February 7, 2018

PU Men’s Hockey Tops St. Lawrence in OT As Senior Goalie Halford Stars in Relief

FORD TOUGH: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Ben Halford guards the net. Last Friday, senior Halford came off the bench, making 16 saves and not giving up a goal in 32:03 of action as Princeton rallied from a 4-3 deficit to beat St. Lawrence 5-4 in overtime. The Tigers, who edged No. 3 Clarkson 4-3 a night later in improving to 10-10-3 overall and 7-8-1 ECAC Hockey, play at Brown on February 9 and at Yale on February 10. (Photo by Shelley Szwast, Courtesy of Princeton’s office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

When Ben Halford came to Baker Rink last Friday, he was expecting to play his accustomed supporting role for the Princeton University men’s hockey team as its backup goalie.

The Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first eight minutes over St. Lawrence and it appeared Halford would be witnessing a rout from his seat on the bench.

But after the Saints scored four unanswered goals to forge ahead 4-3 with 7:47 left in the second period, Halford was summoned onto the ice by Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty to replace freshman starter Ryan Ferland.

“You have just got to get right into it,” said Halford. “It is pretty simple, you don’t want to overcomplicate things when you are coming off the bench. You just try to see the puck.”

Halford made four saves in seven minutes of action in the second period as Princeton knotted the game at 4-4 on a goal by Ryan Kuffner with 6:13 left in the frame.

“It helped to just kind of move around a little bit and see the puck and get that warm-up that you don’t get when you are not starting,” said Halford, a 6’3, 205-pound native of Lenox, Mass. “You get settled in.”

Getting settled in, Halford ended up making 16 saves in 32:03 of action as neither team tallied in the third period and Kuffner notched his third goal of the game with 44 seconds left in OT to give the Tigers a dramatic 5-4 win.

“The end of the second helped and guys blocked a lot of shots and kept things in front of me,” added Halford, who recorded nine stops in the third and three more in overtime. “In overtime, it is just one shot at a time, one play at a time, and for Kuff to go down and bury that, that was huge.”

A night later, Halford was back in his normal spot on the bench with Ferland making 33 saves as Princeton edged No. 3 Clarkson 4-3 in improving to 10-10-3 overall and 7-8-1 ECAC Hockey.

“You just try and support him. I am a little older than he is,” said Halford, reflecting on his relationship with Ferland.

“I have been around a little longer at this point. I just try and support him. With any of the rinks we are going to and any teams we are playing, I just try to give him as much information as I can so he can succeed.”

For Halford, succeeding against St. Lawrence to earn his second career win was a major highlight.

“It is nice to build on Bemidji last year,” said Halford, who made 43 saves in earning his first win as the Tigers topped No. 7 Bemidji 3-2 on November 26, 2016.

“In the Arizona State game (a 4-3 loss on December 9), we were close and lost that in overtime. It is nice to get the chance to bounce back and win one in OT this time.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty enjoyed a nice moment as the victory over St. Lawrence marked the 200th win of his career, having posted a 167-23-10 record at Adrian College before taking the helm of the Tigers for the 2014-15 campaign.

“I will definitely remember this one; I remember win No. 1, a 9-1 win and I will remember this one as an overtime win,” said a beaming Fogarty, holding a game puck presented to him in a raucous post-game locker room celebration.

“There is a lot of people in between there who are part of this, especially the family. It is all about that, the dedication from coach’s family to the assistant coach’s family to the players’ family. Without the support, you don’t get to where you are in this world these days. I just want to thank those guys.”

Even though his guys squandered the 3-0 lead against St. Lawrence, Fogarty was confident that the Tigers would ultimately prevail if they kept firing away.

“We just had to keep getting shots on their goaltender, which has been our game the last three,” said Fogarty. “We knew that if we just get back to focus for the third period and do the little things, we would have an opportunity to win.”

The inspired play of Halford in goal helped pave the way to the win. “It was great; Ben is a senior and has embraced his role,” said Fogarty. “He was ready to step in there. I kick myself a little bit there; I was thinking of pulling Ferland a little sooner but it worked out in the end.”

With Princeton currently riding a four-game winning streak, Fogarty believes his team is ready for a big stretch drive.

“The guys know they can score, sometimes they make too many plays to try to score instead of just getting pucks on net because we are a good team and can create that chaos in the offensive zone,” said Fogarty, whose team plays at Brown on February 9 and at Yale on February 10.

“We have skilled players and you have to let them play. We are not going to take the puck out of their hands; I want them to shoot more.”

Halford, for his part, is primed to play hard to the end. “I am just trying to go at it, have fun every day, and see what we can do here,” said Halford, who has a 2.97 goals against average and a .901 save percentage in five appearances so far this season.

“We have got a good group. We just want to keep that momentum and hopefully pick up steam a little bit going down the stretch.”