NEWARK, N.J. – Two nights after skating with Ivy League foe Yale, Princeton men’s hockey couldn’t keep up with Merrimack.
The Tigers (0-1-1) fell to the Warriors (5-1-1) 6-1 on Sunday afternoon. Ryan Berlin scored the lone goal for the Tigers, his first collegiate tally.
Six different players netted goals for the Warriors, who chased Colton Phinney from the net in the second. Freshman Ben Halford replaced Phinney for his first collegiate appearance,
“It’s just different team, different game,” Ben Halford said. “It’s a new system, new program with Ron and we’re moving in the right direction but it’s a learning process.”
In the first period, Princeton limited most of Merrimack’s shots to the perimeter. But the Warriors capitalized on three of the shots they took near the net, snapping them past Phinney.
The Warriors managed more quality scoring chances in the next two periods, scoring twice in the second and once in the third.
While dominating puck possession for much of the game, Merrimack capitalized on several defensive breakdowns that allowed the Warriors to close in on Princeton’s net.
“[Guys] were leading a little early,” coach Ron Fogarty said. “Our mission these first two games is to get a barometer of where we’re at and heading into league play. As we indicated on Friday regardless of win, loss, or tie, we know what to work on.”
Fogarty said the breakdowns are a bi-product of the team adjusting to new systems. Sunday was Princeton’s second game of the season, but Merrimack’s sixth.
In an effort to find chemistry, Fogarty mixed up Princeton’s lines again. Marlon Sabo entered the game at forward, while Kevin Liss and Ryan Siiro sat. Tommy Davis returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 16.
“We’re trying different people, different spots. Some guys that are out of the lineup that will get back in in due time,” Fogarty said.
“[We] Have to try to find that chemistry and that comes in practice.”
Along with rotating players, Fogarty wanted to get a look at freshman Halford. Prior to the game, the coaches decided they would have Halford play, depending on the scenario.
“We have to see what we have, and Benny deserves an opportunity to play and he was coming in,” Fogarty said. “He jumped on the ice and I didn’t even tell him to go, so he was ready to go.
“I like that about Benny. He was ready to go.”
Halford took Phinney’s place midway through the third and stopped 14 shots and allowed on goal over
“Our guys did a better job with five minutes to go in the second period, [we] started to get back to our system in the defensive zone,” Fogarty said. “We weren’t chasing, we were starting to push back out.
“So we gave him an opportunity to make some easier saves off the get g,o and I think our guys rely a little bit too heavily on Colton so it was good for guys to make that adjustment.”
Fogarty said he found 60 minutes of positives from the effort.
“I know we have upperlassmen, but it’s all as freshmen would be right now, learning something new, and from a freshman coach,” Fogarty said. “We’re going to take our bumps and at Christmas time we’ll have a better feel of where we’re at.”