After Final Home Weekend for PU Men’s Hockey, Topatigh Aiming for Big Run in ECACH Playoffs
TOP LEADER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Derek Topatigh brings the puck up the ice in a game last winter. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and team captain Topatigh made his final appearance at Hobey Baker Rink, fighting hard in a losing cause as Princeton fell 2-0 to Brown. The Tigers, now 4-20-5 overall, start play in the ECAC Hockey playoffs where they are seeded 11th and are playing at sixth-seeded Dartmouth in a best-of-three first round series starting on March 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Emotions were swirling for Derek Topatigh last Saturday night as he made his final appearance at Hobey Baker Rink for the Princeton University men’s hockey team.
The senior defenseman was part of a special pregame presentation along with his parents Sergio Topatigh and Karen Trudell since his mother was unable to attend the program’s Senior Day ceremony earlier in the year due to being under a treatment regimen for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“That was huge for me and my family, my mom really didn’t want to miss it at the beginning of the year,” said Topatigh, a 5’11, 185-pound native of Mississauga, Ontario. “It was great on coach [Ron] Fogarty and everyone to make it happen. It was just a blast to able to do it.”
Once Topatigh hit the ice for the Tigers against Brown, he was looking for a huge game in his Baker finale.
“You try not to think about it, it was an important game to set the tone for the momentum going into the playoffs,” said Topatigh.
“You try to play your regular game and keep the energy up but it definitely gets emotional at some points.”
Princeton played with a lot of energy against the Bears, outshooting Brown 32-21 but not getting the bounces in a 2-0 defeat.
“We were a little snakebitten today; we were getting to the front of the net and then pucks were just hopping over our sticks,” said Topatigh in assessing the defeat which left the Tigers at 4-20-5 overall and 2-16-4 ECAC Hockey.
“There some good saves, some close chances; we just got to keep working hard, getting to the gritty areas and hopefully the bounces start coming our way.”
Topatigh was proud of the grit that the Tigers displayed at the defensive end.
“Our d-corps has been solid the last few weekends, we have been getting better here,” said Topatigh.
“We are a young defensive group but we continuously get better so hopefully we can keep that going in the playoffs.”
Withe Princeton getting into ECACH postseason play this week where it is seeded 11th and playing at sixth-seeded Dartmouth (13-12-4 overall, 10-10-2 ECACH) in a best-of-three first round series starting on March 6, Topatigh and his teammates are primed to keep the season going as long as possible.
“We are excited, it is win or go home at this point so every game is going to be a battle,” said Topatigh.
“It is going to be a war. We are the kind of team that relishes those games so we are going to be excited to get there and be prepared.”
Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty has relished working with his group of seniors.
“It has been an enjoyable four years having that group, they worked really hard, they have been through a lot of things,” said Fogarty of the group that includes his son, Jordan Fogarty, along with Liam Grande, Jeremy Germain, Jackson Cressey, Joey Fallon and Topatigh.
“They will leave here at Princeton knowing that they have at least one championship under their belt so they are one of a group of three teams here that have won a championship so that’s big. You have Germain and Grande were a big part of the championship goal to [Max] Becker so we had two seniors who were catalysts for us to win the ECACH championship.”
In reflecting on the regular season, Fogarty acknowledged that it has been a frustrating year for the Tigers.
“You feel for the guys, you want them to do well,” said Fogarty, whose team has suffered 13 one or two goal losses this winter.
“It has been a lot of hard work that hasn’t been moved to the win column. They haven’t been rewarded for a lot of the hard work and that is what you get frustrated about. You almost wish you were losing 9-0 just because you are starting from ground zero but the games have been so darn close through the season.”
Despite being on the short end of some many close games, the Tigers have kept their heads up.
“You learn a lot from losing and unfortunately there was a lot of learning this year,” said Fogarty.
“I am not happy with how the season went obviously but you have to remain positive. It is such a short season that if you start to doubt yourself you can really spiral into a negative atmosphere and culture in the building but our guys still enjoy coming to the rink. You want to make sure that you still have the team and we have had the team continue to fight for every game through the regular season down to the last minute. So the pride, the commitment level is there. If you have that you are going to have a chance to win each night. We just fell short a lot this year.”
The playoffs will give Princeton a chance to produce a positive finish to the winter.
“It is going to take everyone on the same page and it is the little things,” said Fogarty.
“Now you just need that hard reset button here. It is the first one to four points and that is what we are going to stress. It is going to be an uphill climb for us. We have to prepare accordingly as a staff immediately. We have to dig hard and make sure that we prepare them really well, learn the tendencies of the team that we are going up against and just worry about ourselves and how we can execute and keep getting opportunities to score.”
Topatigh, for his part, appreciates the opportunities he has had at Princeton over the last four years.
“You never want college hockey to be done; it is some of the best times of your life,” said Topatigh.
“We are just going to battle for every inch and hopefully win some games in the playoffs. I am just grateful for the opportunity that Princeton hockey, the coaching staff and everyone involved has given us. Hopefully we have some more games to go but it is a privilege to wear the Princeton Tiger crest. We don’t take it for granted.”