.”
A night later, the Tigers did produce a much stronger effort as they fell 4-3 to No. 14 Clarkson with senior Andrew Ammon scoring two goals and freshman Hayden Anderson chipping in his first career goal. Princeton outshot the Golden Knights 37-32 on the evening before a standing room only crowd of 2,245 at Baker Rink.
The play of unheralded defenseman Anderson has been a bright spot for the Tigers who dropped to 4-19 overall and 3-13 ECAC Hockey with the loss to the Golden Knights.
“We have Hayden Anderson on the left defense, give him credit, he plays his butt off and does everything you ask him,” said Prier of the 6’0, 200-pound native of Edina, Minn. “He is a walk on right out of high school.”
Prier also credited sophomore Kyle Rankin with giving the Tigers a lift as he has been switched to defenseman from forward.
“Rankin has done a good job,” said Prier. “He is a good skater and he can get us out of the zone so we will see how it evolves. He may not be back there permanently but until we can get some depth and some guys back there, it is a good spot for him.”
In order for Princeton to get out of its slide which has seen it lose five straight games, the players have to show more unity and intensity on the ice.
“We need more passion, pride, and commitment to each other,” maintained Prier, whose team heads to New England this weekend to play at Brown on February 14 and at Yale a day later.
“We have to work on figuring out how to come out with a lot more fire and the desire to win battles and be more responsible with pucks.”