Despite a somewhat rocky start, Princeton Men’s Hockey remains optimistic for a successful season. Though the team has posted a record of 0-4-1 through five regular season games, it is confident that its quality of performance will lead to wins later in the year. “I’m happy with the way we’ve played,” said senior captain Ryan Siiro. “The outcomes aren’t there yet, but the team has definitely played well.”
It appears that the team has good reason to be optimistic. Its top five point leaders from last season, including the sophomore duo of Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner, who led last year’s team with 11 goals and 15 assists, respectively, will be returning. Sophomore forward Eric Robinson, who scored 2 goals in this Saturday’s tie against Dartmouth and senior goalie Colton Phinney, who has long anchored the Princeton defense and posted a 92.4% save percentage last season, will also undoubtedly be central to the team’s success. Due to the combination of an experienced group of veterans and a talented crop of freshmen, the team will benefit from depth that will allow them to consistently play 4 competitive lines. “We have confidence in every line to do their job and produce,” said Siiro. “Up and down the lineup we have guys from every class playing. We’ve got the experience of the older guys and the youth and fresh legs of the younger guys.” Siiro also emphasized the team’s attention to detail, particularly in the defensive zone, and playmaking ability as attributes that will help the team win games.
The team hopes that this on-paper talent will translate into a high finish within the ECAC conference, which consists of Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac, RPI, Clarkson, Colgate, and Union College. To achieve its professed goal of a top 8 regular seasons finish in the conference, Princeton will need to hold its own against other deep and talented teams. For example, many might be most familiar with Quinnipiac for its renowned polling institute, but the university also boasts a perennially ranked hockey team that advanced to last season’s national championship game. For Princeton, a strong performance in the home-and-home matchup against Quinnipiac on Dec. 9 and 10 will be an indicator of the program’s progress.
Of course, in many ways, the team has already begun to prove itself early into the season. Against a Harvard team that finished third in the ECAC and qualified for the NCAA tournament last year, Princeton held the shot advantage 25-21 through two periods before conceding three goals in the third period and falling 5-2. One strength so far has been the team’s ability to kill penalties. Over 19 power plays, the team has allowed only a single goal, though it has only converted 2 out of its 25 power plays, an area in need of improvement.
The team can be seen at Hobey Baker Rink from now until February as it continues its regular season and prepares for the all-important conference tournament. Those in attendance are likely to witness the best hockey played by Princeton in years. “We’ve been steadily progressing and getting better every year,” said Siiro. “We’re focused on winning and getting better as a team.”