PRINCETON, N.J. — Princeton looked like it felt the effects of a 20-day layoff as the Tigers fell to Notre Dame 2-1 Friday night at Hobey Baker Rink in a non-conference game.
Playing for the first time since a 4-2 victory at Rensselaer Dec. 8, Princeton allowed Notre Dame to dominate the first 20 minutes as the Fighting Irish fired 19 shots at freshman goalie Trevor Clay. Despite yielding two first-period goals, Clay made several spectacular saves, including six during a two-man advantage midway through the period.
Seeing only his second action of the season, and first since Nov. 3, Clay finished with 41 saves. After stopping 17 in the first period, Clay stopped 13 in the second and 11 in the third.
“I saw an average of 45 shots a game last year,” Clay said, remembering his days with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Hockey League. “But I probably would have liked a couple less in the first period tonight.”
With Clay pulled in favor of an extra attacker, the Tigers cut the lead to 2-1 at 18:20 of the third. Senior David Del Monte, the Tigers’ leading scorer, gathered the puck at the right faceoff circle, cut toward the center of the ice and beat Notre Dame goalie Morgan Cey high to the blocker side just inside the post.
Playing without captain David Schneider, who will miss four to six weeks with a fractured foot, the Tigers’ late surge couldn’t counteract their inconsistent play earlier in the game.
“Any time you let a team come into your barn and outshoot you like that, it’s unacceptable,” said Del Monte. “It’s too bad we didn’t give [Clay] any help. You either play for 60 minutes or you set yourself up for a loss. We just seem to lack consistency.”
Princeton managed just 22 shots on Cey, nine in the third period. “Notre Dame is a good team,” Del Monte said, “but we made it easy for them by not skating. When you’re in a slump, you have to put the puck on net and go for rebounds.”
Clay finally succumbed to the first-period pressure at 13:22. After a Princeton turnover in front of its bench at the blue line, David Inman skated down the left wing and his two-on-one pass deflected of Tiger defenseman Neil McCann and past Clay.
Despite being outplayed, Princeton was down just a goal, but its fourth penalty of the first period cost the Tigers with just 40 seconds to play.
It looked like Clay stopped Michael Chin’s shot, but the puck deflected off his left pad and into the net, giving the Fighting Irish a power-play goal and a 2-0 lead.
With No. 2 goalie Nate Nomeland out four to six weeks with a fractured hand, Princeton coach Len Quesnelle decided to give Clay some playing time in the first of two games against Notre Dame.
“Trevor had an outstanding performance,” Quesnelle said.
“I want to see 60 minutes of hard work tomorrow night,” he said of the rematch that will be played at Sovereign Bank Arena, home of the ECHL’s Trenton Titans, on Saturday. Faceoff is 7:30 p.m.