Princeton Men’s Hockey Has Roller Coaster Week, But in a Good Place as it Heads Into Homestretch
ON THE RIGHT TRACK: Princeton University men’s hockey player Pito Walton heads up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star defenseman and captain Walton scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 at No. 16 Cornell. The Tigers, now 10-11 overall and 6-9 ECAC Hockey, host LIU on January 28 in their last non-conference game of the regular season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
It was a roller coaster week for the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it faced a trio of formidable foes.
Starting the week on a high note, Princeton edged No. 12 Providence 3-2 in overtime on January 17. Three days later, the Tigers stumbled in a 5-0 loss at Colgate. Displaying resilience, Princeton showed some fire a night later at No. 16 Cornell, battling back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before falling 3-2.
Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty, whose team is now 10-11 overall and 6-9 ECAC Hockey, is proud of the progress his team had made after struggling into early stages of the campaign.
“We started 2-6 and we are just a game below .500 now,” said Fogarty. “Our goal is to have a winning season and that is attainable. Now we have faced every team on our schedule once and we know what to expect. We just have to play at our standard.”
The Tigers have raised their standard through daily diligence. “It is just the individual development, there is a lot of repetition at practice with our drills,” said Fogarty, reflecting on his team’s improvement. “Staying with the same core of drills at practice, you see that skillset and they are bringing it to the game.”
Displaying those skills, Princeton pulled out a thrilling OT win against 12th-ranked Providence on January 17 which saw the Tigers overcome an early 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead against a Friar squad that bought a 12-6-6 record into the contest.
After Providence tied the game midway through the third period to force overtime, the Tigers came through in the extra session on backhanded blast by sophomore standout Jack Cronin.
“We played really well five on five, it was a good Tuesday win for us at Hobey Baker Rink,” said Fogarty, who also got goals from Adam Robbins and Nick Seitz in the win with goalie Ethan Pearson making 36 saves. “Any time you win in OT or regulation, it is great. It is always a sight to see the guys jump over the bench for celebration on the ice when you win in OT.”
Cronin has made a big jump in his second college campaign, having scored nine goals and five goals so far this season after tallying two goals and four assists as a freshman.
“It was a really nice goal by Jack, who has really had a breakout year,” said Fogarty, noting that Cronin was hampered last season by a leg injury he suffered in his college debut. “He missed a majority of the first half of the season and missed a lot of development. He did a tremendous job over the summer coming in and preparing himself.”
Fogarty acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t do a good job controlling the puck against Colgate.
“That was the most full possession turnovers in our zone that we have had all year,” said Fogarty. “That led to a lot of opportunities against that put us on our heels in the neutral zone and on the forecheck.”
A night later, Princeton tightened things up as they battled Cornell.
“We were really good in our defensive zone and did a good job with the breakout and limiting their chances,” said Fogarty. “It was flip-flop of our possession game and our d-zone from Friday. We were very effective against Cornell. It was a tremendous game, we played very well. We just came up on the short end of the scoreboard.”
Fittingly, senior stars and captains Pito Walton and Liam Gorman scored the goals against Cornell.
“They have been tremendous off the ice; they are great leaders and really good for our culture and where this program is going,” said Fogarty of the pair of veterans who each have 17 points to lead the Tigers. “It is great to see that when you do things well every day, you get rewarded on the ice.”
Sophomore goalie Pearson has been tremendous, posting a 2.51 goals against average and a save percentage of .912.
“He is playing well, he has given us an opportunity to win each game, making timely saves,” said Fogarty. “It has contributed to our defensive zone, limiting Grade A chances.”
With Princeton hosting LIU on January 28 before wrapping up ECACH regular season play with six straight league games, Fogarty believes that his team’s resilience and chemistry will serve it well as it heads into the postseason.
“It has been the culture of our team,” asserted Fogarty. “You are down twice against Cornell and they played with great resolve; we scored shortly after those goals. You see the bounce backs we have had against RIT (a 5-0 win on November 26 after a 5-3 loss the day before), Colorado College (a 2-1 win in overtime on December 31 after losing 7-2 the day before), and Colgate (a 4-3 overtime loss on November 5). I really like where our dressing room is at, I love what the guys are doing there.”