With Senior Star Teves Leading from the Blue Line, Tiger Men’s Hockey Produces Sizzling 3-1-1 Start
QUICK START: Princeton University men’s hockey player Josh Teves heads up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Rensselaer, senior defenseman and team captain Teves contributed a goal and an assist as No. 19 Princeton skated to a 4-1 win over the Engineers. The Tigers, now 3-1-1 overall and 3-0-1 ECAC Hockey, have risen to the top of the league standings and will look to keep on the winning track when they play at Colgate on November 16 and at Cornell on November 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Josh Teves gave his parents a big hug during the pregame ceremony honoring the seniors before the Princeton University men’s hockey team took the ice to host Rensselaer last Saturday evening.
Minutes later, Princeton senior defensemen and team captain Teves was accepting hugs from his teammates, assisting on the first goal of the game and then scoring the second as the Tigers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on the way to a 4-1 victory.
In reflecting on the evening, Teves said the Tigers brought extra emotion to the ice.
“It is great to have all of the parents here; a lot of us are from pretty far away so they don’t get to make it out too often,” said the 6’0, 180-pound Teves, a native of Calgary, Alberta. “It is extra special to have a night like that where all six seniors dress and all of us are contributing.”
Princeton has come come far over the last few years, going from the bottom of ECAC Hockey to first place, improving to 3-1-1 overall and 3-0-1 ECACH to take the top spot in the league standings, one point ahead of Dartmouth (3-2 overall, 3-2 ECACH).
“We hold ourselves to a really high standard and I think even a game like tonight, there are a lot of things we can improve on and do better,” said Teves.
“Overall this is the best start we have had in my four years and the quickest we have had in program history taking over first place in the ECAC.”
In getting off to a quick start on Friday, the Tigers displayed the special teams excellence.
“Our power play has definitely been buzzing so far and we were moving it around,” said Teves.
“I passed it down to Jackson [Cressey] and he put it into the net. He got a pretty good bounce there. I think that is a testament of our team right now. We are just making chances, and when you string enough good things together, good things happen.”
On his goal, Teves took advantage of a chance in the crease area. “We were on a 4-on-3, we did a bit of switch,” said Teves.
“Kuff [Ryan Kuffner] came around; he took a shot and it was kind of bouncing over the top of the goalie so I just crashed the net. I got it stopping into the net, I will take it.”
Fellow senior Kuffner and his line of Max Veronneau and Alex Riche took over after that, combining for the next two goals as the Tigers stretched their lead to 4-0 before the Engineers got a goal with less than five minutes left in the third period.
“Ryan has to be the top scorer in 2018 with this kind of start and coming off last year,” said Teves of Kuffner, who had two goals and two assists in the win and was later named the ECACH Offensive Payer of the Week.
“He is a special player and he is the kind of guy who makes my job easy; it is just get him the puck. They are a special line; it has been a lot of fun over the past couple of years playing with them. Obviously Max and Ryan have a lot of chemistry from growing up together in Ottawa; Alex has fit right in. They kind of see the game a little differently and know where they are quicker than most guys will.”
With the Tigers featuring several young defensemen, Teves was happy to see that unit look sharp against the Engineers.
“We have six underclassmen that have been cycling through the lineup,” said Teves.
“I think it is showing that they are getting their feet under them and playing with confidence, that is a great showing for our defensive. We can be proud of that effort but there are definitely a lot of improvements to be made, that is something we take a lot of pride in. As offensive as we are as a team, we want to be solid defensively.”
Teves takes pride in being a leader for the program, having been elevated to captain this winter.
“It is a huge role, for sure; you have to play a bit of a mentorship role with three freshmen and three sophomores,” said Teves.
“It is just talking with them and building their chemistry and communication. With the older guys, if they have questions or anything they need from us, we are willing to help.”
With the Tigers having won the ECACH tournament last season before falling to Ohio State in the NCAA tourney, Teves believes the team has picked up where it left off.
“I think the coaching staff has been pushing us,” said Teves. “As we came into the season, our starting point where we ended up last year is our expectation and the game we want to play. I think that is showing in our start.”
Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty likes the way his players have built on last winter’s success.
“That has been our consistent message after each year to build upon our last game from last season and how we have got to get better to move forward beyond that game,” said Fogarty.
“We are doing things better now earlier; this is our best start, it is our fastest start in the ECAC in program history with a 3-0-1 record. Where we are right now is exactly what our goal was.”
With the Tigers edging Union 4-3 in overtime on Friday, things were very good around Hobey Baker Rink last weekend.
“Our alums are here and it is senior weekend,” said Fogarty. “It was very good. I thought our neutral zone was good and our transition play was good. It is the closest to a complete game we have had this season so far.”
The play of Princeton’s top line of Kuffner, Veronneau, and Riche sets the team apart.
“That line is a special group; in 23 years as an assistant coach or coaching against other teams, I have never seen how seamlessly they know each other and their tendencies on the ice,” said Fogarty. “All three of them work so hard. They are a very driven group and we are very fortunate to have them for this year.”
Fogarty knows he is fortunate to have Teves leading his defensive unit. “He is a leader; he is going to have a great career after Princeton,” said Fogarty of Teves who led the nation’s defensemen in scoring (1.06 points per game) last season.
“He has developed as an elite defenseman in his time here at Princeton through his own doing. He is an asset on the defense and also an asset offensively as well.”
The program’s development into a powerhouse is a source of pride to
“It has been a long four years traveling to get to where we are right now; you learn through your times that no matter how you win, you enjoy the win,” said Fogarty, whose team is currently ranked 15th nationally in the USCHO poll.
“You enjoy where you are at that present moment because in our business, it is wins and losses that determine how you are as a coach.”
With Princeton heading north this weekend to play at Colgate on November 16 at No. 17 Cornell a day later, Fogarty knows that his team will have to work hard to keep on the winning track.
“It will be a tough weekend; it is two different styles and two different buildings,” said Fogarty.
“We have to work on some stuff to get prepped to play two different styles of games on the road.”
Teves, for his part, is confident that Princeton’s high octane style of play will make the difference.
“Both teams are a good test; we are mostly just focusing on our game and things we need to improve on,” asserted Teves.
“If we focus on our game and play to the standard we have set and the expectations that we have for our program, we should have no trouble.”