It took 17 hours and a trip that made me cross four states, but I managed to make it home from Madison last Monday just in time for Princeton’s game against AIC. (Long story short, I had three flights that were cancelled, one scheduled for Tuesday that I then thankfully got to switch back to Monday). I then went to Boston for Princeton’s game against Harvard and was lucky enough to go to Dartmouth as well. After watching the three games, especially the team’s losses to Harvard and Dartmouth, I have some thoughts on the team’s progress (and their shot chances/shot charts, which I’ll get to later).
Princeton coach Ron Fogarty wasn’t thrilled with the team’s effort against AIC, but they picked it up and he was happy with the two efforts over the weekend, despite the losses.
“I will take that game every day, how we played,” Fogarty sad after the team’s loss to Harvard.
Where the team is now compared to November: These teams last met in November, and Princeton lost both. Back then, the Tigers weren’t happy with their first period against Dartmouth but played better the rest of the game and played very well against Harvard. Princeton is definitely a lot better now, and they’ve shown it through some impressive wins (Yale and Brown). Mostly it’s just Princeton’s stronger play, both defensively and offensively (although strong defensive play helps the offense).
This weekend, a lot of people were telling me Princeton looked really good and played well. It’s funny to hear since their performance didn’t surprise me. After watching this team over the past three years, especially how it’s progressed this year, I expect them to play like that.
Some of the best games of the season: Against Dartmouth in the third period, Princeton had a really good chance of scoring. Actually, both games were some of the team’s best offensive efforts (despite Princeton scoring just one goal.)
“When you’re on the road and you get plus-30 chances, 30 shots on goal, you’re showing progress because you have the puck more,” Fogarty said after the loss to Dartmouth.
It’s not just the chances, although Princeton did outshoot Dartmouth 37-23, but it’s where the chances were coming from. After the first, the Tigers attempted shots from everywhere in their offensive zone. Here are the shot charts from the first and second frames:
Here’s the second period:
And here’s the third:
“We had some great scoring chances again and that’s what you want,” Fogarty said after the game against Dartmouth. “To have the opportunity to have scoring chances.”
Now I want to look at Princeton’s shot attempts against Harvard, because the Tigers to some shots off from just in front of the net and the slot.
Here’s the second period(31 is Harvard’s Merrick Madsen):
Here’s the third:
Now the Tigers just need to work on finishing those chances: The opportunities are coming, a lot more than they had in the past. Fogarty said the players aren’t used to being in some of these situations, but the more familiar they get the easier it’ll be for them to score.
Dartmouth has a nice rink: My visit Saturday was my first trip to Dartmouth, so I’ve now checked six of 12 ECAC rinks off my list. I actually really liked Thomspon Arena. It’s not as small as Bright (Harvard’s Rink), but it’s not very big either and it’s pretty well lit. It helped Saturday’s game was packed with fans and students, making for a good atmosphere.
The tennis ball tradition is… Part of the reason I’ve always wanted to go to Dartmouth is because of the tennis ball tradition, where the fans throw tennis balls on the ice after Dartmouth’s first goal against Princeton. So after Dartmouth scored in the first period, it started. It’s kind of cool but also kind of strange, and I was mostly impressed no one threw tennis balls for the second goal (fans aren’t supposed to, but sometimes they do. So now each year Dartmouth’s brass issues a statement asking fans not to throw tennis balls for subsequent goals).
One last note: I’m trying not to get sentimental with just eight games left in the regular season, but this has truly been a great year. Thank you to everyone who’s shown your support – I really appreciate it, and it’s made covering this team that much more fun.
Until next week!