March 1, 2017

Beating Yale 4-1 in Memorable Senior Night, PU Men’s Hockey Earns Home Ice for Playoff

NIGHT TO REMEMBER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Ryan Siiro heads up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, senior captain and forward Siiro enjoyed a special Senior Night, helping Princeton defeat Yale 4-1 in the regular season finale as the Tigers clinched home ice for the opening round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs. Princeton, now 13-13-3 overall, will host Colgate (8-20-6 overall) in a best-of-three series, starting on March 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Ryan Siiro and his fellow seniors on the Princeton University men’s hockey team, there weren’t a lot of happy evenings at Baker Rink over their first three years.

The Tigers posted an overall record of 15-72-6 during that span and the seniors dealt with a coaching change as Ron Fogarty succeeded Bob Prier after their freshman campaign.

But Siiro and his classmates stayed tight through the ups and downs. “We have a really good class; there are really good guys in there so it is easy to stick together with them as a class through this transition,” saids Siiro.

“We were all recruited by a coach with a different playing style so we know that if we want to contribute to this team, we have to buy into our role. We have all done that to the best of our ability and I think it has shown this year.”

Coming into Senior Night last Saturday against visiting Yale, the Class of 2017 was poised for a memorable evening as a win over the Bulldogs would clinch home ice for the opening round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs.

“The past years we haven’t had that opportunity so it has been a fun ride and tonight was an attainable goal and pretty much the only goal we set out at the start of the year,” said Siiro, a 6’2, 220-pound native of Bloomington, Minn.

The Tigers achieved that goal with aplomb, rolling to a 4-1 win over Yale before a crowd of 2,200 packing Baker Rink. Princeton, now 13-13-3 overall and 8-11-3 ECACH, will host Colgate (8-20-6 overall, 6-13-3 ECACH) in a best-of-three first round series starting on March 3.

“With the start that we had (0-6-1) and coming back to .500 shows a lot of grit,” said Siiro. “We are just happy to be here and it is a great opportunity for us to go out and play hard.”

In the win over Yale, Princeton took a 2-1 lead in the first period and never looked back.

“We just stuck to the process; they had a lot of jump in the first; it was a big game for them too so they came out hard,” said Siiro, who has six points this season on a goal and five assists and 33 points in his career with 12 goals and 21 assists.

“We just kept supporting; supporting is our key. As long as we keep doing that, we are able to break out pretty well and come up the ice with speed. I think that is what you saw in the second and third.”

Siiro is looking forward to seeing the atmosphere next week as the Tigers host Colgate for their first home playoff series since 2010-11.

“It is huge; in my career here we haven’t even sniffed it,” said Siiro.

“Tonight we got a taste of what the crowd will be like and the home ice advantage that we could have. Not traveling is always good and keeping our home routine; you don’t have to miss class. It is nice.”

Serving as captain this season has been a nice honor for Siiro. “It has been good, I am very thankful for it,” said Siiro. “There is a lot of leadership with the younger guys, the junior class. I try to go out there and set the example with my play and work ethic and hopefully guys follow that. I don’t say a whole lot, the guys are really good in there.”

Princeton head coach Fogarty credited Siiro and his classmates with setting a good example for their younger teammates.

“It is leadership and experience that drives the train and the seniors have bought into any and every role they were put into this season and that is why we are successful,” said Fogarty, whose Class of 2017 includes Hayden Anderson Tommy Davis, Ben Foster, Colton Phinney, Quin Pompi, Marlon Sabo, and Garrett Skrbich in addition to Siiro.

“There are a lot of programs that push the old players to the wayside. We don’t do that here at Princeton. We believe in each other and the culture that we have established and the seniors are a big reason for that.”

Fogarty liked the way his team closed out Yale, outscoring the Bulldogs 2-0 over the last two periods of the contest.

“The second period was a very good period, that is how our standard of play has to be now heading into the playoffs,” said Fogarty.

“It was a fun game. We knew Yale has skill to push back, and at the same time we have a goal that is very attainable. Guys were going to be paying attention to the small details and they did a good job.”

The Tiger offense did a good job as four different players, Joey Fallon, Eric Robinson, Max Veronneau and David Hallisey, scored in the victory.

“We have had pretty good balance throughout the year,” said Fogarty. “It was a great goal by David. The Veronneau, (Ryan) Kuffner, (Alex) Riche line has been steady. After the 0-6-1 start, I know the guys do not care who scores goals, they just want to win. That is the mentality, which is a great mentality to have.”

Meanwhile, senior star goalie Phinney showed his winning mentality, making 36 saves on the evening.

“Colton was solid, that is what you expect out of him; he is a senior goalie,” said Fogarty.

“He has got to make saves, he made a big save in the second period with his stick.”

In Fogarty’s view, earning home ice for the playoffs is  just a reward for his players sticking together through some lean times.

“It feels great, we are back to .500 now which is good,” said Fogarty, whose team went 0-1-1 against Colgate this year, falling 4-3 on November 18 before earning a 2-2 tie on January 14.

“The guys attained their primary goal from September 16. To have an opportunity to control your destiny in the last weekend is big. Now they get another opportunity to play at Baker Rink. Every game is big for the program, you treat every game the same and a win makes a lot of the alumni happy and learn from the losses. From where we were last year to where we are today is a big 180.”

Siiro, for his part, is hoping that the series against Colgate will be the start of a big playoff run.

“I think it is all up to us; if we play the way we can, we have seen that we have been tight with every good team we have played or win the game,” said Siiro

“We are very confident going into this week. We have to stay focused on the preparation and not get ahead of us. Getting another series at Hobey Baker is big, just the history of the rink and not having tonight be our last game here is pretty good.”