The Princeton men's hockey team is trying to make a place for itself among the national elite in Division I.
This weekend, the Tigers got a first-hand look at what exactly that looks like, as St. Cloud State, the No. 1 team in the country, skated into Hobey Baker Rink for a pair of games. And what separated the teams after 130 minutes over two nights?
GOAL! Ryan Kuffner with his 11th of the season from David Hallisey and Max Veronneau, a power-play goal, and Princeton leads St. Cloud 2-1 pic.twitter.com/sevApKKUnc— Princeton Hockey (@puhockey) December 31, 2017
Princeton got goals from Jake Paganelli and Ryan Kuffner and St. Cloud rallied with a goal with 7:42 to play as the teams played to a 2-2 tie in front of 1,897 Saturday night. This game came 24 hours after the Tigers and Huskies played a 3-3 game Friday night, leaving them completely even for the weekend series.
If you're going to get a pair of ties against the top-ranked team in the country, it pays to have a goalie who can make it happen for you. In Princeton's case, it was freshman Ryan Ferland, who was the best player on the ice for the two games.
Ferland made a career-high 43 saves in the tie Saturday night to follow up his 37-save effort Friday, one that included a ridiculous 14 in overtime alone. Princeton was outshot 14-0 in Friday's extra period.
The second time around, Princeton had some good chances in the five-minute extra time, including the final nine seconds of one power play and then another with 2:15 to go. Princeton outshot St. Cloud 4-3 in overtime, but nothing would get by SCSU's Jeff Smith, who made 40 saves of his own.
GOAL! Jake Paganelli with his second career goal and it's a 1-1 game pic.twitter.com/8Hm159fAMT— Princeton Hockey (@puhockey) December 31, 2017
After a scoreless first period, it was St. Cloud who got on the board first at 6:46 into the second. Paganelli backhanded one that handcuffed Smith to even it with 2:09 left in the period, and Princeton then took the lead just 30 seconds into the third, when Kuffner's power-play goal made it 2-1.
For the second straight night, the Huskies rallied late to tie it this time on a power-play goal by Jacob Benson that just snuck in under Ferland. With the tie, St. Cloud is now 12-2-3 on the year, with both losses to defending NCAA champ Denver.
Princeton (6-7-3) is back to the ECAC the next two weekends, both on the road, beginning with games at Cornell and Colgate this coming weekend. After a trip to Harvard and Dartmouth the following weekend, there will be a 17-day break for first-semester exams.