PU Men’s Hockey Looking to Repeat History, Riding Late Surge into ECACH Playoff Series
ON THE MARK: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mark Paolini sends the puck up the ice in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore defenseman Paolini contributed a goal and two assists as Princeton won 5-1 at Brown to improve to 10-16-3 overall and 8-12-2 ECAC Hockey. This weekend, the Tigers will head back to Brown where they will face the Bears in a best-of-three ECACH first round playoff series starting on March 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As the Princeton University men’s hockey team heads into its first round ECAC Hockey best-of-three playoff series at Brown next weekend, it is looking to make history repeat itself.
Last winter, the Tigers caught fire late, going 2-1-1 in the final two regular season weekends and riding that surge to a stunning run in the ECACH playoffs. The seventh-seeded Tigers swept visiting Brown in the opening round and then headed north and swept Union in the quarterfinals. Princeton proceeded to top Cornell and Clarkson in the ECACH final four to win the title and make the NCAA tournament.
After struggling through and up-and-down season this winter, the Tigers are on a roll again, edging Yale 3-2 last Friday and then defeating Brown 5-1 a day later to make it 3-0-1 in their last four games. Improving to 10-16-3 overall and 8-12-2 ECACH, the Tigers are bringing momentum into the rematch at Brown.
“We are playing is better on the defensive side of the game and [showing] the commitment to our systems,” said Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty.
“That is what we had last year. Regardless of secondary scoring, the games are going to be tighter so it is not making mistakes and for the players to do everything possible to help the team out.”
In the win over Yale, the Tigers overcame adversity to come through in the tight contest.
“It was a good game, we played well throughout; we had a little bit of a lull in the second period due to their good push,” said Fogarty, who got two goals from senior star Max Veronneau in the win.
“We had to kill off six straight penalties called against us. That is something we hadn’t encountered all year and the guys did a great job.”
Princeton did a great job against Brown a night later, breaking the game open with three goals in a span of 2:07 late in the second period and early in the third.
“We were really confident; we were playing really well,” said Fogarty, who got two goals from Veronneau in the win with Mark Paolini, Corey Andonovski, and Matthew Thom each chipping in a goal and two assists.
“We had some key plays; our offensive talent is starting to show. Mark Paolini had a good weekend. Corey Andonovski had a three-point game. It was good to see those guys get some points.”
Freshman goalie Jeremie Forget was very good in the victories, making 30 saves against Yale and 32 stops in the win over the Bears.
“He deserved the opportunity to play, we brought him in earlier on the year for a little bit of a stint, around 11 minutes and he did really well,” said Fogarty of Forget who was later named the ECACH Goalie of the Week.
“We had a little bit of an idea of what he could do and he did a great job against Clarkson. He had some dehydration problem and couldn’t finish the game. He was really good this past weekend. He is calm post to post; he plays strong within the net, makes himself look big, and stops the puck.”
Looking ahead to the series at Brown, which starts on March 8, Fogarty wants his players to focus on just playing their game.
“We have to bring our energy; if we have any lulls, they have players who can score,” said Fogarty, whose team lost 4-2 to Brown on February 8 in the other regular season meeting between the foes.
“I assume they will have a goalie change from last weekend, someone we haven’t seen. Regardless of the opponent, we just have to continue to play our style of hockey and be really accountable on the defensive side. We will concentrate on the things we did well. It gives us the positive of playing them on Saturday; you have the most recent game as your reference point of going into the playoffs. Even though we won 5-1, we still have to play better in some areas to have an opportunity to win.”
Fogarty is expecting his contingent of senior stars, Ryan Kuffner, Josh Teves, Alex Riche, and Veronneau, to set the tone as they look to go out with another memorable playoff run.
“They are a very proud group. They have the experience of winning and the experience of playing on the road in a lot of playoff series,” said Fogarty.
“They just have to share that experience with the freshmen group of just what to expect.”