PU Men’s Hockey Gets Rare Win Over Harvard As Senior Stars Riche, Kuffner Come Through
RICHE AND FAMOUS: Princeton University men’s hockey player Alex Riche looks for the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Riche scored a goal to help Princeton defeat Harvard 4-2 for its first win over the Crimson since 2013. The Tigers, who fell 5-0 to Dartmouth a night later to move to 6-11-2 overall and 4-7-1 ECAC Hockey, are currently on exam hiatus and return to action when they play at St. Lawrence on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As the Princeton University men’s hockey team prepared to host Harvard last Friday, Ron Fogarty decided to shake things up.
“We switched up lines a little bit,” said Princeton head coach Fogarty, whose team was looking to snap an 11-game winless streak against Harvard.
“It made them not assume. It was just ‘do your job and make sure that the plays were there when making them.’”
The shuffling ended up separating senior forward Alex Riche from his usual partners, classmates Ryan Kuffner and Max Veronneau.
Riche saw the change as a spark. “We shifted lines at the beginning of the week and I think all four lines were going this week,” said Riche, a 6’0, 190-pound native of Oakville, Ontario. “There was some good chemistry for all four lines.”
Kuffner, for his part, was primed to take care of business, no matter who was on the ice with him.
“We all knew that we have to play for the guys next to us,” said the 6’1, 195-pound Kuffner, who hails from Ottawa, Ontario. “Whoever that is on a given night, we just know that we have to do our job and the guy next to us is doing their job.”
With the rivals knotted at 2-2 heading into third period, the two seniors did the job for the Tigers. Riche notched a power play goal at the 1:07 mark to give Princeton a 3-2 lead and Kuffner buried an empty net goal with 1:08 left in the game to seal the deal in a 4-2 win, giving the Tigers their first triumph over the Crimson since a 2-1 win in March 2013.
In reflecting on his tally, Riche said it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“Max just put it to the net and the puck was bouncing,” recalled Riche, reflecting on his fifth goal of the season and 20th of his college career.
“Luckily I got decent wood on it when I swung and it found its way in. I take them however I can get them.”
Kuffner, who had come up empty in his four previous shots on goal in the contest, was thrilled to put the finishing touch on the win as he notched his 13th goal of the season.
“I had a few shots that I tried to go high that skimmed his shoulders; maybe I should have shot it on a different place,” said Kuffner, who how has 66 career goals, one short of the program record held of 67 by John Cook ’63. “It was nice to score but more importantly to just get the insurance goal. We finally got the job done at the end.”
Finally getting the job done against Harvard was sweet for the Tigers.
“Our class has never beaten Harvard, so that was good to get the monkey off the back,” said Riche.
“Coming in after the Christmas break, we want to make a good push going into the ECAC games and hopefully secure home ice. We want to finish as high as possible.”
Fogarty savored the first win over the Crimson in his Princeton tenure. “We let the team decide what their goals were for tonight’s game and it was to play for each other and to play for 60,” said Fogarty, who is in his fifth season guiding the Tigers.
“They gave themselves a seven out of 10 for 60 minutes. I don’t think that they felt the first eight minutes was good but it feels really good to knock off Harvard for the first time in five years.”
It also felt good for the Tigers to come through in a close contest. “We played well; I thought it was a great hockey game,” added Fogarty, whose team didn’t play well a night later, falling 5-0 to Dartmouth to move to 6-11-2 overall and 4-7-1 ECAC Hockey and is currently on exam hiatus and will return to action when it plays at St. Lawrence on February 1.
“We hadn’t been rewarded for the similar type of game we have been playing. We had some good goals, some power play goals, and the second unit got one. Alex Riche had a strong game.”
In Fogarty’s view, the Tigers are posed for a strong finish. “Every win is a big win for the team,” said Fogarty.
“We have been playing well, we just haven’t been rewarded. It is very eerie, similar to last year with how it has been going. We know it is going to break and it finally broke here tonight.”
Kuffner is determined to make the most of his final year with the program, on and off the ice.
“It is kind of sad every time people bring it up; it is the end and it means we have to enjoy it that much more, every single day coming to the rink with these guys,” said Kuffner.
“We play and work together everyday. We eat meals together. We are not ever going to have that again, this kind of atmosphere. So the last few months are going to be really special, to spend it with these guys and do everything we can to get some wins.”