Princeton Defeats Maine For First Win Of Season

Becker and RobbinsTRENTON, N.J. – Josh Teves sent a shot at the net less than three minutes into the second period. Kyle Rankin deflected the puck with his face, giving Princeton the first goal of the game.

While the tip-in didn’t stand as the game-winning goal, scoring first helped Princeton hold on for a 3-1 win over Maine at the Capital City Classic.

“It’s something that I think is exciting for the team, because a lot of games last year w were trying to battle back from behind,” Rankin said. “Getting that first goal first, not only that but an insurance marker to boot, that was great for us.”

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The second period saw two Princeton goals and was more even than Friday night’s contest against Yale.

“We played the same I thought, but we took care of our defensive responsibilities a lot better tonight,” Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said. “The second period wasn’t as lopsided against Maine as it was against Yale. But that was it, we just shored up the defensive zone to able us to transition quicker to offense today.”

While Princeton gave up a goal with 13:52 minutes left in the game, the team didn’t give up many quality scoring chances in the period.

“I mean that’s a key for our team, team defense,” Rankin said. “We don’t want to give up anything between the dots. We want to force anything from the outside.”

Both Rankin and Colton Phinney were named to the all-tournament team. Phinney finished with 38 saves on the night, giving him 79 stops on the weekend.

“You saw the way Colton played this weekend,” Rankin said. “I stand by me saying he’s the best goalie out there. He can stop pucks from the outside and that’s what he did all night and last night as well. He had a great tournament.”

The Tigers also killed off a five-minute major to start the third period after Matt Nelson was called for boarding Nolan Vesey.

“We faced a lot of adversary in the third, [that[ five minute major kind of came out of nowhere, kind of blindsided us,” Rankin said. “But our penalty kill was great and I think we were just confident in the way we were playing. We didn’t think another one was going in. We were able to weather the storm for a bit, get back in their end and then add an empty netter at the end.”

 

 

Joe Grabowski scored a goal in the second period, while Ben Foster added an empty net goal in the third.With the assist on Rankin’s goal, Teves earned his first collegiate points.

“[Teves was] a lot better,” Fogarty said. “More under control, he had that great shot from the point that was tipped. He’s seen a lot of ice time and power play time, penalty kills. We’re asking a lot from him and he just has to conserve the energy to utilize it smartly throughout each shift.”

The defensive pairs remained the same, while Max Becker played in Spencer Kryczka’s place. Fogarty said the lineups will continue changing, but Rankin said he enjoyed playing with classmates Mike Ambrosia and Jonathan Liau.

“We’ve had a lot of success in the past together,” Rankin said. “They’re two highly skilled guys, so I just try and get them the puck as much as I can and be physical and move my feet to create space for them to work their magic.”

The game, Princeton’s first win of the season, marked the Tigers’ last non-conference tilt until both Maine and Princeton meet again in November.

“We really focused on just playing our game and keeping the same pace from the get-go,” Teves said. “I think we did that really well. We put a lot more pucks on net today which is huge and just really kind of pushed hard against them.”

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Princeton Begins Season With Loss To Yale

Eric Robinson goalTRENTON, N.J. – Trailing Yale by two with less than 40 seconds left, Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty called a timeout to discuss a faceoff play.

“Two goals down, [we were] just trying to get at least some spark or a scoring chance,” Fogarty said. “Which we did, which was good. They executed it.”

The scoring chance late in the game exemplified the difference in Princeton’s 3-1 loss compared to last season’s defeats – quality scoring chances.

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For much of the game, Princeton and Yale were locked in a 1-1 battle. Very late in the third period, Yale took a 2-1 lead off a goal from Chris Izmirlian.

“That hurt. We had chances,” Fogarty said. “It stung more today than some of the games last year because we didn’t have that offensive push late in the games last year.

“But we had that push today where we had some scoring chances. So that stung.”

