With Senior Evans Looking to Go Out a Winner, PU Men’s Hockey Learns Lessons in Tough Weekend
ON BOARD: Princeton University men’s hockey player Finn Evans (No. 16) battles a St. Lawrence player for the puck along the boards last Friday at Hobey Baker Rink. Senior forward Evans tallied a goal and an assist in a losing cause as Princeton fell 6-4 to the Saints. The Tigers, who lost 8-3 to Clarkson last Saturday to move to 3-3-1 overall and 2-2 ECAC Hockey, host a two-game set against RIT on November 26 and 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Although their 2020-21 season was canceled by the Ivy League due to COVID-19 concerns, Finn Evans and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s hockey team still made progress.
“We were just skating at local rinks around New Jersey and working out,” said senior forward Evans, who was enrolled in school and living in the Princeton area with some of his teammates last school year.
“We were brought back in the spring and we were able to skate and work out. That was good, the freshmen were here. It brought us closer together as a group. I think it shows this year. We are all really tight, everyone is contributing.”
That group effort had been reflected in scoring balance across the team’s lines.
“It is nice this year, in previous years it has been a top-heavy contribution,” said Evans.
“The great thing about our lineup this year is that you look throughout the lineup and it is evenly spread right through. I think the theme of our team is that it doesn’t matter who scores. It is all just working hard and playing the game.”
Last Friday against visiting St. Lawrence, Evans contributed an assist and a goal as Princeton overcame an early 2-0 deficit to build a 4-2 lead over the Saints with 14:38 left in the second period.
Evans set up the first goal, feeding Nick Seitz who banged home the pass.
“It was just a great play by my linemate, Nick Seitz,” said Evans.
“I have been playing with [Adam] Robbins and Seitz pretty much for most of the year now. I think we are starting to get that chemistry. Seitz has really improved his game, he is a horse out there. I just chipped it down in the corner and he did the rest himself and took it to the net. I can’t take much credit for that one.”
On his goal, the fourth of the evening for the Tigers, Evans cashed in a good feed from the blue line.
“I just saw the defense dip a little bit, one of freshman defensemen, Noah de la Durantaye, made a great pass up behind me and I just saw the open ice,” said Evans, a 6’4, 206-pound native of Toronto, Ontario.
“I went five hole. I had my teammate to the left and he was letting me know we had a 2-on-0 but I was taking it the whole way.”
The play of the Tigers, though, dipped from there as St. Lawrence tallied four unanswered goals to pull out a 6-4 win.
“It was an unfortunate ending tonight, I think we have a lot more to give and we should be a lot better at the end of the game,” said Evans.
But I think it is better to get this stuff out of the way early, five, six games in. From a game like this you have got to learn to win in college hockey, it doesn’t matter who you are playing. Every single night is going to be an absolute battle right down to the end.”
Despite the setback, Evans believes the Tigers are heading in the right direction.
“My first two years we were learning that the hard way, it seemed like we were up every game going into the third and we let it slip away,” said Evans.
“At least through the first couple of games this year, we kind of hammered that away and we have been pretty good. It slipped on us tonight. You just have to take it in stride, there is nothing we can do about it now. I believe in every single guy in that room and I hope they feel the same about me.”
While Evans is ready to impart advice to the team’s younger players, he wants everyone to speak up when necessary.
“If any of the younger guys ask me, I will help them out as much as I can but I want them to yell at me if I make mistakes,” said Evans.
“I want that confidence in all of our guys. It is not just going to be the seniors winning a championship this year, it is the whole group.”
Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty likes the confidence Evans is displaying this season.
“Finn is playing well, he is doing what we need from a senior forward,” said Fogarty of Evans, who tallied two goals and an assist a day later as Princeton fell 8-3 to Clarkson to move to 3-3-1 overall and 2-2 ECAC Hockey. “He plays a big game, he has got great reach. He was good tonight.”
Fogarty, however, didn’t like the way the night ended for the Tigers.
“We lost the game, we had control of it,” said Fogarty. “That one hurts a lot. You go up by two goals, you have to keep playing hard and going after it.”
Spending too much time in the penalty box helped lead to the loss for the Tigers.
“With four power plays against and the penalty killing, you are using Finn a lot, you are using Christian [O’Neill] a lot and [Liam] Gorman in that group,” said Fogarty.
“They start to get tired because they are exerting heavy minutes. We roll four lines and once you have those power plays against, it is taking away from the momentum when you roll the lines every 30-35 seconds. Staying out of the box is the biggest takeaway I have from tonight.”
Looking forward, Fogarty wants his team to focus on playing its game.
“We have just got to be boring with monotonous, good hockey and not try to create stuff that isn’t there and just take what is given,” said Fogarty, whose team hosts a two-game set against RIT on November 26 and 27.
“At the end there we tried to force stuff and there were two plays that came back and bit us. We will get better but that is a tough one right there, for sure. Our season is like this game, a little dip, then playing well, then a dip. There are a lot of good things that can come out of it, unfortunately we didn’t get the win. We could have shored up a lot of things and we will learn from it for sure.”
Evans is confident that good things are on the horizon for the Tigers this winter.
“Every guy has come to the rink everyday looking to make the team a better team, it is not about who is on what line, it is just a group effort,” said Evans
“In my first two years here, we weren’t winning teams. All we want as seniors is to be on a winning team. At the end of the day, whoever is going to score, it just comes down to winning games. That is all we want to do this year. It is a lot more fun in the locker room when we are winning than when we are losing.”