PU Men’s Hockey Falls Short in ECACH, Senior Stars Headed to Professional Ranks
PRO QUALITY: Princeton University men’s hockey player Ryan Kuffner heads up the ice in recent action. Senior star Kuffner ended his college career by tallying two goals and two assists in Princeton’s 6-5 triple overtime loss to Brown on March 9 as the Tigers were swept in best-of-three ECAC Hockey first round playoff series. Last week, Kuffner, Princeton’s all-time leading goal scorer with 75, signed a two-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. Classmate and star forward Max Veronneau entered into a two-year entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators and made his NHL debut on March 14 in Ottawa’s 2-0 win over St. Louis. Last Saturday, Veronneau tallied his first NHL point, picking up an assist as the Senators defeated Toronto 6-2. A third senior, defenseman Josh Teves, inked a one-year entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Having played a key role in the resurgence of the Princeton University men’s hockey program which saw the Tigers win the ECAC Hockey tournament last winter, the team’s seniors weren’t about to go down without a fight as they faced playoff elimination earlier this month.
Playing at Brown in the best-of-three ECACH first round series, Princeton lost the first game 3-0 on March 8 and trailed 5-2 with 4:37 left in regulation a day later.
But with senior stars Max Veronneau, Ryan Kuffner, Josh Teves and Alex Riche hitting the ice together, the Tigers produced a dramatic comeback, scoring three goals in 3:48 to knot the game at 5-5 and force overtime.
“Our team is resilient and we never give up or quit, so you always believe there is an opportunity,” said Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty, who got a goal and an assist apiece from Riche, Kuffner and junior Jackson Cressey in the rally with Veronneau adding an assist. “The guys were really excited to have the opportunity to go into overtime.”
Princeton got opportunities to win as the game went into a third overtime but ended up falling 6-5 when Brown found the back of the net 3:30 into the final session.
“It was a great comeback; once it is in overtime, you just sit back as a coach and let them play,” said Fogarty, whose team ended the winter with an overall record of 10-18-3. “You can’t really do anything. It was a unique experience to be a part of but a disappointing result.
The Tigers are saying goodbye to a unique senior group, which featured Kuffner, Veronneau, Teves, and Riche along with Austin Shaw and Spencer Kryczka.
“It was a great six-man senior class,” said Fogarty. “They are very instrumental in our march towards the championship last year. And because of our success and our constant rise over the past four years, it has helped with the recruiting.”
The seniors are already being recruited by the pros as Kuffner, Princeton’s all-time leading goal scorer with 75 and second in points with 152, signed a two-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. Veronneau, the fourth-highest scorer in program history with 144 points on 52 goals and 92 assists, entered into a two-year entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators and made his NHL debut on March 14 in Ottawa’s 2-0 win over St. Louis. Last Saturday, Veronneau tallied his first NHL point, picking up an assist as Ottawa defeated Toronto 6-2. Teves, second in points by a Tiger defenseman with 85 on 16 goals and 69 assists, inked a one-year entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks.
“We had those three guys sign yesterday, which is a great, great day, seeing them move on and utilize Princeton to reach their academic and athletic goals,” said Fogarty.
Although Princeton didn’t achieve its collective goals this winter of winning the ECACH and going to the NCAA tournament, it played an entertaining brand of hockey.
“While it is a disappointing overall season for us, I still liked a lot of things that we did,” said Fogarty. “We kept ourselves in 29 of the 31 games. We really gave ourselves an opportunity to win. It was just a couple of bounces here or there. You can’t expect to win every game. You have to be prepared to have an opportunity to win and I think we did that this year.”
With a solid core of young players returning, Princeton is prepared to do some big things in the future
“I am looking forward to next year,” said Fogarty, who welcomes back juniors Cressey, Derek Topatigh, and Liam Grande, along with sophomores Jake Paganelli, Mark Paolini, Reid Yochim, and goalie Ryan Ferland, as well as freshmen Corey Andonovski, Christian O’Neill, Matt Kellenberger, and goalie Jeremie Forget. “I like where we are moving towards next season. I am confident with the group we have coming back and the insertion of the first year players.”