December 11, 2019

PU Men’s Hockey Drops 2 to Colorado College But Sophomore O’Neill Emerging as Scoring Threat

CHRISTIAN SOLDIER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Christian O’Neill controls the puck last weekend as Princeton hosted Colorado College for a two-game set. Sophomore forward O’Neill scored a goal in each game as the Tigers fell 7-2 on Friday and 2-1 in overtime a night later. Princeton, who moved to 1-8-3 with the defeats, was slated to host AIC on December 10 before going on holiday break. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton University men’s hockey team trailing Colorado College 1-0 in the third period last Saturday evening, Christian O’Neill and his teammates were determined to get the equalizer.

“We had a couple of opportunities that we thought should have gone in, he closed the door on us,” said Princeton sophomore forward O’Neill.

“We told ourselves that we have to keep going, keep getting pucks to the net, keep shooting and eventually it would fall in.”

O’Neill got one to fall, scoring with 31 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

“It was a broken play, I thought they were going to get the clear there,” recalled O’Neill.

“Then Jackson [Cressey] made a good keep at the blue line and bounced to me and I managed to get it to Liam Grande and then he got it back to me. I shot it at the net, we finally got that bounce at the end of the third.”

Although Princeton ended up falling 2-1 in overtime to move to 1-8-3 overall before a crowd of 1,685 at Hobey Baker Rink, the effort represented a major step forward considering that the Tigers had lost 7-2 to Colorado College a night earlier.

“It was a good bounce back for the boys today, we were playing a lot better as a team, especially in the defensive zone,” said O’Neill, who tallied one of Princeton’s goals in the defeat on Friday.

“There were a bunch of breakdowns yesterday that we didn’t have today. We kept the score at zero for them until the third period. There was a lot better jump in the offensive zone too, getting pucks through. We just had the momentum and we were outplaying them whereas last night it wasn’t like that.”

With goals in both games last weekend, O’Neill is gaining momentum individually.

“Clearly scoring  was an issue for me last year, even at the beginning of this year,” said O’Neill, a 5’11, 175-pound native of Westwood, Mass., who now has three goals and five assists in 12 games this year after tallying one goal and five assists in 31 appearances as a freshman.

“I have had plenty of opportunities this year to score. In the past few games I have capitalized on these opportunities. That is something I have been working on. They are finally going for me so that is good.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty is happy to see O’Neill finding his finishing touch.

“It is good for Christian to hit the back of the net,” said Fogarty. “He is emerging as a sophomore who is going to be relied on moving forward here over the next couple of years to score goals. I know he would trade them in for a win but it is good to see him scoring.”

Sophomore goalie Jeremie Forget gave Princeton a chance to win in his first start of the season, making 25 saves.

“I thought Jeremie had a tremendous game, he played extremely well,” said Fogarty.

“He made all of the necessary saves. He made a huge breakaway save there to keep the game in reach. He did a great job tonight.”

All in all, Fogarty liked the way his team played as it rebounded from the disappointing outing on Friday.

“We pushed pretty well the entire game, I think we had over 80 shots on the weekend,” said Fogarty, whose squad generated 42 shots on Friday and 40 a night later.

“We are in a good spot, it is not like we are losing 2-1 and getting outshot 44-22. We are creating chances and we dug in defensively. They had one odd-man rush goal, those things happen in college hockey. The game was more manageable on the defensive side tonight.”

While the setback on Saturday stung, Fogarty is optimistic about his team’s prospects.

“We are struggling to score a little bit; that one is a tough one to lose because our guys played really well and played a smarter game through and through,” said Fogarty, whose club was slated to host AIC on December 10 in its last action before the holiday break. “If we have those efforts continuously we will be on the right side of the score.”

O’Neill, for his part, believes that Princeton’s efforts will pay off down the stretch of the campaign.

“We will try to play the same way against AIC and then go into winter break,” said O’Neill.

“Hopefully we can use that break to regroup and attack the second half of the season.”