Princeton created several good chances from the combination of freshmen Ryan Kuffner and Max Veronneau. Co-captain Mike Ambrosia had one of Princeton’s best chances as he hit a crossbar in the third.

“We had a chance to win the game,” forward Eric Robinson said. “[Colton] Phinney kept us in there in the second with some pretty big saves.”

Phinney finished the game with 41 saves, including 19 in the second period.

“We just [have] to tighten up our D zone, keep it simple,” Robinson said. “When we have it on the wall just get it out, use the glass, make sure we’re not running around and getting it pinned in our zone for too long.”

Yale controlled play in that frame, attempting 36 shots.

“They started pressuring and we just made sure we [were] underneath and limited the quality scoring chances against us [in the] second,” Fogarty said.

“We continued that in the third period and had scoring chances, again, which we haven’t had in the past last year. So it was great that we have opportunities to make it two [goals].

The Bulldogs, who struck first, added an empty-net goal for the 3-1 win. Princeton’s only goal, a tally from Eric Robinson, happened 22 seconds after Mike Doherty’s first goal.

“I think they tried to break it up the wall and [Alex] Riche made a good read there in the middle and picked it off and just threw something at the net,” Robinson said. “I was fortunate enough to get a stick on it, got a fortunate bounce and it went in. It was a good play by Riche there at the blue line.”

Riche was one of five freshmen who made their debuts tonight – Kuffner, Veronneau,  Spencer Kryczka and defenseman Josh Teves. A healthy Princeton team also saw the return of defenseman Quin Pompi and forward David Hallisey.

Marlon Sabo, Hayden Anderson, Max Becker, Ryan Berlin, Stewart Pomeroy and Michael Zajac were scratches.

Riche earned the only assist with his helper on Robinson’s goal.

“It’s a big stage for them to jump up the next level,” Fogarty said. “I thought Max Veronneau had a couple of great chances that were set up by Kuffner, [and] they’re seeing some power play time.

“Spencer Kryczka did a great job on the penalty kill for us. He was blocking lanes. Josh will settle down a little bit, but we love his enthusiasm on the back end.”

Veronneau and Kuffner, teammates in junior hockey, played together on the same line on Friday night.But Fogarty said the lines will continue changing.

“We have to find guys that click with each other,” Fogarty said. “It’s going to move through the game as well too. Who’s jumping that day will be a determining factor. And guys getting chances, we’re going to double them up.

“So there’s a lot of things that we’re not going to set in stone right now that will always be fluid as we move forward through Christmas.”

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2015-16 Princeton Hockey Season Primer

2014-15 Record: 4-23-3, 2-18-2 ECAC

The Big Storyline

It’s nothing as dramatic as last season. Princeton enters its second year under the command of Ron Fogarty, Brad Dexter and Stavros Paskaris, with no major changes. The Tigers have a good freshmen class, and are hoping to get offensive contributions from those players.

2014-15 Season Recap

Last season was difficult for the Tigers. They averaged a league-low 1.30 goals per game and finished with just four wins. But the struggle was expected, given the recent coaching change. After a rough start to the season, the Tigers showed improvement and finished a much better team, playing Dartmouth to a tough series in the playoffs. Injuries again proved difficult for Princeton, which only had four players start in all 30 games. Kyle Rankin, Jonathan Liau and Ben Foster led the Tigers in scoring, while Colton Phinney manned the net. Over  in 28 games and finishing with a .910 save percentage.

The Skinny

This season catches Princeton in the middle of its rebuilding process. The team has learned its new systems and adapted to a sound defensive system, but should benefit from increased offense and contributions from the freshmen class. Injuries will be a key factor, and the top scorers staying healthy would be a big benefit for the Tigers. But, Princeton has a solid upperclassmen group this season combined with a good goaltender in Colton Phinney. The coaching staff at Princeton is a good one, and the Tigers should fare better than most expect.

