January 3, 2024

With Daniells, Carabin Making Key Contributions, PU Men’s Hockey Rallies to Defeat Harvard 5-2

SPECIAL KAI: Princeton University men’s hockey player Kai Daniells fires a shot last Saturday against Harvard. Freshman forward Daniells tallied an assist and the go-ahead goal as Princeton rallied from a 2-0 second period deficit to top Harvard 5-2. The Tigers, now 6-5-2 overall and 5-3-1 ECAC Hockey, play a two-game set at New Hampshire on January 5 and 6. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Kai Daniells is looking to establish himself as a playmaker for the Princeton University men’s hockey team while Nick Carabin is trying to set a good example for the squad’s younger players.

Freshman forward Daniells has been gaining a comfort level as he has adjusted to college hockey.

“The biggest thing is getting used to your linemates and teammates, getting comfortable and confidence,” said Daniells. “That is the biggest thing and just trust yourself to make plays. I think a lot of the growing pains are out of the way for sure. I want to build on that and keep going.”

Senior defenseman and assistant captain Carabin, for his part, has gained the trust of his teammates through his efforts over the years.

“In my senior year, I have really stepped into a leadership role,” said Carabin. “I think the guys look up to me too, I want to keep that going. I want to prove my leadership role on the ice too and prove that I am a person to emulate.”

Last Saturday as Princeton hosted Harvard and overcame a 2-0 second period deficit to prevail 5-2 before a standing-room-only crowd of 2,453 packing Hobey Baker Rink, Daniells and Carabin achieved those goals.

Daniells had an assist and the go-ahead goal in a scintillating second period which saw the Tigers outscore the Crimson 3-0 and seize momentum in the contest on the way to improving to 6-5-2 overall and 5-3-1 ECAC Hockey. Carabin assisted on two of the second period goals and added a goal in the third in addition to spearheading the Tiger defense.

Daniells was not surprised by Princeton’s second period outburst, which featured two power play goals.

“We are a very offensive group, we can strike at any second and in bunches,” said Daniells. “We trust ourselves; we have got a ton of good players in here to get the job done. The power play has been good all year. We have got a lot of good offensive minded players on the power play. The guys  have created a lot of good chemistry.”

Daniells picked up his assist as he helped set up Adam Robbins on Princeton’s first power play goal which came with 12:03 left in the second period.

“I could tell they were pushing me down a little bit, taking away Carabin,” said Daniells. “I read off that and make them think a little bit and push them down and open them up a little bit and have [Adam] Robbins come circle around. We talked about that between periods, it is a look we had. Once we got the puck, I didn’t really make the play that I wanted to but I popped it put to him and luckily he put it in.”

With seconds remaining in the period, Daniells got the Baker Rink throng roaring as he dove into the crease area and redirected the puck off his body into the back of the net for a power play goal to give Princeton a 3-2 lead.

“I was about to change, but Ron (Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty) yelled at me to stay out there,” said Daniells,  a 6’0, 185-pound native of Whistler, British Columbia, who now has four goals and six assists on the season. “I saw [Nick] Seitz come wide and I could see that he was looking pass all the way. I put as much of my body and my stick, my skate, my legs as much as I could to redirect it in and it went off my skate and luckily it was counted.”

Heading into that second period, Carabin sensed that the Tigers  were primed for a rally.

“We got back in the locker room and regrouped, we talked it out,” sad Carabin. “We weren’t nervous at all. We know what our team has to offer. We knew we could come back, we have done it before plenty of times. We were fine going in the second period.”

Carabin helped ignite the comeback, picking up an assist on a goal by Jaxson Ezman early in the second period which got Princeton on the board.

“So on the first goal, I think I got it up; it was a 3 on 2 and I was lucky enough that Seitz made a great backhand pass to Ezman,” said Carabin. “That definitely sparked the comeback for sure, just getting that first goal. Getting the first one is the hardest one. Once one comes, they all start coming.”

Along with Daniells, Carabin got an assist on the goal by Robbins.

“The power play has been great all year, tonight it was going pretty well,” said Carabin, a 5’10, 195-pound native of Mahwah, who scored his goal on a short-handed empty netter with 3:19 left in regulation and now has two goals and six assists this season. “I got lucky with an assist on the goal by Robby. We are clicking, hopefully it keeps going.”

The Tiger defense got clicking after a shaky first period, holding Harvard to 15 shots over the last two periods after the Crimson had 15 in the first 20 minutes of the contest.

“The first period, we are coming off a break and we were shaking off all of the gunk in our gears,” said Carabin who was later named the ECACH Defender of the Week for the first time in his career. “They are a fast team too, we have to give them credit for that. After the first period, I think our d-men settled in. We were really able to gap up and take away their time and space.”

Daniells credited coach Fogarty with inspiring the Tigers to close the deal.

“That was something we talked about in the intermission; Ron [Fogarty] had a big speech with us there to get us fired up,” said Daniells. “It was a big building black, a big learning curve to hold onto the lead and build on that lead and not play scared, but play aggressive. Regulation wins are great.”

Fogarty, for his part, utilized a tactical change to help slow down the Crimson after the first period.

“We started with a 1-2-2 forecheck and then went to a 2-3,” said Fogarty. “They had too many free skates, they were showing their speed. We did a good job of suppressing it with our third guy high.”

The Tigers showed their speed as they got the power play going.

“They did a good job of sealing the middle so we had to do some wall play,” said Fogarty. “It was a broken play for Kai. We had some chances to get the momentum going our way. The first goal by Ezman was big to get us going.”

Princeton kept it going in the third period, responding to Fogarty’s message at the second intermission.

“The guys are great; I just told them it is up to you 26 guys, what do you want to do,” said Fogarty. “You are battling for championships this year — you do want to close them out or let them involved in the game. I thought we did a good job.”

Fogarty liked the way Daniells battled back from a mistake in the first period.

“He had a bad turnover on that second goal and we discussed that,” said Fogarty. “We believe in him, we threw him right back out there. He is still learning but he is doing a great job as a first year player.”

As for Carabin, Fogarty was glad to see him back on the ice after being sidelined recently due to injury.

“He was good, we lost Nicky with the rib injury after the Union game; he tried to play against RPI and he couldn’t do it,” said Fogarty. “He helps out on the power play. As a senior who is an all-around defenseman, we really need him in the lineup.”

Senior forward Seitz helped trigger the Tiger offense against Harvard, picking up three assists.

“He was playing with an injury the first half of the year, the break for him was really good,” said Fogarty. “He’s back and closer to 100 percent than he was. It was one of those injuries that were nagging, you can see the change of pace in his game.”

The trio of Seitz, sophomore Ezman, and freshman Joshua Karnish has been picking up the pace as they develop a chemistry.

“I thought that line was really good, that line brings a lot of speed,” said Fogarty. “If that is our third line, that is a pretty good third line. They are fast and they are tenacious.”

With Princeton playing a two-game set at No. 17 New Hampshire (9-5-1) on January 5 and 6, Fogarty is looking for the Tigers to keep showing tenacity collectively.

“This is our second segment and we are 2-0-1 in this segment of the 10 games,” said Fogarty. “Now we are going to enter a pretty good gauntlet here, playing a lot of road games. We have got to play smart hockey.”

Daniells believes that Princeton can build on the win over Harvard.

“It is a confidence builder for the whole team,” said Daniells. “We can play with swagger now and that will serve us well moving forward.”

Carabin, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will keep moving in the right direction.

“We have a big team coming up in UNH with two back-to-back against them,” said Carabin. “Hopefully we can keep this rolling through them and into Quinnipiac.”