November 4, 2015

Showing Plenty of Positives on Opening Weekend, PU Men’s Hockey Goes 1-1 in Capital City Classic

Opening its season at the Capital City Classic in Trenton last weekend, the Princeton University men’s hockey team was looking to score early and come away with at least one win.

Mission accomplished on both counts as Princeton got a first period goal from Eric Robinson against Yale in the opener on Friday and battled the Bulldogs tooth-and-nail before succumbing 3-1. A day later, the Tigers jumped out to 2-0 lead on the way to a 3-1 win over Maine.

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty liked what he saw from his team right from the opening face-off of the weekend at the Sun Bank Center.

“Our energy was great at the start of the period,” said Fogarty, who is in his second year guiding the Tigers.

“We had scoring opportunities, we transitioned extremely well from defense to offense. In the second period, we had to grind it out with the onslaught of opportunities that Yale had. We only gave up four grade A scoring chances during all of that time in our zone. In the third period, we had scoring chances. Unfortunately, we gave up a goal there late in the third period.”

Against Maine, Princeton sharpened things up as it broke through into the win column.

“In the Maine game, we made a small change to our defensive zone structure where the guys improved upon things so we didn’t see as much time in our zone,” explained Fogarty, who got goals from senior forward Kyle Rankin, sophomore defenseman Joe Grabowski, and junior forward Ben Foster in the victory.

“That helped keep the puck out of our defensive zone for longer periods of time. Colton (Phinney) played great in goal in the five-minute penalty kill to start the third period and that gave us momentum back and carried us to the win.”

Junior goalie Phinney carried much of the load for the Tigers, making 41 saves against Yale and then coming up with 38 stops in the win over the Black Bears.

“He made two to three great saves in both games when called upon,” said Fogarty.

“He played solid, that is what we expect from him as the team’s best player. We expect nothing but greatness game in, game out and he provided us the opportunities to win both games.”

Based on the first weekend of action, it appears that sophomore forward Robinson will be generating a lot of opportunities this winter.

“Eric Robinson has matured greatly into a stronger defensive player which is giving him the opportunity in the offensive zone,” said Fogarty.

“He had a couple of end-to-end rushes that resulted in scoring chances. He is on the penalty kill now. He is seeing 4-on-4 time, he has been double shifted. He is someone who has transformed his body over the summer to allow him to play more impactful minutes. He is a fluid and great skater, who gets around the ice quick.”

Star defenseman Grabowski made an impact as his second period goal against Maine turned out to be the game winner.

“There was great traffic in front of the net which provided the screen for Joe’s goal,” added Fogarty.

“Both years now he has started off the first weekend with goals, hopefully that will continue throughout the rest of the season.”

In Fogarty’s view, starting the season with a split was a confidence builder for the program.

“You get a win, it gives tangible evidence that what you have worked on produces results,” said Fogarty.

“You go four or five games in without a positive result, you start asking yourself questions and there is a lot of second guessing that goes on. But to see the results occur during the first weekend is great mentally for everyone to realize you are on the same page to move forward to acquire more wins. To win early is great.”

The Tigers will look to get more wins this weekend as they begin ECAC Hockey action with games at Cornell on November 6 and at Colgate on November 7.

“We just need to continue to play with pace, moving the puck quicker and skating quicker to support,” said Fogarty.

“It took time for the systems and the philosophies to be learned amongst the entire team last year, where a lot of time in practice was positioning people. Now our practices are about moving and being quicker, we didn’t have the opportunities to stress that last year. We have to keep pushing the pace.”