PRINCETON, NJ – Colton Phinney was crouched in front of his net, situated on the side of the arena where the old “Make Hobey Proud” sign used to hang, facing the new banners that lined the press box. And on Friday night Phinney did just that – he made Hobey proud by recording his 2,952nd save to break Princeton’s all-time career saves program record.
It was the same side his mother watched from, nervously counting every save. It was the same side where Hobey Baker’s historic skates stood encased in a shrine. It was the same side where the NHL banner of another Princeton goaltender, Mike Condon, was displayed in an archway window.
After three and a half years and 94 games, it took Phinney 18 seconds in the second period to break the 35-year-old record. He finished the game with 21 saves and now has 2,968 career saves, 17 more than Ronald Dennis’ 2,951 saves set in 1983.
“I was really happy with Colton,” head coach Ron Fogarty said. “It’s a special feat to break a record that’s been around for many years. You never know if that’s going to be accomplished again by another goaltender. He deserves it. He’s been someone we’ve leaned on heavily over my three years here, so win or lose I couldn’t be more proud to be on the bench when he accomplished that record here tonight.”
When Phinney joined the program as a freshman he was fighting for playing time. But he became the starter and remained a rock for a rebuilding team. Last year Phinney broke the record for saves in a single season. The year before he fell just three stops short.
“It feels good, I think it’s something that probably down the road I’ll feel better about,” Phinney said. “Right now it’s kind of tough the way the game went but it’s definitely something I’ll look back on and be pretty proud of.”
Phinney entered the game needing five saves to break the record. But he allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period, a frame that has followed the difficulties of the season for Phinney. Cornell won 5-1.
This has been a strange season for Phinney, but his play has improved since the beginning of the year and helped the Tigers to a stretch of seven wins in eight games. The Tigers now have seven wins, which is more victories than the team has recorded in a single season since Phinney arrived at Princeton.
While this season has provided challenges, the former Delbarton legend has – for the past three-plus years – given Princeton its best chance to win. Sometimes that meant defying physics, like last season when he played half the year hurt and needed offseason surgery.
“I’m happy for Colton. Hockey’s so much of a quantitative game. You’re judged by your wins and your losses. And Colton’s been around for more losses than most goaltenders,” Fogarty said. “But he’s fought through and he’s been resilient. or him to break the record three quarters of the way through a senior season speaks volumes of the workload he’s been accounted for and we anticipate that those save numbers are going to grow by a lot.”
When Phinney was just a goaltender at Delbarton, leading the Green Wave to an unprecedented four straight state titles, playing for Princeton was just a dream.
And now his name has been written into Princeton’s record books.