December 21, 2016

Earning Split With No. 19 Minnesota State, PU Men’s Hockey Riding High Into 2017

ACTION JACKSON: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jackson Cressey heads up the ice in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman forward Cressey tallied a goal and an assist in a losing cause as Princeton fell 5-4 to No. 19 Minnesota State, snapping a five-game winning streak for the Tigers. Going 7-2 after an 0-6-1 start, Princeton brings a 7-8-1 overall record into the holiday break and a shot of confidence as it looks forward to the second half of the season. The Tigers are on a hiatus until they play at Dartmouth on January 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey team trailing No. 19 Minnesota State 2-0 heading into the second period last Saturday, the Tiger players realized that they just had to be themselves to make a rally. 

“We just knew that we weren’t playing our game, we needed to get back to it,” said Princeton freshman forward Jackson Cressey, reflecting on a rough first period which saw the visiting Mavericks outshoot Princeton 23-10 in building the two-goal lead.

“It was don’t focus on them, focus on us; pick up the speed and go back to our normal forechecking and we will be fine.”

Just 2:32 into the second period, Cressey helped get Princeton back on track as he found the back of the net.

“Max (Veronneau) made a great play, I took a shot and he played it along the wall,” said Cressey.

“He made a great pass out to me in front and luckily the puck bounced off the side of the net and I tipped it in.”

That tally was the first shot of a barrage that saw the Tigers score four goals in the period, knotting the game at 2-2 and then battling back from a 4-2 deficit to make it a 4-4 game heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation. Minnesota State, though, responded with a tally four minutes into the third period and that held up as the Mavericks won 5-4.

“We got four goals, everyone started rolling, it was great,” said Cressey, who  picked up an assist on the fourth goal of the period that saw Ryan Kuffner score twice for the Tigers and Josh Teves add another tally as the Baker Rink crowd of 1,304 was cheering in appreciation. “We let them get the momentum back and that killed us in the end.”

In the wake of beating Minnesota State 6-1 on Friday in the first contest of the two-game set to post its fifth straight win, the Tigers were primed for a sweep.

“They are a good team, we knew coming in that they were going to be a good test for us,” said Cressey.

“After winning the first game, we came in hoping to win this one and we thought we should. Unfortunately, we have to take it for what it is and learn a lesson here and clean that up.”

In his first few months with the Tigers, Cressey has learned a lot. “It is definitely a big step up from juniors; it is a lot faster, less time and space,” said Cressey, a 6’0, 180-pound native of West Vancouver, British Columbia who has 15 points this season on three goals and 12 assists.

“All of the guys have been really helpful and they let you know what’s coming. I have been playing with great players and that makes the transition a lot easier.”

After starting 0-6-1, the Tigers have come on strong, going 7-2 over their last nine games.

“Everything is starting to work, everyone is starting to click,” said Cressey in assessing the team’s surge.

“The chemistry is coming. All of the game plans are working, the strategy is working, the systems have been working. We have been coming together as a team and as individuals and that has really helped us out.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty liked the way his team came together in the second period after weathering the early storm by Minnesota State.

“It was a great pushback in the second,” said Fogarty. “I think the second period was kind of like the second half of the first semester, we know what we need to do to be successful. We executed in situations, we took advantage of the power play. It was just an unfortunate play there that gave them the fifth goal.”

Fogarty is not surprised at the success Cressey is experiencing in his debut season at the college level.

“He was a point producer in the British Columbia hockey league and he is someone who wanted to make an impact right away and he has,” said Fogarty. “We are happy with his production so far.”

In Fogarty’s view, Princeton’s recent hot streak is the product of a total team effort.

“I am happy with the first half, we were 0-6-1 to start the season but the guys know the system and they have bought in,” said Fogarty.

“Our compete level is very good and it gives us an opportunity to win games. It is the higher standard of play. We had been playing for two periods early in the season and now we are putting 60 minutes together. It is collective effort and our guys have been doing a great job.”

With Princeton on a holiday hiatus until it plays at Dartmouth on January 6, Fogarty is looking forward to seeing his team compete in the second half of the season.

“We want them to go home and spend some time with their families; enjoy the break and being away,” said Fogarty.

“They know that we want to make a serious push in the second half of the season. We know how to be successful and we need to continue the commitment and drive that we have.”

Cressey, for his part, is confident that the Tigers can build on their recent success.

“We have gained a lot of confidence in these last seven or eight games and so hopefully we bring that into January and come out hot like we didn’t in the fall,” said Cressey. “When we get into the playoffs, hopefully we will have a good run there.”