In the third period, Princeton was pressing. They found chance after chance, and Dartmouth barely kept the puck out of the net. With time expiring and overtime looming, Brandon McNally took the puck and skated around the net, causing Colton Phinney to fall to the ice.
McNally waited, but fed the puck to Eric Neiley, who gave Dartmouth the 3-2 lead with 1:27 minutes left.
“Heartbreaking,” Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty said of the loss.
Princeton pulled Colton Phinney, who finished with 23 saves, with less than a minute left. But the Tigers couldn’t tie it, and left Thompson Arena down 0-1 in the first-round series.
“But you have to win two games,” Fogarty said. “It’s a two out of three series, so if you win or lose your emotions have to be suppressed and start preparing for tomorrow’s game immediately.”
Just one week after struggling against Dartmouth, the Tigers returned to Thompson Arena with a dominant start. They took the lead six minutes in, when freshman Matt Nelson netted his first collegiate goal.
The Tigers turned in one of their best performances in the third frame, when Princeton dominated and Garrett Skrbich scored the game-tying goal 8:53 minutes into the period.
“He’s been consistent and knows his role and plays to his potential every night.”
Fogarty said he attributed the team’s improved play to the aspects covered in practice – including back-door chances, slowing down the pace in the neutral zone and two-on-ones.
“[If] we play that way tomorrow, I like our chances again,” Fogarty said.
The Tigers struggled slightly in the second, as penalty trouble helped Dartmouth take a 2-1 lead on goals from Tyler Sikura and Eric Robinson 46 seconds apart. Sikura’s goal – a tally that deflected off the post and a Princeton player – came on a delayed penalty, while Robinson scored when Princeton’s Eric Robinson was in the box for slashing.
“We took away a couple back door plays that they had and they got a fortunate goal there and then capitalized on the power play. But it was still very manageable,” Fogarty said.
“We had two great scoring opportunities immediately on the next shift. Just we had a blocked shot [and] just missed on the second opportunity. We responded very well.”
Princeton dominated from that point, pinning Dartmouth into its zone. The Big Green had trouble clearing the puck for most of the period – and took seven shots to Princeton’s 14 in the period.
Ryan Siiro and Kevin Liss recorded assists. Liss returned to the blue line and played with Tom Kroshus, replacing injured Quin Pompi.
“[Liss is a] versatile player and did well in practice on the point for us,” Fogarty said.
The defensive pairs of Tommy Davis, Joe Grabowski and Aaron Ave and Matt Nelson were reunited. On the offense, Aaron Kesselman took Siiro’s place on the line with Mike Ambrosia and Kyle Rankin, while Marlon Sabo and Stuart Pomeroy dressed as forwards.
The teams will meet at 7 p.m. on Saturday for Game 2.
“All the talking was done Monday through Thursday. It was up to them and I believe they played very well and I said it’s a two out of three series. It’s not over and there’s more hockey to be played.”