Key Losses

Princeton bid farewell to five seniors – Aaron Ave, Tom Kroshus, Tucker Brockett, Aaron Kesselman and Ryan Benitez. While Brockett and Ave contributed eight points, the toughest losses will be on the blue line. Ave and Kroshus were part of the team’s defensive core last season.

Returning Players

For the second year in a row, Jonathan Liau returns as the team’s top scorer. He finished with 14 points (4g, 10a). Ben Foster and Kyle Rankin each had 10 points. Princeton is returning almost all of its top scorers, minus Brockett and Ave. Phinney returns as the team’s top netminder, building off his starting sophomore role. On the blue line, juniors Quin Pompi and Tommy Davis will be the leaders. Last year freshman Joe Grabowski saw responsibility and a lot of playing time, and should continue to be a leader.

The Freshmen

Princeton welcomes six freshmen  – defenseman Josh Teves; forwards Spencer Kryczka, Max Veronneau, Ryan Kuffner, Alex Riche and goaltender Austin Shaw. Veronneau, Kuffner and Riche were prolific scorers in junior hockey, while Teves will be a solid addition on defense.

Prediction

The Tigers are on their way up, and should move out of the ECAC basement this year. The media and coaches both picked Princeton to finish 12th, but I have the Tigers 11th.

More season preview articles.

 

 

Rebuilding No More – Princeton Is Ready To Strike This Season

Kyle Rankin and Mike Ambrosia New Jerseys 7

After their first official, two-hour practice, co-captains Mike Ambrosia and Kyle Rankin entered the team’s kitchen. Ambrosia slid off the counter and walked over to the Princeton hockey fridge and pulled out a bottle of water after the team’s tough practice.

For the co-captains, this is their last year of Princeton hockey. But it’s just the second under a new regime, one that promises to bring the program back to NCAA prominence.

“It’s the rebuilding stage of being able to strike now,” Rankin said. “I think last year was a rebuilding year, but we’re kind of working off the continuum. We’re in a position now where we can strike and win games and get this program back to where we need to be.”

Taking the ice under a new head coach, Ron Fogarty, and new systems, Princeton accrued a 4-23-3 record last season. The Tigers also finished last in the ECAC, struggling through a year of growing pains. But Princeton improved later in the season and played in a couple of closer-than-expected playoff losses to Dartmouth.

“You have to put the foundation in place, and we did that last year without cutting corners and making sure that it was really solidified,” Fogarty said.

“Twenty-one players know what to expect on and off the ice. On the ice with our systems, our structure, supporting the puck and now we can build from that. If that wasn’t in place last year, we can never forward and try to implement offensive systems to allow them opportunities to score goals.”

While the Tigers have several seasons ahead before they re-enter the NCAA tournament, the term rebuilding no longer applies to the team.

This year it’s time for the next step.

“It’s not rebuilding,” Fogarty said. “It’s more of a continuation of last year. And it took a long time for the new systems to take place because they [were] accustomed to something that was ingrained for two, three years.”

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As the Tigers hope to move up from the ECAC’s 12th spot, the team will have a challenge in a tough conference that includes strong Yale, Quinnipiac and Harvard teams.

New Jersey native Ambrosia has been in this situation before, although nearly five years ago in the USHL. Back then, he captained the Youngstown Phantoms to a turnaround season and a playoff berth.

“It’s kind of like a similar situation, but I don’t think we like to compare from last year to this year,” Ambrosia said. “I think it’s pretty useless. [There are] new faces, new lines, new systems and we’re very optimistic. There’s a lot of energy and excitement in the room and that’s what you need going into a season.”

Last season, the Tigers played in 17 games that were decided by two goals or less. Both of Princeton’s ECAC wins were decided by a goal.

“Right now I don’t know what their identity is, but I do know that I would love to win a 2-1 game,” Fogarty said. “Just the goaltenders in this league and the teams are so strong in the ECAC, there’s no nights off.”

Part of the next step in this process is scoring.

