Introducing The Behind The Blue Line Blog

Behind The Blue LineI announcd a few months ago that I would start keeping an actual blog to accompany my coverage for this season. This is the blog, which I’m calling “Behind the Blue Line.”

It’s going to be a place for thoughts, notes, quotes and other misselleanous information from the season that isn’t hard news, game stories or a feature. In the past I’ve ran midweek notebooks, and those will shift to this blog.

 

There’ll be more content on the blog as the season approaches, including a look back at last year and what to expect for this year.

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Jack Berger Reflects On A Season Spent Playing Abroad

Princeton captain Jack Berger

When Princeton hockey alumnus Jack Berger moved to Sweden to play in the Division I league, he thought the coffee was free.

“It’s different there, it’s like serve yourself. They just put out pots of coffee. I’m like, oh, this great. You just go places and you get free coffee. I really like that about Sweden,” Berger said.

One day, Berger chose to go out for fika – a traditional Swedish coffee break.

“I guess you’re supposed to do it in a group like socially, but I didn’t know because I hadn’t been on one yet,” Berger said.

He went by himself, read a book, had a pastry and had four cups of free coffee.

“We’re at the rink the next day and the guys are making fun of me for going by myself,” Berger said.

Berger asked his teammates to show him what fika really is, so the next day Berger and several of his teammates went to another coffee shop.

“They’re in front of me and they’re paying for coffee,” Berger said. “We get our pastries and they’re like, ‘So what do you think?’

“I’m like, ‘This is great, but I think I like the place with the free coffee a little bit better.’

“They’re like, ‘What are you talking about? You can’t get free coffee anywhere.”

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Berger was surprised.

“Apparently you’re supposed to pay for coffee everywhere and I was just stealing it,” Berger said. “So thank god no one ever caught me or got mad at me, because it’s this tiny town. I would’ve been banned so all of the pastry shops for the rest of the year.

“But that was kind of the wake-up moment that maybe I should ask people how things work over there. But I did not get in trouble. They gave me a hard time about that for I think literally the rest of the year.”

It was one cultural difference Berger encountered while spending his post-graduate year playing professional hockey in Sweden.

“It’s just much more of a laid back culture. They just kind of take life a little bit slower. I think they have different values, different priorities,” Berger said. “They value their leisure, they value their free time. They really sitting down and relaxing and being with friends and family,”

While the focus on family and friends doesn’t differ too much from life in the U.S., Berger said Sweden isn’t as focused on working.

“They just seem much more level-headed and balanced about everything,” Berger said. “I think that’s the biggest thing with that culture. They are so, so good at doing everything in moderation [and] they’re just very balanced people.”

The former Princeton captain had hoped to play in Sweden due to his Swedish heritage, and he heard good things about the Nybro organization from a family friend.

“It was definitely a bit of an adjustment in terms of buying groceries in a different language and cooking and living on my own, but the team was really great. … They did a very good job taking care of myself and the other imports,” Berger said.

Hockey in Sweden offered a different style of play, one that was more focused skating and training.

“I think one of the biggest factors is that they play on any Olympic ice sheet and so that changes the way that you can play a lot,” Berger said.

Berger said the game isn’t as physical and Sweden and is more reliant on skating.

“It’s not as much stopping and starting. It’s a lot of maintaining speed and maintaining possession,” Berger said. “I think that means the priority really changes the way the game is played. It’s a lot of systems and it’s not as much forechecking. You really are more careful with your chances. It was a different style and I had to learn to kind of control my play a little bit more, which people don’t do as much in college.”

For Berger, the most memorable moment came from a weekend when Nybro needed to win to earn a place outside the lower playoffs. But the Vikings played poorly for the first two periods.

“We went into the locker room before the third and a bunch of guys just were very honest about what we needed to do, what we had done and what was on the line,” Berger said.

The Vikings trailed by two goals, but came back in the third and won the game.

“It was a huge game for us down the line in the season,” Berger said. “It’s just [a] really cool, strong bonding experience that we were able to pull that off and battle through with almost everything on the line.”

While spending the year abroad, Berger traveled during his winter break and after the season ended. He visited Copenhagen, Stockholm and London. After the season ended, Berger and some teammates toured Gothenburg and Helsinki. He then traveled for two and half weeks, visiting Berlin, Prague, Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Hamburg.

“I’d never been to Europe before and I didn’t really know what to expect,” Berger said. “It was just nice to see that at the end of the day, at least in the hockey community. … I think the people are just people.

