PRINCETON, N.J. — Since the start of the season, Princeton has talked about being one of the top programs in the ECAC.
Last night, it played like one.
Strong even-strength play, a key power-play goal by senior Kirk Lamb and a bit of good fortune lifted Princeton to a 3-2 win over nationally-ranked Union before 2,083 fans at Baker Rink.
Afterward, the talk was mostly about the much improved even-strength play by Princeton; play that wasn’t reflected in the final shots on goal total of 23-22 Union.
“That’s been an area we needed to improve on,” Princeton head coach Len Quesnelle said. “We had a big video session on that during the week — maybe that drove home the point of what we should be doing 5-on-5 and what we shouldn’t be doing 5-on-5.”
Princeton didn’t do much wrong 5-on-5 Friday night, that’s for sure.
Senior Chris Corrinet scored his ECAC-best ninth goal of the season 43 seconds into the match, beating Rangers prospect and New Jersey-product Brandon Snee with a high glove-side shot from the right circle.
Nearly five minutes later, junior Brad Parsons made it 2-0, poking a cross-ice feed from Lamb past Snee. Union pulled within a goal at 10:10 of the first on Jason Ralph’s shorthanded breakaway goal, and tied it at 5:39 of the second on Seamus Galligan’s power-play goal.
Lamb, however, gave Princeton the lead for good at 7:32 of the second when his centering feed from the left circle deflected off defenseman Doug Christiansen and past Snee for a power-play goal.
Princeton played a strong defensive game the rest of the way, limiting Union to only a few quality chances. The best of those may have come in the closing seconds, when Jason Kean missed a wide open net from the right circle, with goalie Dave Stathos down and out.
“In the room [during the second intermission] we said this is a great opportunity for us — it’s our own barn and our one-goal lead,” Quesnelle said. “The guys really gave a gritty effort in that third period.”
Lamb said: “When we were successful a few years ago, we’d go into third periods with the lead knowing we were going to win. That’s the same thing I see with this team.”
Union head coach Kevin Sneddon credited Princeton for playing a strong game, but tempered that by suggesting his team played better than it appeared.
“We made some mental mistakes and that was the difference,” he said. “We didn’t do a lot wrong. Two mental mistakes and a few bounces their way cost us the game.”
Actually, the line of Corrinet, Lamb and Shane Campbell probably was as much a factor as anything in helping Princeton improve to 5-3-3 overall (4-3-2 ECAC), and snap No. 12 Union’s four-game conference unbeaten streak.
“They give us some offensive punch and a good mix,” said Quesnelle, who reunited the trio for the first time this season after they had played some together last season.
“Shane gives us grit, Chris gives us skill and Lamb is the set-up guy, with his vision and hands.”
Lamb said: “It’s nice to play with other seniors. [As seniors] it’s your team, your year and you want to be accountable. … When you have three seniors on a line, you can’t look past that. We can create things on offense and at the same time not give up anything defensively.”
Scott Esposito is the Princeton beat writer for the Trentonian.