Princeton senior goaltender Sean Bonar stole the show at day one of the Liberty Hockey Invitational (Photo: Mike Ashmore)
NEWARK — If the first day of the inaugural Liberty Hockey Invitational was any indication, the ECAC could be wide open this year.
Defending national champions Yale were easily knocked off in the first game by Brown, losing 4-1 in the first game, and Princeton managed to sneak past a solid Dartmouth team, 3-2, in overtime.
The attendance was listed at just 1,209 for the first day of the event, leading the question to be asked: If the defending national champions drop their season opener, but nobody is there to see it…does it make a sound? Yale controlled the play for the first ten minutes, easily outshooting the Bears…but then the momentum started to shift. Yes, the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead on a Stu Wilson goal at 5:01 of the second period, but Brown really turned on the pressure and rattled off four unanswered goals to collect the upset win. Mark Naclerio was credited with two of Brown’s four markers.
In the nightcap, Dartmouth and Princeton provided a much better show than the opening contest, which was at times unwatchable. Dartmouth outshot the Tigers 40-20 in the game, including a whopping 19-5 margin in the first period, but it was Princeton who struck first…and second. Goals by senior captain Jack Berger and the first collegiate tally by Ben Foster gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead early in the third. But Jack Barre got the Big Green to within one just 1:15 after Foster’s goal, which set the stage for some late-game drama.
With goaltender James Kruger pulled for the extra attacker, Brett Patterson managed to thread a feed to Eric Neiley up the right side, and he was inexplicably in all alone on Princeton goalie Sean Bonar with 40 seconds left to play in regulation. Neiley managed to shield the puck from the trailing defenseman long enough, and shuffled the puck past Bonar to send the game into overtime tied, 2-2.
But it took Tucker Brockett just 45 seconds to net his first career college goal, taking advantage of a broken play to bury the puck into a wide open net after a blocked shot had caromed right to him.
Princeton is scheduled to play Yale today, while Brown and Dartmouth will face off. As this is not a true tournament, there will be no champion of the event, despite what players and coaches said after the game.
Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet
“I think we played really well the entire game. I just don’t think they had a lot going, it was just one of those games where it was a bounce. Their goaltender played really, really well…I think there were a couple of penalties in the offensive zone that hurt us and gave them some momentum, but I don’t think they generated much against us. I’m really happy with the way the team played because I think on another night, it’s a decisive win.”
“I thought we were good defensively. Calof is obviously an elite level player, and I don’t think we gave them a lot of room. The neutral zone is a key area to generate speed, and I thought we nullified that. On the other hand, I thought we generated some. I thought we had some good rushes, I thought we had some clean-in situations, and they clogged it up in their end. They had a lot of guys, plus the goalie, trying to block shots.”
Princeton head coach Bob Prier
“It was 0-0 after the first, so we had absolutely no doubts, we were confident in this team. It was a gutsy win. I think when you win like that and when you win with an absolute ton of resilience…I think we got a lot better as the game went on and got a lot more comfortable, and I think it goes a long way. You learn a lot more from a win like that. We weren’t as sharp as we could have been early, but our guys stuck to the process and did a really good job…it’s nice to be able to learn some lessons and walk away with the W at the same time.”
“I think as a whole, we’ve got to play quicker and that’s something that we learned. Away from the puck, our wingers have to do a better job of getting to their spots faster and helping our defensemen out. But I give our defensemen a lot of credit tonight, I think they did a very good job of hanging on to the puck. If they didn’t have anything, they didn’t throw it away, and that’s frustrating to play against. But at the same time, we’ve got to get them something. As wingers and as centers, we’ve got to do a better job of coming back and getting to open space so they can move that puck up.”
WATCH Princeton players comment on the game here
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com