Picking Up his Scoring for PU Men’s Hockey, Defenseman Topatigh Emerging as Standout
By Bill Alden
Having emerged as a key defenseman for the Princeton University men’s hockey team in his first two years with the program, Derek Topatigh was ready to shoulder more responsibility in his junior campaign.
“We have a lot of young defense, me and [Josh] Teves, we really have to try and step and be leaders this year,” said Topatigh, “It has been a learning process for the young guys.”
As Princeton returned from its holiday break to host a two-game set against Maine in the last weekend of December, Topatigh and his teammates were primed to get back on the winning track.
“We have been on a bit of a skid before this weekend; we all came back from Christmas break mentally prepared and ready to go,” said Topatigh, a 5’11, 185-pound native of Mississauga, Ontario.
That mindset paid dividends as Princeton edged Maine 1-0 on December 28 and then pulled away to a 7-3 win over the Black Bears a day later.
“We have been finding our stride and getting some good bounces and able to convert some points too,” said Topatigh, reflecting on the sweep of Maine.
In the 7-3 win, Topatigh helped the Tigers get in stride, scoring the first goal of the evening, finding the back of the net 6:12 into the contest.
“Jake Paganelli just got in there; he was flying through the middle and tried to go five hole,” said Topatigh.
“It was just lying here in the crease, the goalie didn’t know where it was and I just followed up. I was able to bang it in fortunately enough.”
Topatigh’s tally triggered a 3-0 first period run and Princeton never looked back on the way to the 7-3 triumph.
“It was awesome, it was much needed and it was a lot of fun,” said Topatigh, who didn’t have a lot of fun this past weekend as the Tigers lost 3-2 to Cornell on Friday and 4-3 to Colgate a day later to drop to 5-10-2 overall.
Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty credits Topatigh with giving the defensive unit a much-needed boost this winter.
“He has been very good this year, he has been one of our most improved players,” said Fogarty of Topatigh, who has five goals and three assists so far this season after totaling four goals with 15 assists in his first two seasons. “He was very good last year but this year he has taken a nice step offensively as well.”
In assessing his improved scoring, Topatigh said it comes down to a simple formula.
“It is definitely something I worked on but like [assistant coach] Brad Dexter says, the offense will come as long as you get it out of the d-zone as fast as you can,” said Topatigh.
“The more time you have to play in the offensive zone, the more points you are going to get.”