When the Princeton Tigers hit the ice on Oct. 17 for the first day of practice, one of their goals was to play two more home games at Hobey Baker Rink in March for the first time since 2013.
With a 7-2 win over Brown on Friday night and a 4-2 win against Yale Saturday evening, the Tigers moved from a ninth-place tie to sole possession of seventh place and will host Colgate in the first round of the ECAC tournament after finishing 8-11-3 in the conference and 13-13-3 overall.
The Tigers started the season 0-6-1.
“The players had the initial goal heading into the season of hosting a playoff series,” Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said. “It was great to see them achieve that feat and it came down to the last game, which was great. We stayed with it for 29 games and I believe our standard of play has gotten better throughout the season. Now, we are excited to host the first round in the ECAC tournament.”
Princeton picked up eight of those wins at Hobey Baker Rink, going 8-4-2 at home.
“The following and the crowds have been great the entire time I have been here,” Fogarty said. “We have been giving them a little more to cheer about this season, but we have captured home-ice advantage again. Our rink configuration is a little bit different than others with a little bit more room behind the net. We have to use that to our advantage and we have been with our offensive-zone possesion time. It’s great to play in front of your home fans during a playoff series. I know the players are excited for Friday.”
For the seniors, the 13 wins this season nearly matched the 15 wins they amassed the previous three seasons combined.
“The past few years, we haven’t had this opportunity, so it’s been a fun ride,” senior captain Ryan Siiro told the Princeton website. “It was an attainable goal, and pretty much the only goal we set out at the start of the year. With the start we had and coming back to .500, it shows a lot of grit and it’s just a great opportunity for us.”
While many of the Tigers’ seniors haven’t contributed on the score sheet this season, they have been willing to whatever takes to get wins for the team.
“The senior class has accepted any and every role the past three years I have been at Princeton,” Fogarty said. “The biggest thing is they want to win. If you want to win, you are going to do things that are going to help the team that’s going to achieve that goal. They have done a great job of challenging at the task at hand. The first two years have been difficult, but they stayed with it.”
The six skating seniors in Tommy Davis, Ben Foster, Quin Pompi, Garrett Skbich, Hayden Anderson and Siiro have combined for 37 points this season.
Fogarty said the seniors make their impact on the penalty kill and the energy line.
The biggest senior who has made an impact has been goaltender Colton Phinney. While his GAA is higher (3.16) than it was in 2015-16 (2.86), and his save percentage (.907) is lower than it was a year ago (.924), he is facing less shots this season.
There’s a simple explanation for that.
“We’ve had the puck more,” Fogarty chuckled. “When you have the puck more, you have better defense. We have managed to possess the puck with greater amounts of time this season, which translates in few attempts against.”
All season long, the Tigers have taken a one-game-at-a-time approach and won’t look back at the the 4-3 loss to the Raiders in November and a 2-2 tie in January.
“From it, we take nothing,” Fogarty said. “We worry about ourselves and continuing our standard of play and what we need to do well to put us in a position to have an opportunity to win. We have been playing well down the stretch in a course of the last month and we have to continue things that we do well.”
Players of the Week
• Harvard’s Ryan Donato has been named the Player of the Week with his three goals and two assists in the games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
• Phinney has been named the Goalie of the Week as he went 2-0 on the weekend in the games against Brown and Yale. He had a 1.50 GAA and a .985 save percentage.
• Quinnipiac goalie Andrew Shortridge was named Rookie of the Week with his 2-0 record after a 3-2 win over Yale on Friday night and a 4-1 win over the Brown Bears.
ECAC alumni moved at NHL trade deadline
Wednesday was the NHL trade deadline and a few ECAC alumni were dealt.
Former St. Lawrence goaltender Mike McKenna moved from the Florida Panthers organization to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and former Union defenseman Mat Bodie moved from the New York Rangers organization to the Buffalo Sabres organization on Tuesday.
Playoffs to be broadcast on BoxCast
The entire men’s tournament, including the two semifinals games and championship, will be streamed online beginning Friday, March 3, at www.ecachockey.com.
This marks the tenth consecutive year that postseason action from ECAC Hockey can be viewed around the world.
Fans can watch complete coverage of the ECAC tournament on mobile devices as well as standard PCs and Macs. The games will also be available on iOS devices and Androids.