“We might come from different backgrounds and there might be differences in opinions and things like that, but I think that if you’re open to communication and friendly that you could really connect with anyone, no matter where they’re from or where you’re from.”

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Comparing Season Stats: Colton Phinney (Interactive)

Entering the 2014-15 season, Colton Phinney had appeared in 18 games, splitting playing time with senior Sean Bonar. This season, Phinney earned the starting role – appearing in 30 games, all but one. Earlier this year, Eye on the Tigers looked at the difference in Phinney’s stats midway through the season. While stats only tell part of the story, I was interested in seeing the effect starting consistently had on Phinney’s numbers.

I compiled a couple of interactive plots comparing Phinney’s stats from both his freshman and sophomore year. I wanted to see the difference in his save percentage and goals-against average on a game-by-game and season basis. To do this, I compiled four different interactive line plots – one compares his freshman and sophomore game save percentages and another his game GAA. The last two charts look at how his overall season GAA and save percentage changed after each game.

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I’m not suggesting save percentage and goals-against average stats are the best or only way determine how good a goalie is. I usually disregard GAA, since it’s more of a team stat. A save percentage isn’t the greatest way either, but it’s the best stat we have to measure goaltenders. This is also a very small sample size, so it’s tough to draw concrete conclusions. But it appears as though consistency in starts, as well as having a stable system in place, has helped Phinney’s numbers.

As a freshman, Phinney’s save percentage was .901. He appeared in 18 games and started 17, splitting his starts with senior Sean Bonar. There were several instances where Phinney started back-to-back games, including three weekends where he played both nights.

In his sophomore season, Phinney was the starter. His save percentage increased to .910 through the 29 games he played. Phinney also started 28 contests.

The first chart below looks at how Phinney’s game save percentage changed. It’s a small sample size so it’s hard to draw a conclusion on whether the consistency in starts helped Phinney’s save percentage, but it did vary a lot less his sophomore year – the dips weren’t as extreme as the season went on.

This next graph looks at his game goals-against average, which is more of a team stat. It’s basically an inverted look at the first graph, showing us the spikes where Phinney’s save percentage dipped.

Looking at the first two charts you can see that Phinney’s numbers are more consistent, especially later on in the season. It’s worth noting the team as a whole became more consistent later, once they became comfortable with the new systems.

These last two graphs show the change in Phinney’s seasons goals-against average and save percentage. They’ll mostly mimic the first two.

You can see that Phinney’s save percentage as a whole is higher his sophomore year than his freshman year. With more consistent numbers,

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Making Eye on the Tigers Subscription Based

I’d like to announce that, after much consideration, I’m putting a paywall on Eye On The Tigers.

It was very a difficult decision. For the past two years I have used my own funds and time to develop and maintain Eye on the Tigers, and provide quality coverage.

I’ve spent countless hours putting together news stories, features, in-depth game coverage, photo galleries and interactives. And I’ve loved covering Princeton hockey and getting to know the community over that time.

Now, in order to continue providing Princeton hockey coverage, I need your support.

The site has taken me from a side project to a full-time job. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the wonderful Princeton hockey community that’s stepped up in the past to help me, and I hope you’ll help me again – so I can continue covering this team and bringing quality coverage.

You will need a subscription package to access:

  • All features
  • Photo galleries
  • Interactives
  • Recruit roundups

Here’s the subscription price breakdown:

  • $8.99 per month
  • $100 per year

That price equates to roughly three coffees per month – so if you could spare that much to lend a little support, I would greatly appreciate it! Especially because if I don’t get enough subscriptions, I won’t be able to cover the team anymore.

You can see the subscription options below, which includes an option to pay per article.

If you have any questions/concerns, please reach out to me at jashvinapshah@gmail.com or info@eyeontheprincetontigers.com. Thank you, and I look forward to the next chapter of Princeton hockey coverage!

P.S.: If you purchase a subscription, please avoid sharing passwords! I’ve put a lot of effort into covering Princeton hockey and need the monetary support to keep the coverage and site running.

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Getting To Know the Freshmen Tigers: Max Veronneau

Max Veronneau Freshman Q&AMax Veronneau spent the last two seasons playing in the CCHL with fellow freshman Ryan Kuffner. During the 2013-14 season, Veronneau finished fifth in CCHL scoring, netting 80 points (41g, 39a) over 61 games. The forward was invited to the Central Canada Cup All-Star Challenge but missed the games due to an injury, something that also cost him much of the season. When the forward did play, he recorded 40 points (17g, 23a) in 33 games. In total. Veronneau had 123 points (59g, 64a) in 98 games.

