On Feb. 20 at RPI, Colton Phinney was watching the scoreboard and tracking his saves. He knew he needed 18 stops to break the program record for saves in a single season. It took a period and a half, but he finally stopped puck No. 871 to move in first place.
“Obviously it’s pretty cool to be on the good side of the record,” Phinney said. “It’s a really long history of the program and a lot of years and a lot of players, but I think I’d rather have it be a different record than saves. I’d rather it be wins or shutouts or save percentage, because you can have a lot of saves and not be winning.
“I’d rather have it be those, but obviously it’s still pretty cool.”
But just one week before, Phinney missed Princeton’s contest at St. Lawrence. Instead of sitting on the bench, he was sitting in the stands as a scratch.
The starter had been dealing with a nagging injury sustained at Harvard on Jan. 29. He continued playing for the next few weeks, making 115 saves over the next four games.
“I didn’t practice much but I’ve been practicing,” Phinney said. “Maybe the week after I got hurt, I practiced maybe one time And then slowly I practiced more and then now I’ve been fully practicing again.”
But after five games of Phinney playing in pain, including a contest at Clarkson, Princeton decided it was time to shut him down.
Phinney knew there was a possibility that he wouldn’t play sometime during the trip to North Country, but it wasn’t until Saturday morning he knew for certain. The game that Phinney missed, a loss to St. Lawrence, marked the first time in his collegiate career that Phinney wasn’t dressed.
“It was tough and I wasn’t thrilled, but I think I agreed with it and thought it was probably best for me and for the rest of the season,” Phinney said. “But I wasn’t thrilled. I wanted to play. And obviously watching the game was pretty tough and being in the stands was obviously a little different for me. But, I agreed with it. I didn’t love it but it was something that had to be done.”
After missing the game and taking a few days off from skating, Phinney started practicing again on Feb. 16. By then, he had a feeling he would be back in the lineup that weekend.
“I guess the idea was when we talked Saturday that I was going to playing, that’s why I was going to take that game off, because it would be best for me to try and get a full recovery,” Phinney said.
“And I was actually able to do goalie skates. I couldn’t do everything last week, so I realized I was going to be able to play. But that was the first time in three time in three weeks that I was actually allowed to do a lot of things.”
In his return, Phinney made 34 stops in a 2-1 loss to Union.
“He was excellent,” Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said after the loss. “He looked more flexible and I think the day of rest, we should probably [have done] it sooner. He was a little banged up. But he looked great tonight. He had a solid game.”
After playing both games last weekend and making 63 saves combined, Phinney said he’s feeling better.
“I didn’t feel good before the game. so I think it had some effect,” Phinney said. “I think was more mental of just realizing how terrible it is to have to watch, but I think it definitely helped because I felt better all week and I feel better now. I think that day [off] was huge. It gave me an extra day and then I also had Sunday and Monday off too.”
Now healed, Phinney has 892 saves. He has 2,284 career saves – just 668 shy from the program’s all-time saves record.