March 15, 2017

PU Men’s Hockey Falls to Union in ECACH Quarters, But Turnaround Season Bodes Well for Future Success

CRUNCH TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey player David Hallisey, right, takes a hit in recent action. Last Saturday, junior forward Hallisey had a goal and an assist in a losing cause as seventh-seeded Princeton lost 4-3 in overtime to second-seeded and No. 6 Union 4-3 to fall 2-0 in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. The Tigers ended the season at 15-16-3, a marked turnaround for a program that went a combined 15-72-6 in the past three seasons, including 5-23-3 in 2015-16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It ended up being a microcosm of a turnaround season for the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it played at Union last weekend in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals.

With seventh-seeded Princeton having lost 4-1 in the first game of the best-of-three series against second-seeded and No. 6 Union on Friday, the Tigers found themselves trailing 2-0 to the powerful Dutchmen entering the second period a night later.

Displaying its never-say-die mentality, the Tigers cut the lead in half with a second period power play goal by David Hallisey. In the third period, the Tigers forged ahead 3-2 on goals by Ryan Kuffner and Alex Riche, the latter tally coming with 1:10 left in regulation. Union, however, scored a goal with 21 seconds left in an extra attacker situation to force overtime and then won the game 4-3 when they converted a penalty shot early in the extra session to advance to the ECACH semis.

While Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty rued the fact that his team came 30 seconds from forcing a third game, he is proud of his team’s breakthrough campaign that saw it end with a final record of 15-16-3 after going a combined 15-72-6 in the past three seasons, including 5-23-3 in 2015-16.

“We started off 0-6-1 and then battle back to have a 15-10-2 season in that stretch, the guys were resilient all year,” said Fogarty.

“They bought in and trusted
each other. It was a fun ride, there is no question about it.”

In Fogarty’s view, the team’s biggest area of progress came in executing systems all over the ice.

“We became more of a five-man unit in how we moved up the rink,” explained Fogarty.

“In the past couple of years we didn’t do that; our attack was only two guys. We didn’t have the defensemen rolling. We became a better five-man unit throughout the rink and that got better was the year went on. I am looking forward to seeing next year how can we evolve that and make it stronger in the neutral zone and just increase our scoring.”

That multi-faceted attack paid dividends this winter. “We scored 103 goals this year compared to 60 last year,” noted Fogarty.

“Our goal scoring is good, I like where it is at. It is a 180 from where we were at the first two years.”

Fogarty tipped his hat to the character displayed by team’s seniors Hayden Anderson Tommy Davis, Ben Foster, Colton Phinney, Quin Pompi, Marlon Sabo, Ryan Siiro, and Garrett Skrbich in battling through the hard times.

“They stayed with it; they won 15 games their first three years at Princeton and matched that in one year,” said Fogarty.

“I know they were excited and happy to come to the rink. It is frustrating when we were 18 games under .500 and 19 games under .500 our first two years. To turn that around and be only one game under 500, that is a lot of wins so they enjoyed it.”

With the team’s eight top scorers slated to return next year, Fogarty believes that there should be a lot more wins in the future for the Tigers.

“We have a lot of players that were put in impact situations that will return,” said Fogarty, whose team was led in scoring by sophomores Kuffner (19 goals and 17 assists) and Max Veronneau (11 goals, 24 assists) with two other players, freshman Jackson Cressey (7 goals, 26 assists) and junior Hallisey (13 goals, 17 assists), also hitting the 30-point mark.

“Losing Colton (star goalie Colton Phinney) will be the biggest void but we are confident that junior Ben Halford can step up and Austin Shaw, our freshman, can as well.”

Having risen to seventh place from 12th place in the ECACH standings this season, Fogarty is hoping to see his team jump into the top four next season.

“We definitely know that we can play with any team in the ECAC or the NCAA and our focus has to be to pinpoint our first game,” said Fogarty, whose team posted five wins over teams ranked in the Top 10 this season.

“We can’t wait for the playoffs to ramp it up and we can’t wait for a 0-6-1 start to try to turn it around. It has to be from the get-go in terms of playing our style of game.”