January 9, 2019

PU Men’s Hockey Produces Good Moments But Inconsistency Results in 0-2 Weekend

THOM CRUISE: Princeton University men’s hockey player Matthew Thom glides on the ice in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore defenseman Thom contributed a goal and an assist as Princeton lost 3-2 to visiting Cornell. A night later Thom and the Tigers fell 4-3 to Colgate. Princeton, now 5-10-2 overall and 3-6-1 ECAC Hockey, will look to get in the winning track when they host Harvard on January 11 and Dartmouth in January 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Since getting off to a 3-1-1 start, inconsistency has become the constant for the Princeton University men’s hockey team since mid-November.

The Tigers have gone 2-9-1 in that stretch and a frustrating 3-2 loss to Cornell last Friday evening served as a microcosm of that uneven play. Princeton dug a 2-0 hole in the first period and then fought back to tie the game at 2-2 early in the third period only 3-2 on a goal that was originally waved off but hen reinstate after official review.

Sophomore defenseman Matthew Thom acknowledged that  the Tigers lacked zip in the first period.

“We just got to be a lot harder, they were working us in our zone beating us to battles, that just can’t happen if you want to win games,” said Thom, a  6’3, 200-pound native of Oakville, Ontario. “We had to bear down, start winning the battles, hit them more and be more physical.”

In the second period, the Tigers played harder, getting more puck possession and outshooting the Big Red 12-10.

“We had a pretty good couple of shifts in the second period,” said Thom. “We definitely hemmed them in a couple of times; we had a couple of chances. It was a good period.”

Thom cut the Cornell lead in half as he scored with 3:54 left in the period.

“Mark [Paolini] supported me right off the break out of the zone and had a great rush up the side,” recalled Thom. “He hit me cross ice and I just managed to squeak it in.”

Midway through the third period, Thom helped Princeton knot the contest at 2-2, assisting on a goal by Corey Andonovski.

“I just wanted to get it on net and get it deep, “ said Thom. “It hit their goalie’s shoulder and Ando was there for the rebound and buried it hard.”

But with 7:05 left, Cornell scored the decisive goal as the officials overruled the original call of goalie interference which had appeared to negate the tally.

“We knew they would be coming out hard, we resisted pretty well,” said Thom. “Unfortunately that goal got called there.”

While Thom was disappointed with the outcome against the Big Red, he is heartened by the progress he is making in his second year of college hockey.

“Coming into this year, I was definitely feeling a lot more comfortable,” said Thom, who has three goals and two assists so far this season after tallying seven assists last winter.

“Being a second year defenseman, I am just trying to rush the puck a little more and contribute a little more offensively and just be stronger on the puck.”

Getting paired up with senior star defenseman and team captain Josh Teves has helped Thom be a stronger player.

“It is awesome; he is a phenomenal defenseman as everyone knows,” said Thom.

“He supports me whenever I go and I try whenever he goes and sometimes you kind of watch him. He is a great guy to play with.”

Although Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty didn’t like what he saw from his team in the first period against Cornell, he was encouraged by how things went after that.

“We weren’t getting loose pucks with our second man, the first man was trying to do too much,” said Fogarty. “Then we got second person help in the second and third period and I thought we played a good 40 minutes.”

In reflecting on the team’s inconsistency, Fogarty said that his players need to be self starters.

“We have to stay on them but it has to come from within,” said Fogarty. “They have to be committed to get the win at all costs. It was something we tweaked in the first intermission; we did an effective job after that.”

Princeton has been getting increasingly effective play from Thom along the blue line.

“He has been playing good, he has taken a nice step offensively, “ said Fogarty of Thom.

“He is playing with Teves the last two years. He is the guy who believes he has to stay back and let Josh go. He is taking initiative and jumping into the play this year.”

The Tigers played hard a night later against Colgate, jumping out to a 2-1 first period lead but was doomed again by some uneven play, surrendering three unanswered goals on the way to a 4-3 defeat as they moved to 5-10-2 overall and 3-6-1 ECAC Hockey.

In the wake of the loss to Cornell, Fogarty was still upbeat about team’s prospects going forward.

“You have to take some stuff that we did,” said Fogarty, whose team will look to get in the winning track when it hosts Harvard on January 11 and Dartmouth in January 12.

“It has been two slow periods over our last four games. It is our goal to get better and get the younger guys involved. They are doing well.”

In Thom’s view, if the Tigers play with the urgency they displayed in the final periods against Cornell, things will work out well.

“I think after first period we are playing well; we started playing like we could,” said Thom. “We forechecked hard. We got pucks out fast and efficiently. If we just keep doing that going forward, it will be a good rest of the season.”