When you win only three games almost anything is an improvement. Unless, of course, you manage to win less often. That shouldn’t be an issue, however, for this Princeton squad. The Tigers are far from moving up the standings, but they should manage a few more wins and could be dangerous if taken lightly — as their 2-1 win at Harvard in January will attest.
— Head coach Len Quesnelle
The Tigers return their top two scorers from a season ago, but there isn’t much more offense to speak of. Even so, senior Chris Owen led last year’s Tigers with 17 goals and 23 points while riding shotgun on Mike Patton’s wing. The junior center tallied 10 goals and 23 points and will team with Owen again this season.
“As our returning point leaders,” said head coach Len Quesnelle, “[they] will be looked upon to continue their strong seasons and contribute.
“All of our returning players have accumulated a great deal of experience,” added Quesnelle. “There were a lot of tough lessons learned along the way, but that experience is what will make us more prepared this season. I thought the sophomores had a good year as freshmen. They were given the opportunity to contribute and they took advantage of it. We will look to this year’s freshmen to do the same.”
Quesnelle also seems happier with his blueliners and he’s recommitted his club to tighter team defense.
“I really like the pieces we have returning on defense,” he said. “We have a strong set of defensive defensemen … and guys who know how to step in and create off the rush.”
The Tigers averaged only two goals per game last season while serving up a whopping 4.5 per contest. Of their goals, nearly a third came off the blades of Owen and Patton. Others desperately need to step up their contributions if the Tigers have plans to improve on their three wins from a season ago.
A young team, Princeton will also need to avoid the pitfalls that crushed them last year. Specifically, they’ll need to play a full 60 minutes each night. Want proof? The Tigers entered the third period tied on 14 occasions in 2002-03 only to emerge with a 0-13-1 record. Ouch!
Youth can be a killer sometimes, and the Tigers will experience that woeful practice again this season. With 17 underclassmen, Princeton is still searching for its team identity and is desperate for some locker room leadership. Quesnelle intentionally left the captain positions — usually filled at the previous season’s end — open until a group emerges from preseason practice sessions.
“We hope,” explained Quesnelle, “that by not voting for a captain, we gave several players the opportunity to lead over the summer and as we get ready to return to the ice.”
It is an unconventional approach, but at this point, anything is worth trying.