PRINCETON, N.J. — One of George Harrison’s most beloved songs was “Here Comes the Sun.” On the day rock fans throughout the world mourned his passing, Princeton’s “Sunshine Line” melted the long, cold lonely winter that has been the Tigers season thus far.
The freshman trio of James Fitzpatrick, Mike Patton and Neil Stevenson-Moore, nicknamed the “Sunshine Line” for the yellow jerseys they wore in preseason practices, accounted for both Tiger goals as Princeton edged Colgate, 2-1, Friday in front of 1,610 at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
Fitzpatrick dashed his way out of the right corner on the power play to beat backup Colgate goaltender David Cann, snapping a 1-1 tie at 14:02 of the third. It was the second goal of the season for the rookie out of Lawrenceville, N.J. and his first game-winner.
“Some guys have said that we haven’t been working as hard as we could, and tonight we did that,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s nice to get some goals, especially on the power play.”
After getting badly out-shot, 11-4, in the first period, Princeton began to turn up the jets about seven minutes into the second period when the team cycled hard and kept the puck in the Raider zone for about one minute of sustained attack.
The rest of the team took its cue from the crashers and at 9:29, Stevenson-Moore motored down the left wing and uncorked a knuckler that beat Cann short side.
Princeton did not relent, in fact the quality of the Tigers chances increased throughout the frame, culminating in a shot by sophomore defenseman Matt Maglione from the slot on a late-breaking three-on-two down low. However, Cann proved equal to the task making 17 saves and Princeton, in perhaps its best displays of sustained pressure all season, had to settle for just Stevenson-Moore’s goal.
“We moved the puck well, especially in the second period,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “We had some point blank opportunities and rebounds that maybe if our sticks were on the ice, they go in the net. When we move our feet, we are able to be effective. I saw our guys really try and work a forecheck in the second period.”
Colgate tied up the score at 7:28 of the third period. Scooter Smith tapped in one of the few golden rebounds Princeton goalie Dave Stathos gave up on the night.
The Raiders sent 17 shots at Stathos in the final period, but the goaltender made sure that the Tigers offensive effort resulted in victory. He made at least five big saves during a harrowing, 48-second two man-advantage for Colgate down the stretch. The Raiders came up empty on six power-play opportunities, while Princeton was 1-for-5.
“I thought that after the first period, maybe Princeton thought that they dodged a bullet,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “But after the second period, we thought we dodged a bullet. It was an even game played between two evenly matched teams, based on our records, and the difference was they scored on the power play and we didn’t.”
All told, Cann stopped 31 Tiger shots, while Stathos nabbed 33.
“Stathos had a great game for us,” Quesnelle said. “He saw the puck very well. There is a funnel that you can draw from the faceoff circle to the net and he left very few rebounds in that area.”
Princeton’s offense was charmed before the game began as it welcomed back senior Brad Parsons, who had played in only one game this year before injuring his knee. Parsons is the only Princeton player with more than 30 career points. Though not exactly burning out the lamp with 28 goals and 26 assists in his first three years, he is the man expected to shoulder the load while the Sunshine Line continues to develop.
The three freshmen have coalesced ever since that fateful practice yielded them their nickname. Good friends off the ice as well, they give Princeton its best combination of speed, stick-handling, and on-ice energy when they are clicking and with Parsons out, have been the Tigers best unit.
“We knew we were working hard in the first period, but we didn’t have our heads in it,” said Princeton captain Dave Schneider. “Once we got it going though we dominated the second period. I don’t even know how many minutes we had in their zone.”
Princeton’s offensive performance was a marked change from its last two games, a 6-1 drubbing by Yale and a 3-1 win by Northeastern. The team will receive a much greater test tomorrow, against No. 9 Cornell, but for one night, the game was like a warm ray of sunshine coming through, courtesy of a trio of freshmen.
“Even the nickname helps us,” Schneider said. “It makes us feel that we are doing some right to have gotten a nickname.”
Sun, sun, sun here it comes.