In the third period of Princeton’s first road game against Cornell, the Tigers were locked 3-3 with the Big Red. Princeton freshman forward Max Veronneau was stationed in front of the net late in the game, trying to get his first collegiate hat trick.
The Ottawa, Ontario, native had just scored his first two collegiate goals and was looking for another when he was shoved to the ground.
“I really just remember the puck coming out and I was kind of excited just to score again,” Veronneau said on Tuesday. “But then the next thing I know some guy just kind of tackled me from behind.”
Veronneau couldn’t complete his hat trick bid, but the Tigers earned a power play chance.
“I was kind of almost in shock that I had no idea the guy was behind me. [He] just came out of nowhere.”
Princeton didn’t score on the man-advantage and lost the game with less than a minute left. The Tigers then dropped their game against Colgate, but also provided several positives from the loss. One of those was Veronneau, who scored his first collegiate goals.
“I feel like it’s that bittersweet feeling because I did score, but we did lose both games this weekend,” Veronneau said. “It feels good just to have my first goal out of the way, but it kind of sucks that we lost both games this weekend.”
Veronneau, a member of a six-member freshman class, was expected to contribute along with his classmates. As a rookie in the CCHL, Veronneau netted 80 points in 61 games. His last season was cut short because of injuries, but Veronneau still recorded 36 points in 27 games.
Now just two weekends into the season, Veronneau leads all Princeton freshmen in points. He also created scoring chances with his linemate and former junior hockey teammate, Ryan Kuffner. After the loss to Cornell, Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty said the chemistry between the two was “excellent.”
“Being able to play with Ryan over the last couple of years just makes it easier just to play at the next level,” Veronneau said. “We already know where each other are on the ice and what the other guy is thinking almost, so to make the transition that much easier.”
While the chemistry has made the transition from junior to college hockey easier for the pair, Veronneau said the increased speed has been a challenge. He is also trying to work on the defensive part of his game this year.
“Defensive stuff plays a huge role in college hockey and I think just being better defensively will help out my offensive game too,” Veronneau said.
Offense wasn’t an issue for Veronneau, who’s first road game took place at Cornell’s famously hostile Lynah Rink.
“It was [an atmosphere] that I’ve never experienced before,” Veronneau said. “It was actually quite awesome just to be a part of that game, even though they were booing us.
“It was just so much fun to be a part of that, [to] be in that rink playing against Cornell. It would’ve been better if we would’ve come out with a win though, but it was still a very fun experience.”
As a team, the Tigers have fared better offensively so far this season. Princeton has increased its shot total but has also created quality scoring chances. The next step is converting them.
“I think we really just need to bear down in our chances,” Veronneau said. “We do create a lot of scoring chances, so [we] just need to have a little more finishing touch around the net. [I] feel like if we just keep working hard right now, we will be able to bury a bit more coming in next two games hopefully.”