THOM TERRIFIC: Princeton University men’s hockey player Matthew Thom, right, controls the puck in recent action. Senior defenseman and team captain Thom will be looking to extend his college career as 10th-seeded Princeton (8-19-2 overall and 7-14-1 ECAC Hockey) plays at seventh-seeded Union (12-17-4 overall, 9 -11-2 ECACH) in a best-of-three ECAH first round series starting on March 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
It was a tough weekend to end a rough regular season for the Princeton University men’s hockey team.
Hosting a trio of rivals, Princeton lost 4-3 to Colgate on Friday night after squandering a 3-2 third period lead and then got blanked 4-0 by No. 18 Cornell on Saturday and fell 3-0 to Harvard a day later.
The defeats left the Tigers at 8-19-2 overall and 7-14-1 ECAC Hockey heading into the first round of the league playoffs where the Tigers are seeded 10th and will head to New York to play at seventh-seeded Union (12 -17-4 overall, 9-11-2 ECACH) for a best-of-three series starting on March 4.
“We haven’t had one practice or one game where we had an entire roster the entire season with COVID and injuries,” said Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty, whose team is mired in a six-game losing streak. “It has been a challenge, but it has been an enjoyable grind. Now it’s playoff time and hopefully we’ll get some of these injured guys back. ”
The Tigers were shorthanded as they faced Harvard in the regular season finale.
“The game plan was similar to any other game we’ve had through the year,” said Fogarty. “It was just stay on top of it but we are decimated with injuries we have. Finn [Evans] is out, one of our leading point scorers, Ian Murphy, is out. We have David Ma out and Jeremy Forget is coming back at goalie from an injury. ”
Junior goalie Aidan Porter was on top of his game against the Crimson, making 30 saves, including a dazzling stop on his back when Princeton killed off a 5-on-3 in the second period.
“That was the best save I have ever seen,” said Fogarty. “He has done a great job, he is battling. We have been flip-flopping goalies all season. We just need the hot hand here. It was a great performance by him to keep us in the game. ”
Looking ahead to the matchup with Union, Fogarty is excited to be getting into the postseason.
“We will study the tape and put the best game plan in,” said Fogarty, whose team fell 1-0 in overtime to Union on December 3 and lost 7-3 to the Dutchmen on February 5.
“The players will need to execute and we need a couple of goals. It is always a breath of fresh air to go into the playoffs. ”
Fogarty will be leaning on his three “super” seniors, Matthew Thom, Luke Keenan, and Mark Paolini, who helped Princeton win the 2018 ECACH championship and sweep Dartmouth in an opening round series in 2020 before the season was halted due to the global pandemic, to lead the way for the squad’s younger players.
“The leadership group has the experience of winning a lot of playoff games and knowing what a grind it is,” said Fogarty. “Everyone has to be on the same page and not improvise. It has to be a strict game plan, it has to be executed to move on. They have that knowledge. It is important now that they inform and educate the underclassmen of what the playoffs are about. It is going to take that leadership group to help navigate here this week. It is a grind but it is an enjoyable grind. ”