Eye On The Tigers caught up with Veronneau to see what the incoming freshman had to say:

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Why did you choose Princeton University?

I chose Princeton University because it is an amazing opportunity to play Division 1 hockey while studying at one of the most renowned schools in the world. After touring the campus and meeting the new coaching staff, I knew that this is a unique opportunity and the right choice for me.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to experiencing what Princeton University has to offer. From the diversity of my fellow classmates to being a Princeton Tiger, I am truly excited about the next four years.

When did you get into hockey? What’s your earliest memory?

I started skating when I was three and began playing hockey one year later. My earliest memory is playing at the Canadian Tire Center (where the Ottawa Senators play) for a special community event that was held for four and five-year-olds. It was a lot of fun playing in such a big arena.

What NHL team did you grow up rooting for and why?

Having been born and raised in Ottawa, the Senators are my favorite team. The Sens have been a very entertaining team to watch over the years, and the community rallies around its players, from the best defender in the NHL – Erik Karlsson – to last year’s goalie phenom Andrew “the Hamburglar” Hammond.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?

Growing up, I was always one of the youngest and smallest players on my team. When I was younger, I was cut a few times. The disappointment acted as an incentive for me to push harder and keep developing my skills. Everything finally came together when I was 17. Perseverance pays off in the end.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen when playing hockey?

The strangest thing I’ve seen while playing hockey occurred at the Ontario Major Peewee Provincial Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont. Our team had to win in order to qualify for the playoffs. I had a great game, putting the puck in the net 4 times. Unfortunately, the referees inexplicably disallowed three of my goals and we ended up losing 6-4. It was a long trip home.

Who’s the most influential person in your hockey career?

My parents are the most influential people in my life and hockey career. They have always supported me through thick and thin and have sacrificed a lot of their time to allow me to pursue my hockey dream. They believed in me and let me pursue hockey even when it was difficult and challenging. I would not be at Princeton today if it wasn’t for them.

What’s the most exciting experience you’ve ever had?

The most exciting experience I have had is – of course – a hockey experience. In Major Peewee, we were in the League Championship final series against the heavily favored Ottawa Valley Titans. The Titans had dominated the season. Our team managed to push the series to the final, seventh game. The arena was packed, it felt like the entire city of Ottawa was there. The game was tied after regulation time expired. The first 2 overtime periods decided nothing. After many long hours, the game eventually ended in the third overtime period, when, after killing a penalty, our team scored the winning goal on a breakaway. I remember it vividly – it was the most exciting game I have ever played.

What do you plan on majoring in/what are your academic interests?

I plan on majoring in either Mechanical Engineering or Operations Research and Financial Engineering. They both intrigue me and I am looking forward to discovering more about these and the rest of the engineering majors.

What do you hope your legacy at Princeton University will be?

I would like to be remembered as a person who exemplifies the characteristics of a Princeton Tiger, both on and off the ice. Being viewed by my peers as someone who is determined, dedicated, and hardworking and a team player, especially when times get tough. Finally, I also hope to be remembered as one of the players who helped bring the National Championship to Hobey Baker Arena.

Previous Q&A: Alex Riche | Spencer Kryczka | Josh Teves | Austin Shaw | Ryan Kuffner

See also: Princeton announces 2015-16 incoming freshmen

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Getting To Know the Freshmen Tigers: Ryan Kuffner

Ryan Kuffner Freshman Q&ARyan Kuffner was one of the leading scorers in the CCHL last year, finishing with 70 points (49g, 33 assists) over 49 games – good for eighth in the league. As an assistant captain, Kuffner helped the Gloucester Rangers to a playoff appearance, and earned a spot at the Central Canada Cup All-Star Challenge, and made Canada East for the WJAC. Over 101 games with the Rangers, Kuffner netted 115 points (55g, 60a).

Eye On The Tigers caught up with Kuffner to see what the incoming freshman had to say:

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Why did you choose Princeton University?

I was beyond excited when I was recruited by Princeton! I know that Princeton is one of the best universities worldwide with an exceptional undergraduate program. After visiting campus and spending some time with the hockey team, I knew in my heart that Princeton was the best for me. It’s beautiful campus, inclusive, supportive culture and amazing hockey program will develop me athletically, academically and personally.

What are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to attending a world-class university to build on my passions for hockey, finance and community involvement. I can’t wait to step on the ice and represent Princeton as a Tiger!

