PRINCETON, N.J. – For the second game in a row, Princeton came close to tying the game in the third.
But for the second game in a row, it was too late.
“It sucks, to be honest,” defenseman Tommy Davis said. “Especially since this team, we’ve been making a lot of strides recently.”
The Tigers (2-8-1, 1-6-0 ECAC) suffered their second straight loss, falling 4-2 to the Crimson (8-1-2, 4-1-2 ECAC) on Friday night.
“It’s always tough when the other team gets a goal, or two goals even, but we just tried to keep our heads on and bounce back, battle back,” defenseman Joe Grabowski said. “We almost did at the end there but it was just too little, too late.”
While Princeton has now won once in the last seven games, the Tigers have scored two or more goals in their last three contests. Davis and Grabowski scored their first collegiate tallies, while Max Becker added his first point.
“I’d like to see the results a little quicker, but the guys are competing extremely hard, they just have to stay with it,” coach Ron Fogarty said.
“[Harvard’s] a very good hockey team there and very quick, so we just to have to doing the little things well, we can’t complicate, there were small lapses or some of the mistakes that becomes compound which results in goals against or penalties.”
After trailing 2-0 in the second, Davis scored his first collegiate goal on a shot from the point to bring Princeton within one. Eight minutes later, his defensive partner Grabowski whacked a rebound past Harvard’s Steve Michalek to tie the game.
But Princeton couldn’t sustain its momentum in the third.
“Every game there’s like five, 10 minutes that we don’t focus in, and then it ends up being the difference,” Davis said. “Especially since w’re young, we don’t have the high-voltage offense that a lot of teams like Harvard have, so we have to be sure defensively, 60 minutes, all the time.”
From the start of the period, Harvard dominated. The Crimson added two goals less than seven minutes into the third, and were ahead 4-2 by the 6:39 mark of the period.
“We had a bad practice on Tuesday and I think that attributed to why we had a 10-minute lapse in the third period,” Davis said. “We just have to make sure we bring it every time we step on the ice.
“You can’t flip on a switch in college hockey or really any level. And we just need to practice how we play all the time.”
With 3:19 minutes left in the game, Aaron Kesselman netted his first goal of the season. Princeton pulled Colton Phinney for an extra skater with less than a minute left, but the Tigers – despite two close calls – couldn’t put the puck in the net.
“It’s a step forward,” Fogarty said. “You want the results to come quicker than sometimes they do occur as a coach, but you have to remain focused and keep doing the better things.
“Our mission was around Christmas time to see what our team brings to the table and I’ already excited what they’re doing ahead of schedule.”
Going against some of the nation’s top power play and penalty kill units, Princeton’s penalty kill finished 4-for-6. The Tigers scored one power play goal in four tries with Davis’ tally in the second.
Colton Phinney faced 13 shots on the power play in the third, when the Crimson netted two power play tallies. Phinney finished with a career-high 51 saves.
“He’s a very good goaltender and regardless of what team he’s on, he’s the most available player,” Fogarty said. “He’s doing a great job. We’re asking a lot from him and he’s delivering.”
The Tigers were out shot 55-25, and have yet to outshoot an opponent. Princeton allowed 21 shots on goal in the second and third periods, including a number of quality scoring chances in the third.
“We’re kind of getting sick of pulling positives out of losses,” Davis said. “We really are going to start turning the table on this with a win tomorrow versus Dartmouth.”