PU Men’s Hockey Sweeps Dartmouth In Playoffs, Gritty Tigers To Play Cornell in ECACH Quarters
ON THE MARK: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mark Paolini controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, junior defenseman Paolini scored the winning goal in overtime as 11th-seeded Princeton defeated sixth-seeded Dartmouth 5-4 to sweep a best-of-three ECAC Hockey first round playoff series. The Tigers, now 6-20-5, play at top-seeded and No. 1 Cornell (23-2-4) in a best-of-three ECACH quarterfinal series scheduled to start on March 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Having scored a total of five goals in its last six regular season games, the Princeton University men’s hockey team needed to jump-start its offense as it played at Dartmouth last weekend in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey first round playoff series.
“We were just trying to keep the puck out of the middle of the ice and the neutral zone and have smart entries,” said Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty.
The 11th-seeded Tigers played smart and tough against the sixth-seeded Big Green in the opener on Friday night. Trailing 1-0, Princeton responded with a goal by Christian O’Neill to make it 1-1. With the Tigers down 2-1 O’Neill tallied a second goal to make it 2-2 and then trailing 3-2 late in the game, Finn Evans scored for Princeton with 2:45 left in regulation to force overtime.
“I thought we did a really good job of managing the puck and we were resilient,” said Fogarty.
That resiliency ultimately resulted in victory as Reid Yochim found the back of the net 3:36 into overtime to give the Tigers a 4-3 win.
A night later, Princeton jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the second period and had a 4-1 advantage early in the third.
“We knew they would have a hard push and we came out very strong; we built the lead,” said Fogarty.
But playing to keep their season alive, the Big Green responded with three goals in the final 8:08 to knot the game at 4-4 and put the foes in overtime for a second straight night.
“They came back from three down and we drew upon our experiences in the ECAC playoffs,” said Fogarty, whose team won the 2018 ECACH tournament.
“Two years ago, we had two classes that were on the ice when Clarkson scored with six seconds to go in the semis. It was the same mindset going into the OT at Dartmouth. It was get back to the game plan and go from there.”
Once again, Princeton came through in overtime as junior defenseman Mark Paolini tallied with 9:05 left in the first overtime.
By eliminating the Big Green, the Tigers, now 6-20-5, play at top-seeded Cornell (23-2-4) in a best-of-three ECACH quarterfinal series scheduled to start on March 13 and will look to ride the momentum from the sweep.
“It was a collective effort, they stepped up for each other and played well,” said Fogarty. “I am just really happy that we have a chance to move on.”
Fogarty credited senior forward Jackson Cressey and sophomore goalie Jeremie Forget with producing stellar efforts against Dartmouth.
“I thought Jackson Cressey played really well and really smart,” said Fogarty of the senior forward, who had a goal and two assists on the weekend.
“We knew he had to be our best player on the weekend and I thought he was at least one of the best. For Jeremie, getting the two wins in goal (25 saves in game one and a career-high 46 stops in game two) and playoff experience, that was great.”
Looking ahead to the matchup against No. 1 Cornell, Fogarty acknowledges that the Tigers will need to be at their best to keep the season going.
“It is going to be a tough series for us, we are playing a team that only has a couple of losses throughout the entire season,” said Fogarty, whose team fell 5-1 and 5-3 to the Big Red in two regular season meetings.
“We have to make sure that we are paying really close attention to detail. We will have a game plan. It is college hockey, anything can happen.”
Having all hands on deck last weekend helped Princeton make things happen against Dartmouth.
“We had a full lineup for the first time since November and the guys were fresher on the ice and had more energy for each shift,” said Fogarty,
“It is a big opponent for us to play. To have the depth that we had, you saw that the goals came from different guys. It helps when you have a full lineup that has the opportunity to contribute.”
The character displayed by Princeton last weekend gives it an opportunity to stun Cornell.
“It says a lot for the resiliency, those were our 10th and 11th overtime games,” said Fogarty.
“Through the regular season we had a lot of switching of lineups and different line combinations with guys in and out of the lineup. A lot of games were close and we were on the wrong end of the majority of them but we knew we were doing a lot of things well and the guys stuck with it and executed the game plan.”