February 5, 2020

Returning from Exam Break with 0-2 Weekend, PU Men’s Hockey Needs to Start Winning Battles

YOUNG GUN: Princeton University men’s hockey player Spencer Kersten, right, battles a foe on a face-off in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Kersten scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 5-3 to No. 1 Cornell. The Tigers, now 3-14-4 overall and 1-10-3 ECAC Hockey, play at Brown on February 7 and at Yale on February 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s hockey team resumed ECAC Hockey play last weekend, it faced challenges on several levels.

First, Princeton had to shake off some rust, having been on a 20-day hiatus for exams. In addition, the Tigers were facing a pair of formidable foes as they hosted surging Colgate on Friday night and top-ranked Cornell on Saturday evening.

“We got one week of practice in; it is still a unique situation and I am glad to see it go away,” said Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty, noting that exams will take place before Christmas starting in the 2020-21 school year.

“You are playing teams having four games over the break while you are sitting there just trying to practice. When you have 20 days between games, it is difficult.”

In the early stages against Colgate on Friday, the Tigers made things difficult for the Raiders as the foes were deadlocked in a scoreless stalemate heading into the second period.

“The first period was good, they had one Grade A scoring opportunity,” said Fogarty, whose team outshot Colgate 10-9 in the period.

The second period, though, was very bad for the Tigers as the Raiders tallied three unanswered goals and built a 17-6 edge in shots.

“We lost one-on-one battles, not just with the puck but with positioning,” lamented Fogarty. “Some of our leaders and point scorers were nonexistent tonight.”

Princeton never could find a rhythm on the evening as it went on to a disappointing 3-0 defeat.

“They are a very good five-on-five team, we alluded to that fact going into the pre-scout video,” said Fogarty.

“You can’t take shortcuts, it has got to be a demanding game. They scored two power play goals so they won the specialty teams. That five-on-five goal did hurt; the guy is wide open in front of the net and three guys get outmanned by one player. That is not a good recipe for success.”

While the Tigers didn’t experience success against the Raiders, Fogarty did see some bright spots.

“That freshman line played very well, that was our top line tonight for sure,” said Fogarty, referring to the trio of Liam Gorman, Spencer Kersten, and Nick Seitz.

“They got some time to play because they deserved it. I liked what they brought, the speed and making some plays. They were winning battles as well on the defensive side of the puck.”

In reflecting on the defeat, Fogarty acknowledged that Princeton didn’t make enough plays.

“This league is so good, we have had three, four teams make the NCAA tournament each year,” said Fogarty. “You give a team a 3-0 cushion, it is extremely tough to come back on, especially when you are not competing that hard.”

A night later before a throng of 2,500 packing Hobey Baker Rink, the Tigers competed harder against powerhouse Cornell, battling back from an early 2-0 deficit to knot the game at 2-2 on goals by Mark Paolini and Kersten. Cornell, though, pulled away to a 5-3 win as Princeton’s lone tally in the final 20 minutes came from Liam Grande.

With Princeton dropping to 3-14-4 overall and 1-10-3 ECAC Hockey in the wake of the defeat to the Big Red, Fogarty is looking for his players to ramp up their intensity.

“Our challenge is with ourself right now; we have to get some identity with our team and winning battles,” said Fogarty, whose club heads to New England this weekend for games at Brown on February 7 and at Yale on February 8.

“We stressed the one-on-one competition and battles throughout this week, starting right from scratch. That is how we can be solidified as five-man units by winning that one-on-one battle and then having support.”