“We want to be a team that has the capability of scoring a goal earlier than last year,” Fogarty said. “If we can score a goal in the first period or be the team to score the first goal, it would change the dynamic, really, of the game.

“That’s what we have to do, is try to be a team that can score the first goal. That would help us for the rest of the 60 minutes.”

Up front, the Tigers didn’t lose much of their offensive presence. Jonathan Liau returns as the team’s leading scorer with 14 points, while Rankin and Ben Foster each added 10 last year. But the Tigers graduated Tucker Brockett and defenseman Aaron Ave, who contributed eight points each.

Ave’s loss was big for the blue line, which also graduated Tom Kroshus. The defense has four returners including Joe Grabowski and Tommy Davis, the team’s top pair. Matt Nelson, Quin Pompi and freshman Josh Teves should also see playing time.

“We need all of them to improve. There’s a lot of L’s in the column there that we have to change around,” Fogarty said. “That’s our last line before they get to the goaltenders, so with Tommy and Joey they did a great job last year. But we expect the other guys to step up equally or more than those two to give us a shot to win games day in and day out.”

Fogarty said he needs the freshmen to contribute this season. That includes junior hockey standouts Max Veronneau, Ryan Kuffner and Alex Riche, as well as Spencer Kryczka.

“They’re excellent hockey players and more importantly they’re great guys [and] great for the room,” Ambrosia said. “They bring a lot of energy, a lot of positive attributes to the team. I think they’re going to contribute in a lot of ways to our team [and] to the school and I can’t wait to get going with them.”

Now that Princeton has finished implementing systems and establishing the defense, the Tigers are trying to add more offense. Last year Princeton ranked last in the country with an average of 1.30 goals per game.

“This year we’re focusing more on getting quality chances, quality shots,” Ambrosia said. “You see a lot of teams throw pucks on net from every angle and I don’t think think we necessarily want to do that. But we want to get all five guys involved skating, shooting pucks, creating quality chances. If we do that, we’re going to get more luck this year and score more goals.

“At the end of the day w have a fantastic goalie in Colton who’s the backbone of our team. I think we took big strides last year in our defensive zone, so if we could average two, three goals a game, I think we have chance to win.”

Phinney is a big piece of Princeton’s ability to find success, as he was last year. The junior will be Princeton’s go-to goaltender, backed up by Ben Halford and Austin Shaw. The team’s starter last year, Phinney appeared in 29 games and recorded a .910 save percentage.

“In my opinion he’s the best goalie in the conference,” Rankin said. “He stood on his head very night for us. Especially trying to play a more offensive system, if an odd man rush does go back the other way you have a guy like that in your net. It’s huge for the confidence of all five guys in front of him and he knows we’re going to battle our hardest for him every night.”

The Tigers open up their season at the Capital City Classic, where they’ll face Ivy League rival Yale. Along with its usual ECAC opponents, Princeton will travel to Penn State, Holy Cross and Maine. The Tigers will host AIC and the U.S. National Team U-18 program.

“Our biggest strength right now is probably just the energy that’s around the locker room,” Rankin said. “In years past, guys have been a little hesitant going into years and wondering what’s ahead.

“But right now we’re just looking forward and looking to build off what we had going last year, especially the final series against Dartmouth. It was a great energy in the room, everyone [was] excited to get going and I think when you play that way, within a structure, things are going to pay off for you.”

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BCHL’s Jackson Cressey Commits to Princeton

Forward Jackson Cressey committed to Princeton for the 2016-17 season, the Express announced on Sunday.

Cressey, Coquitlam’s captain, is in his third full season with the Express. The British Columbia native has 25 points through 17 games this season, on pace to eclipse his previous career high of 38.

The ’96 forward will join fellow commits Joey Fallon, Jake Paganelli and Derek Topatigh at Princeton.

