PRINCETON, N.J. – Halfway through the third period, it looked as if Princeton would skate to a 3-3 tie with the Russian Red Stars.
With less than 10 minutes left, assistant captain Mike Ambrosia converted Marlon Sabo’s shot into the game-winning goal.
It was Ambrosia’s third point of the night as the Tigers defeated the Russian Red Stars 4-3 on Saturday afternoon.
“I think it was huge,” Ambrosia said. “I think a win’s a win, no matter if it’s in league play or exhibition.”
While only an exhibition game, it marked Princeton’s first win since Nov. 28 against Michigan State. The Tigers are on a regular-season losing streak of six games, including a pair of shutout losses to Quinnipiac last week.
“Especially for us the last few weeks, we haven’t been able to get the results we wanted,” Ambrosia said. “For the team, for our confidence, it’s important that we got that result.”
Princeton came out with energy, dominated play for most of the game and generating scoring chances.
“I treat it like a [regular-season] game,” Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said. “Absolutely. [If] you keep track of the stats, it’s a game. It only doesn’t count for NCAA stats, but again we treat it like a game so it’s good to see us score four goals.”
Princeton scored four goals for the first time this season, thanks to tallies from Joe Grabowski, Ryan Siiro and Tucker Brockett. Ben Foster recorded two assists.
Grabowski scored on a five-minute major late in the first period, after Andrei Churkin boarded freshman Max Becker. Becker, who was slow to get up, left the game and did not return. Fogarty said there was no update on Becker’s condition.
Fogarty said it was important for the Tigers, who had been shutout in its last three games, to convert their scoring chances.
“We got some timely power plays goals there,” Fogarty said. “But I didn’t like our response off the third goal. To let a team back in 3-3, that’s poor focus there late in the second period.”
It took the Red Stars a span of less than two minutes in the second to topple Princeton and tie the game. Kirill Vorobyov scored late to cut it 3-2, and Nikolai Demidov scored roughly a minute later to tie the game.
“That proves, against a team like this with skilled players, if you have mental breakdown or a physical breakdown, they’re going to put the puck in the back of the net,” Ambrosia said. “That showed tonight, but we were resilient. We were able to get the win tonight.”
Despite the second-period lapse, Saturday’s win marked the third-straight game Princeton has put together a consistent effort. Princeton again limited its opponent to less than 30 shots, keeping most to the perimeter. The Tigers also outshot the Red Stars 31-21, marking the first time this season Princeton took more shots than an opponent.
“That’s definitely encouraging,” Ambrosia said. “We haven’t really put together a three-game stretch in terms of keeping shots down, playing better defensively. Today, to get goals, we’ve struggled to get some goals lately but I think that just gives us confidence going into the second half here.”
Senior Ryan Benitez, who spent most of his time as Princeton’s third-string goalkeeper, made his first collegiate start.
“It was really exciting,” Benitez said. “I was pretty anxious to get out there and I was a little bit nervous because it had been many years since I’d played a game. But it was cool, and once you get out there and the game starts, it’s kind of just like what we know how to do, so it wasn’t too bad once the game started.”
Benitez, who served as the backup in Princeton’s loss to Minnesota State before break, allowed three goals and finished with 14 saves.
“He’s a hard worker, [he] competes hard and he stopped the puck,” Fogarty said. “If he wasn’t doing that, he wouldn’t have started. [We] treat it like a regular game. [He] deserved the start and he got the job done and gave us a chance to win.”
Colton Phinney received a rare night off, and Ben Halford entered the third period in relief. He made six stops en route to earning the win.
“The first half was about improving, the second half is about execution and we’re playing a lot better today than on Day One,” Fogarty said.