February 21, 2018

As PU’s 1998, 2008 ECACH Champs Honored, Tiger Men’s Hockey Girding for Playoff Push

BECK AND CALL: Princeton University men’s hockey player Max Becker heads up the ice in a game this season. Senior forward Becker and his classmates played their final regular season home games at Hobey Baker Rink last weekend, winning 7-2 against Rensselaer on Friday and then falling 4-1 to Union a night later. Princeton, now 12-12-3 overall and 9-10-1 ECAC Hockey, wraps up regular season action by playing at Clarkson on February 23 and at St. Lawrence on February 24. The Tigers are currently tied for seventh in the ECACH standings and in position to host a first round playoff series over the weekend of March 2-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The 1998 and 2008 Princeton University men’s hockey ECAC Hockey championship squads were honored at Hobey Baker Rink last Saturday evening.

Players from the storied teams were introduced after the first and second periods as Princeton hosted Union in its regular season home finale, drawing large ovations from the crowd of 2,271 that braved a snowstorm to be on hand.

As the game unfolded, this year’s Princeton team fought an uphill battle against a Dutchmen squad displaying some championship form. Union outshot the Tigers 19-8 in the first period in jumping out to a 2-0 lead. After falling behind 3-0 midway through the contest, Princeton answered with a goal by Ryan Kuffner to cut the margin but it never got closer than that as Union added an empty net goal to seal a 4-1 victory.

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty tipped his hat to Union. “They did a great job on the forecheck; we couldn’t get in the offensive zone in the first period,” said Fogarty.

“They are a skilled team that plays very disciplined and very heavy. We knew that coming in. They had way more jump. They were playing for something, still trying to capture a championship.”

While Fogarty was disappointed with the outcome, he credited the Tigers with showing some jump down the stretch.

“I thought we played about 18 minutes of hockey, mostly in the third period,” said Fogarty, whose team is now 12-12-3 overall and 9-10-1 ECACH while Union improved to 20-13-1 overall and 15-5 ECACH. “We were trying to play catch up.”

Freshman goalie Ryan Ferland kept Princeton in the game, making 32 saves through the first two periods on the way to a total of 39 for the evening. “Ferland played well; he did hold the fort down,” said Fogarty of his netminder, who now has a 3.17 goals against average and a .908 save percentage in his debut campaign.

Junior forward Kuffner has been playing really well, tallying a hat trick in a 7-2 win against Rensselaer on Friday and now has 23 goals after the goal against Union to lead the ECACH.

“Since day one, he is one of our purest goal scorers,” said Fogarty. “He has a great release. He wants to score and he has a knack for it. His game has been great.”

The fact that Princeton didn’t have the services of star forward Alex Riche and top defenseman Josh Teves due to injury impacted its game.

“It is no excuse for the outcome but those are two major pieces of our puzzle and rebuilding the structure of a hockey team,” said Fogarty, who hopes to have both players back on the ice this weekend. “It hurts.”

With the Tigers currently tied for seventh in the ECACH standings and in position to host a first round playoff series, Fogarty knows his team needs a good outcome when it wraps up the regular season with games at Clarkson on February 23 and at St. Lawrence on February 24.

“I expect us to play hard; you want to have everything under your control and we still control home ice,” said Fogarty. “We will get back to work and practice and get some jump back.”

While Fogarty knows it won’t be be an easy task, he believes his team can continue the program’s recent trend of winning ECACH crowns during years ending in 8.

“Our conference is so tight now, anybody can win,” said Fogarty. “In the playoffs, it is two out of three and you need guys to be really elevated and jumping. It is going to be anyone’s game, home or away.”