Colton Phinney Key To Princeton’s Success

Princeton's Colton Phinney with his new pads

Colton Phinney kneeled down on the ground in his new orange pads. His mask tilted up, Phinney watched as head coach Ron Fogarty drew on the white board during the team’s two-hour, first official practice.

As the most experienced goaltender on the ice, Phinney will be the team’s starter for the second consecutive season. But the junior netminder brings more than just over 30 starts in goal.

“The biggest asset that he brings is the experience. He’s seen our systems now, he knows what our defensemen are doing in front of him,” Fogarty said.

After appearing in a goaltending rotation and playing in 18 games as a freshman, Phinney took the lead last season. He started 28 games – all but two for Princeton.

“Last year he stood on his head every night for us,” co-captain Kyle Rankin said.

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Phinney’s save percentage jumped from .901 as a freshman to .910 last season. While it doesn’t seem stellar and wasn’t the best in the league, the goaltender faced a challenge in backstopping a team under a new system. The learning process featured growing pains, some defensive breakdowns and turnovers, but Phinney’s play gave Princeton a chance to win on most nights.

“He’s rarely going to give up a goal from straight away or from the corner, it’s always going to be a backdoor goal or something where we break down,” co-captain Mike Ambrosia said. “If we minimize those opportunities for the other team, he’s going to stop the puck.”

Phinney, who won several New Jersey championships with Ambrosia at Delbarton, recorded 867 saves last year.

He had four nights with 40-plus saves, including a career-high 51 saves in a 4-3 loss to Harvard. Last year Phinney was also instrumental in Princeton’s pair of close postseason losses to Dartmouth.

“Over the years I think he’s just become a consistent rock in the net. If you break down, you take a chance, there might be an odd man rush coming back, you know that he’s that final line,” Ambrosia said.

“He’s going to make that save.”

After a solid season in net, Phinney spent the summer working out in Connecticut. He also skated at Devils development camp, where New Jersey’s goaltending coaches stressed the importance of skating. After camp ended, New Jersey general manager Ray Shero said Phinney played well.

“The second thing, [Phinney] just has to be more patient,” Fogarty said. “I believe the camp at New Jersey helped him with that, with his mental aspect of approaching the game too.”

While Princeton is no longer in a rebuilding phase, it will need a sound Phinney in net as the team tries to boost offense.

“We’re focusing more on getting quality chances, quality shots,” Ambrosia said. “You see a lot of teams throw pucks on net from every angle and I don’t think think we necessarily want to do that. But we want to get everyone involved [with] all five guys involved skating, shooting pucks, creating quality chances. If we do that, we’re going to get more luck this year and score more goals.”

The Tigers – who averaged 1.30 goals per game last year – are trying to score slightly more. And Phinney’s presence in net will be a key factor.

“If an odd man rush does go back the other way, you have a guy like that in your net,” Rankin said. “It’s huge for the confidence of all five guys in front of him and he knows we’re going to battle our hardest for him every night.”

There’s still room for Phinney, who wants to work on playing the puck, to improve. But Princeton knows they have a chance to win each night he’s in net.

“At the end of the day, we have a fantastic goalie in Colton, who’s the backbone of our team,” Ambrosia said. “I think we took big strides last year in our defensive zone, so if we could average two, three goals a game, I think we have a chance to win. That’s what we want to do.”

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Recruit Roundup

Liam Grande committed to Princeton for the 2016-17 season, giving the Tigers four commits in the OJHL.

Here’s how Princeton’s recruits fared this week:

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OJHL:

New commit Liam Grande hasn’t played since Sept. 29. He has nine points (6g, 3a) this season. Derek Topatigh scored a goal against North York on Saturday. Colin Tonge has not played since Oc. 15.

NAHL:

Joey Fallon has not played since Oct. 9, and Jake Paganelli did not play this past weekend.

USPHL:

Doug Connor made 40 saves on 47 shots in his team’s 7-3 loss on Saturday.

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Here are the recruit stats:

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