December 13, 2023

With Cronin Developing into Go-To Goal Scorer, PU Men’s Hockey Taking 5-5-2 Record Into Break

JACKED UP: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Cronin battles a foe in action last winter. Last Saturday, junior forward Cronin scored the game-tying goal in the third period as the Tigers skated to a 2-2 draw with Sacred Heart at Hobey Baker Rink. The Tigers, who moved to 5-5-2 with the tie, are on exam break for the next two weeks and will return to action when they host Harvard on December 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In the first six weeks of this season, the Princeton University men’s hockey team has displayed a propensity for battling back from early deficits.

Four times in its first 10 games, Princeton overcame early deficits to pull out three victories and a shootout win.

Last Saturday, the Tigers produced another comeback, trailing Sacred Heart 1-0 and 2-1 before tying the game at 2-2 in the third period and forcing overtime. The foes remained tied through overtime. The teams did end the evening with an exhibition shootout, which saw the Pioneers outscore Princeton 2-1.

Princeton junior forward Jack Cronin, who tallied the game-tying goal in the third period, liked the way the Tigers kept fighting against the Pioneers as they moved to 5-5-2 on the season.

“I am proud of the guys, we battled back pretty hard,” said Cronin. “We got down early, that is not where we want to be. It was a tough one, we have to clean up our starts a little.”

Cronin displayed some toughness as he fought through a traffic jam in the crease to get his goal.

“It was just a great play by David [Jacobs] to beat the defender wide,” said Cronin, a 5’11, 195-pound native of South Hamilton, Mass. “He made a good pass and I found a way to get it into the net. It was a really good play by Dave, it made it easy for me.”

The Tigers carried play in the third period and overtime as they outshot the Pioneers 11-7 in the third and 5-1 in the OT but couldn’t find the back of the net after Cronin’s tally.

“I think we had the momentum a little bit in the third period,” said Cronin. “They did a pretty good job of getting in lanes and blocking shots, especially in overtime too. They got a lot of sticks on pucks. I thought we kind of took it to them in overtime but just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

In recent weeks, Cronin has been gaining momentum individually, scoring goals in his last three games and now has a team-high seven goals.

“I feel really confident out there, I feel really good,” said Cronin, who tallied a goal on Friday as Princeton topped Sacred Heart 4-0 in the first game of the home-and-home set. “I just have to keep going and stay positive going into the next half of the season.”

The line of Cronin, Jacobs, and freshman Kai Daniells has been gaining confidence.

“We are starting to click a little bit, me and David have played together for a while before college,” said Cronin. “Kai is fitting right in, we are finding our chemistry. I expect big things from us going forward.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty credited his players with showing character in pulling out the tie with Sacred Heart.

“We didn’t start off well, Sacred Heart is a good team,” said Fogarty, who also got a second period goal from Noah de la Durantaye in the contest. “They didn’t have their best last night, and we were on them. They came out hard, we had to keep pulling ourselves up to be resilient again. To come back from a one-goal deficit in the third and get the tie is good. It is not what we wanted, but it is better than a different result.”

Freshman goalie Arthur Smith displayed resilience, recording  eight saves as he entered the game in the third period to relieve starter Ethan Pearson who was shaken up on a collision in the crease late in the second period.

“He is a student of the game, he has exceeded my expectations in where he would be,” said Fogarty of Smith. “He has already established an underclassmen presence — he is a tremendous person. You are seeing him as a good goalie, but he is better person.”

Cronin likewise appreciated Smith’s heroics. “He works really hard, he deserves all of the time he is getting with how well he is playing,” said Cronin. “He made a lot of stops that we really needed from him. I am really proud of the way he stepped in tonight. It is a tough situation to come in mid game and he did really well back there.”

Fogarty credited Cronin with putting in the work over the offseason to get better.

“We talked at the end of last year about what is the process to have more ice (time) and he responded and had a terrific summer,” said Fogarty. “He and David Jacobs just hunt the puck, they are always on the puck. They are very relentless in their style of play. It was great to see the play by DJ to start it, and Jack going hard to the net. He showed the flashes last year with scoring, more on the power play. I think he has got balance in the 5-on-5 now.”

Junior de la Durantaye, who was later named the ECAC Hockey Defenseman of the Week, is showing flashes of brilliance.

“Noah is better, we had a great talk in our meetings this week, just about playing the game simpler,” said Fogarty. “He had a great assist last night, just getting the puck down. We need Noah to contribute offensively. His defensive game has been good, we know he can score. Noah is an underclassman leader — he is great, the guys love him. When he is good, we are better.”

With Princeton going on exam break for the next two weeks and returning to action when it hosts Harvard on December 30, Fogarty believes the Tigers are in a good place as they look ahead to the rest of the campaign.

“We look at the season in three segments; we are leading the Ivy League, that is one of our goals,” said Fogarty. “We want to be in the top four in the ECACH going into the break, and we are one point behind. We wanted to be .500 or above. We were under .500 on the first segment, we are 1-0-1 in this segment so we are on track. I like where we are at. Our starts haven’t been the best over the years, and we have come on at the end. In 2018, we had 13 wins before we went on that run (on the way win to winning the ECACH tournament). I like our resiliency. If we put 60 minutes together in the game, we will be OK.”

Cronin, for his part, believes things are coming together for Princeton.

“We are just such a good group. We all want to be here, there are no real passengers here,” said Cronin. “I am really proud of the way we play and how resilient we are. We have had some games where we have gone down early and we always seem to battle back and get right back into it. We just need to clean up our starts and make sure we show up on time every time. If we can do that, I think we will be in a pretty good spot.”