When did you get into hockey? What’s your earliest memory?

I started skating, like many Canadians, on my backyard rink that my dad built each December for my brother, me and all of our friends. My earliest memories are of watching hockey on Saturday nights with my grandparents, who were avid fans.

What NHL team did you grow up rooting for and why?

I have been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan for most of my life, especially after my Grandma gave me a Leafs jersey one Christmas!

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?

My biggest challenge in hockey was watching my friend and teammate get terribly injured at the World Junior A tournament. Neil Doef and I were roommates and linemates playing for Team Canada East sharing our dreams of playing hockey and attending Princeton. In an instant so much changed when Neil sustained a spinal cord injury. Since then, I have admired Neil’s courage, determination and positive outlook and have been inspired by him to address my own challenges and be the best that I can be whether it’s athletically, academically or personally.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen when playing hockey?

I saw one of my teammates end his scoreless drought by scoring eight goals in a single game!

Who’s the most influential person in your hockey career?

This is an easy question. My parents, Joe and Deb, have always been there for me through the ups and downs of playing hockey, from getting to the rink for 6 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday, to always being positive when my brother and I would have to each play two hockey games with our spring travel teams on the same day as having two soccer games with our soccer clubs. I really can’t thank them enough for the countless hours that they have given to support our dreams.

What’s the most exciting experience you’ve ever had?

My most exciting experience was being on safari with my family in Africa. The lions, giraffes, rhinos and elephants in such close proximity took my breath away. A close second to this was being selected to represent Canada East at the World Junior A tournament.

What do you plan on majoring in/what are your academic interests?

My plan is to major in Economics and obtain a Certificate in Finance. The combination of mathematics, economics and financial markets fascinates me. I am looking forward to studying and nurturing these passions at Princeton!

What do you hope your legacy at Princeton University will be?

I hope that I will be remembered as a great teammate, friend, and leader who gave it his all both on and off the ice. I also hope to be remembered as having made a difference in fulfilling Princeton’s destiny to win the Frozen Four tournament.

Other Class of 2019 Q&As: Alex Riche | Spencer Kryczka | Josh Teves | Austin Shaw | Max Veronneau

See also: Princeton announces 2015-16 incoming freshmen

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Getting To Know the Freshmen Tigers: Austin Shaw

Austin Shaw joins Princeton as the only goaltender in the class. The 19-year-old fought his way onto the Wichita Falls Wildcats last season, and his performance early on earned him interest from schools. The 6-foot-4 goaltender played in 48 games with the Wildcats and recorded a .902 save percentage.

Eye On The Tigers caught up with Shaw to see what the incoming freshman had to say:

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Why did you choose Princeton University?

I chose Princeton University because I not only had the chance to be a part of an awesome hockey program, but be a part of a world-renowned university. The coaching staff always showed a lot of interest in me, and after visiting the campus in November I was sold.

What are you most looking forward to?

I’m extremely excited to be a part of the Princeton community and also be involved in what will be the turning point for Tiger hockey for the upcoming years. Having the chance to work beside and learn with some of the brightest minds is also very appealing to me.

When did you get into hockey? What’s your earliest memory?

I was always around hockey because my cousins and father played. I started roller hockey when I was about six and then started ice hockey when I was 10. Some of my earliest memories are learning to skate at the University of Denver and having a chance to interact with some of the players when I was about five.

What NHL team did you grow up rooting for and why?

I grew up as an Avs fan. It was always fun to follow guys like Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, and to see them around the rink now too is especially cool. Hopefully they have a good run this upcoming season.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?

The biggest challenge I faced in hockey would have to be breaking into the AAA level. Up through my Bantam years I always played AA and never made the AAA teams. Once I did, I felt a major sense of accomplishment.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen when playing hockey?

The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me would have to be this past season in a game against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (South Texas). Midway through the second period during a penalty kill, I began to slip around the crease and almost fell out of the way of a shot from the point. Within seconds I finally looked down to discover that the plastic sheet that puts the design of the crease in the ice was actually up on top of the ice surface. At that point they had to cancel the game because the humidity and heat outside made it impossible for the ice to freeze quickly. Later in the year we had to play four and a half periods to make up for the game.

Who’s the most influential person in your hockey career?

My parents are the most influential people in my hockey career. They’ve given up a lot and made huge sacrifices to support me as I pursued my goals. Their own work ethic has set an example for me and my sister, and without their support I don’t know where I’d be today.

What’s the most exciting experience you’ve ever had?

