November 22, 2023

With Freshman Goalie Smith Coming Up Big, Tiger Men’s Hockey Edges Cornell 2-1 in OT

Princeton Men’s hockey hosts Cornell on November 18, 2023.

KING ARTHUR: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Arthur Smith guards the crease in recent action. Last Saturday night, freshman Smith made 36 saves to help Princeton defeat Cornell 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, now 3-2-1 overall and 3-2-1 ECAC Hockey, play a two-game set at Ohio State on November 24 and 25. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Arthur Smith has fit in quickly with the Princeton University men’s hockey team as he has joined the program this winter as a freshman goalie.

“The older guys do a really good job of doing the right things all of the time,” said Smith.

“It doesn’t really feel like I am a freshman, it feels like I am just a new person in the culture. They do a good job of making sure that we are all held to the same standard, it doesn’t matter if you are a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.”

Last Friday, Princeton didn’t live up to its standard as it fell behind 5-1 to visiting Colgate midway through the second period. Smith came on in relief at that point and calmed things down, making eight saves as the Tigers fought back before falling 6-3.

A day later, Smith got the start against 10th-ranked Cornell and sensed that the Tigers were determined to rebound from the defeat to the Raiders.

“I think the whole team came to the rink today with a different mindset,” said Smith. “I don’t know how much me coming in contributed to it — we came out ready to play today.”

Building on his solid effort against Colgate, Smith played very well against the Big Red, recording 36 saves as Princeton rallied for a dramatic 2-1 overtime win against Cornell before a standing-room only crowd of 2,500 packing Hobey Baker Rink.

Smith got off to a good start in the contest, making nine saves in the first period as the rivals skated to a scoreless tie in the first 20 minutes of action.

“It was nice, it comes down to everyone getting off to a good start,” said Smith, a 6’4, 205-pound native of Farmington, Conn. “It kind of made it easy — a lot of the shots were from the outside. It was definitely nice to settle into a rhythm.”

The Tiger defense played well in front of Smith all night. “They were blocking a lot of shots, clearing out lanes so I could see a lot of pucks,” says Smith. “They were also picking up guys coming in late, we were all in it together.”

Cornell took the lead with a goal early in the second period and Princeton answered back with a tally by Adam Robbins on a breakaway to knot the game at 1-1 entering the third period.

Early in the final frame, Princeton got hit with a five-minute major penalty and Smith helped the Tigers hold the fort as they killed off the penalty to keep the game tied.

“We had a short media break right before it and the energy on the bench was that we are going to get this kill and we are going to build off of that momentum,” said Smith, who made several dazzling saves on the kill to stymie the Big Red. “Everyone was bought in and that gave me the mindset too that we are all going to get this kill and move on from that. Our defense did a good job, clearing out bodies and clearing out lanes. I could see everything.”

Neither team scored again in regulation and the game headed into overtime. With Princeton having posted overtime wins against Yale and Brown a weekend earlier, Smith and his teammates were confident heading into extra time.

“We have been in these games all year, we know how to win these games,” said Smith, who was under the gun as Cornell controlled possession through much of the OT. “No one was really nervous, we were excited at a chance to keep winning. I really just wanted to do it for the guys around me. We got to that point and it would suck to fall short there. It was just staying mentally focused for the whole overtime.”

With just six seconds left in OT, sophomore forward Brendan Gorman blasted the puck into the back of the net to give the Tigers the hard-earned victory.

“I saw Murph [Ian Murphy] leave it for me and I saw a couple of guys in the way,” said Gorman, recalling his winning tally. “I kind of used them as screens and luckily it found its way through.”

Princeton made its luck as a ferocious check by senior defenseman Nick Carabin dislodged the puck from a Cornell player and gave the Tigers possession near the Big Red crease.

“Carabin’s hit was huge, he was good all night,” said Gorman. “To make a play like that and for it lead to a goal was massive.”

Gorman was not surprised to see the Tigers rally from the 1-0 deficit.

“This whole year we have a thing to keep the energy up no matter what the score is and always having positivity on the bench,” said Gorman, who leads the Tigers in scoring with seven points on two goals and five assists. “After that goal goes in, we kept the positive energy. We were able to find one and eventually got the overtime goal.”

Smith saw the win as a major positive for the Tigers. “It is a big for our confidence, our team knows that when we play well, we can stick around with anybody,” said Smith. “When we go out and do that, it is huge.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty credited Smith with coming up huge against the Big Red.

“I love Artie, I have known him in the recruiting process for two years,” said Fogarty of Smith who now has a 2.73 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.

“I made a lot of trips to watch him play juniors. I believe in him. He believes in himself and believes in the team. He is one of the best people you will ever meet in your lifetime, he is just an unbelievable person. He played big tonight, he played confident. He has got two wins now as a first-year guy.”

The goal by Robbins was a big moment for the Tigers. “Adam is playing really well,” said Fogarty. “He is clutch. I like what he did on the PK tonight as well.”

In bouncing back after a tough night against Colgate, the Tigers displayed their grit.

“We made a couple of adjustments but it had nothing to do with systems,” said Fogarty. “It was all about dedication and commitment for each other and to each other.”

That commitment was exemplified by Carabin’s big hit in the overtime.

“That was a great forecheck by Carabin,” said Fogarty. “We talked yesterday about making sure that we are the first ones to the forecheck, it is hunt men, hunt pucks. Your only job is to take the man and he did that and that created the turnover. It all starts from being physical and taking men, that was the catalyst for the goal.”

Six games into the season, Fogarty likes the way his players are getting the job done.

“We have learned to win and be resilient,” said Fogarty, whose team improved to 3-2-1 overall and 3-2-1 ECAC Hockey with the victory over the Big Red. “It is a good learning experience from yesterday and how it can go sideways if we are not competing. Anybody can win on a given night in this conference. The resiliency is superb right now, it is tough to win in this conference. It is one of the few times we have beaten Cornell and it is in our barn too. We knew they were going to be upset from last night (an 8-4 loss at Quinnipiac) and we were equally but we needed the game more than they did.”

The Tigers are facing a tough challenge as they play a two-game set at Ohio State on November 24 and 25. In taking on the Buckeyes, who made the NCAA Bridgeport Regional Final last year but are off to a shaky 3-5-3 start this winter, Smith believes that Princeton needs to bring the intensity it showed against Cornell in order to have a big weekend.

“After playing a game like that, you just want to build off of it but you are only as good as that last time you played,” said Smith. “It doesn’t matter unless we play well next weekend. When we play well, we can play with anybody and that game just proves it. I know Ohio State, they are a good team. We are just looking forward to playing them.”