PRINCETON, N.J. – Last weekend at Dartmouth, Alex Riche wasn’t playing with his classmates Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner for a little bit.
“He’s a pass-first guy and we took him off that line a little bit our last game,” Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said. “He started to take control and that’s what we told him, you have to take control of that line. You can’t let [Veronneau] and Kuffner do all the work.
“You can’t be a compliment player, you have to be a catalyst player.”
On Friday night against Colgate, Riche returned to his regular line with Veronneau and Kuffner. And it took him one minute to score a goal – his first collegiate tally as Princeton lost to Colgate 5-4. It was also Riche’s first point since
Veronneau took a shot on net while Riche was on his knees, and Riche’s stick touched the puck enough to slide past Colgate’s Charlie Finn. After scoring, Riche picked himself up and skated to the boards where Veronneau greeted him with a leaping hug.
“I just dropped it to Max and kind of got knocked over and Max shot it and tipped off my stick and somehow found the way into the net,” Riche said.
It was also Riche’s first point since Jan. 7 against RPI, ending a four-game scoring drought. The Ontario native said getting his first collegiate tally was a relief.
“At least it’s over, but I wish we could’ve [gotten] the two points as well,” Riche said.
With his goal, Riche became the last of Princeton’s freshman class to score a goal.
“It’s tough too when you don’t score a goal and you try to find ways to score the goal,” Fogarty said. “He drove the net. I’m glad the goal he scored was the way it did. But he’s a skilled player. He’s skilled and he’s starting to take it to the next level.”
Riche doesn’t have as many points as his linemates – he has six while Kuffner has 15 and Veronneau has 12 – but he’s worked well with the pair.
“I think all three of us are pretty good at moving the puck around so hopefully we can continue to build chemistry and get better,” Riche said.
Riche has also improved throughout the season and is one of the team’s underrated forwards. The freshman has played in al 22 games this season and has six points, tied for eighth in team scoring. He may not have many points, but he’s been generating chances.
“I think I’ve had plenty of chances this year and just a matter of bearing down more and hopefully this leads to a few more goals,” Riche said.
The former Cobourg Cougar said his biggest improvement has been in defensive zone play, and area Princeton’s coaches have stressed.
“The coaches have kept at the D zone throughout the season, so just learning about the D zone probably is the biggest improvement,” Riche said.
While Kuffner and Veronneau played their junior hockey together in the CCHL with the Gloucester Rangers, Riche began in the OJHL with the Milton Icehawks. In his first season, the forward netted 56 points in 52 points. He continued with Milton last season, recording 27 points in 22 games. Riche was then traded to Cobourg, where he scored 27 points in 30 games.
After joining Princeton, it took less than one month before Fogarty placed Riche with Kuffner and Veronneau, creating an all-freshman line. The trio first played together on Nov. 27 against Maine and have stayed together since.
“We’re asking a lot from freshmen here,” Fogarty said. “We’re asking a lot from that line, all four of those freshmen on power play. It’s an awful lot to ask in college hockey. But they’ve absorbed it and doing a great job.”
With more responsibility comes more chances, and it has led to the rookies taking the team’s scoring lead.
“They’re getting a lot of ice time too,” Fogarty said. “More ice equals more opportunities, or negative [ones], but they’ve been very positive.”