The most exciting thing I’ve ever done in life would be sailing on a catamaran in Mexico with my dad. I’ve always found sailing to be an exhilarating experience and every time I go I have the same feeling.

What do you plan on majoring in/what are your academic interests?

I plan on majoring in economics and hopefully going into finance. I’ve always been good at math, but unfortunately science and engineering isn’t as interesting to me so I’m hoping that those skills will aid me as I pursue my major.

What do you hope your legacy at Princeton University will be?

I hope that I am remembered as a hard working and friendly individual that helped lead people on and off the ice. I think this will also be a big turning point for Princeton hockey, so I’m very excited to be a part of the hockey team these next four years.

Other Class of 2019 Q&As: Alex Riche | Spencer Kryczka | Josh Teves | Ryan Kuffner | Max Veronneau

See also: Princeton announces 2015-16 incoming freshmen

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Getting To Know the Freshmen Tigers: Josh Teves

Josh Teves worked his way up from the KIJHL to the BCHL, where he played two games with Merritt in 2013-14. He continued with the Centennials for the 2014-15 season, appearing in 61 games and recording 35 points (5g, 30a). The defensemen also won the RBC National Junior A Scholarship.

Eye On The Tigers caught up with Teves to see what the incoming freshman had to say:

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Why did you choose Princeton University?

I chose Princeton because it was an unbelievable opportunity not only on the ice but also in the classroom. I liked the coaching staff after meeting them in November and after my visit to the spectacular campus, it felt like the right fit for me. I am thrilled to arrive on campus and begin this exciting four-year college experience.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to joining the diverse group of students lucky enough to attend the prestigious university and experience all the school has to offer. I am also very excited to join a team on the rise and help be a part of Tiger Hockey success in the years to come.

When did you get into hockey? What’s your earliest memory?

I first started skating when I was about four years old and started competitive hockey at age five. One of my earliest memories is skating with my mom on an outdoor rink wearing bob skates (skates with two blades on each foot) strapped to my snow boots. I still have this picture framed in my room.

What NHL team did you grow up rooting for and why?

I grew up a Flames fan after being born and raised in Calgary, but in recent years I have started following the Montreal Canadiens. They have such a great history and culture, it’s hard not to like them. I am also a big PK Subban fan, so that was one of the reasons I started cheering for the Habs. It’s always interesting when the Canadiens play the Flames- I’m a little torn.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?

I was a bit of a late bloomer so I have always been one of the smallest guys on the team, especially as a defenseman. That resulted in me being cut from a lot of teams and having to work that much harder to keep moving up. It’s been an uphill journey making it to the NCAA as a small defenseman, but it has shaped me into the player I am today. I have learned how to play larger than my size and to keep working, and I think those characteristics will help me in the future as well.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen when playing hockey?

The strangest thing I’ve ever seen playing hockey is when I was playing Junior B hockey in British Columbia. The opposing team played the Classified rap version of Oh Canada instead of the national anthem. We were all cracking up as they just let the song play through until the end. Definitely the strangest national anthem I’ve been a part of.

Who’s the most influential person in your hockey career?

The most influential people in my hockey career would be my parents. They have always inspired me to do my best and taught me to work hard for what I want. They have made tremendous sacrifices to allow me to pursue my hockey goals, and along with my brother and sister I would not be where I am today without them. With my brother and I both being hockey players, I think my sister has watched enough hockey games to be a scout by now. I owe my family a lot for pushing me to keep working and supporting me with everything I do.

What’s the most exciting experience you’ve ever had?

The most exciting experience I’ve ever had was during a sailing trip off Vancouver Island in British Columbia. A male killer whale charged our boat, went under the water just before it, then came up and breached just five feet beside the boat. It was an amazing moment being able to see up close such a powerful and beautiful animal in its natural habitat.

What do you plan on majoring in/what are your academic interests?

I plan on Majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Academically I am interested in physics and understanding how things work, so I am excited to join the Engineering faculty and let my curiosity run wild.

What do you hope your legacy at Princeton University will be?

I hope my legacy at Princeton University will be that I was one of the members of the hockey team that helped bring the team success and started a new era of Tiger dominance. Furthermore, I want to leave students and faculty with the memories of a hardworking and kind individual who embodied the Princeton culture in everything he did.

Other Class of 2019 Q&As: Alex Riche | Spencer Kryczka | Austin Shaw | Ryan Kuffner | Max Veronneau

See also: Princeton announces 2015-16 incoming freshmen

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