Friday, December 9, 2016

Scouting the enemy: Princeton Tigers

The No. 7/8 Quinnipiac Bobcats play a home and home series with their ECAC travel partner this weekend, the Princeton Tigers. The Tigers come into this weekend with a 3-7-1 record (1-6-1 ECAC) but have won three of their last four games. Two of those wins came on the road against Bemidji State then ranked 10th in the country and in the top three of the pairwise rankings. They had wins of 4-1 and 3-1 against Bemidji that turned some heads in the college hockey world. Last week they had an impressive come from behind win against RPI winning 6-5 in overtime after trailing 4-1. Princeton out shot RPI 30-3 in the third period and overtime to come away with the victory. Its been a tough first two seasons at Princeton for head coach Ron Fogarty who was left a bare cupboard from his predecessor Bob Prier. Fogarty won a combined nine games his first two seasons and already has the Tigers with three wins in the first half of the season and they seem to be playing better after a rough start to the season. For as good as a program Quinnipiac has had in the last 15 years it is a surprising 14-9-1 all time against the Tigers. However, the Bobcats are 8-3-1 all-time at Hobey Baker Rink including a 5-0-1 in its last six games there. Four of Quinnipiac's last six wins against Princeton have come by way of a shutout. What is the most shocking stat, is that the Bobcats own a 6-6-0 record against the Tigers at home which includes a 6-4-0 record at High Point Solutions Arena.

David Hallisey (photo by Shelly Szwast)
The Princeton offense is averaging 2.64 goals per game for the season but they have averaged four goals per game over their last four contests. The Tigers lack elite play makers up front limiting what they can do offensively. What they lack in elite skill they make up in hard work and effort for coach Fogarty hence two wins on the road against a quality opponent and a come from behind win against RPI. They are led in scoring by two players with 12 points in David Hallisey (5 goals and 7 assists) and Max VĂ©ronneau (4 goals and 8 assists). Sophomore Ryan Kuffner 10 points (5 goals and 5 assists) and Eric Robinson 8 points (5 goals and 3 assists) are other players to watch in this game. While they haven't been a top offense all season they have been pretty effective as a power play team at 19th in country scoring at a 19.64% (11-of-56) clip. All of VĂ©ronneau's goals have been power plays goals while Hallisey and Robinson have two each on the power play. One other forward of note is freshman Jeremy Germain who grew up in Hamden and is the grandson of long time men's ice hockey coach Jim Armstrong. Quinnipiac will have to do a good job of staying out of the box as this is an area where Princeton could hurt them.

Defensively, Princeton has struggled all season giving up 3.91 goals per game which is good for 55th in country. However they do kill penalties at a solid 84.1% (37-of-44) clip and they average 15 blocked shots per game so that is something they can hang their hat on. They bring good size on the blue line with eight of the nine defenseman six feet or taller. Four of the six starting blue liners are upperclassmen so they bring some experience back there. On paper Quinnipiac matches up very well against this defense as they have much more talent up front than the Tigers can contain. The Bobcats need to play fast and physical against the Tigers defense to force them into mistakes they might not normally would make.

Colton Phinney (photo by Shelly Szwast)
In goal the Tigers play senior Colton Phinney who has a lot of experience playing against the Bobcats. He has started all six games that Princeton has played against Quinnipiac the last three seasons and it would be a surprise if anyone but Phinney played in these games. Phinney is 1-5 all time against Quinnipiac but the one win came back in the 2013-14 season at High Point Solutions Arena when Princeton rallied for a 4-3 win. In ten games played this season, Phinney is 2-7-1 with a 3.93 goals against average and an .877 save percentage. The numbers don't look spectacular but he played very well in one of the wins against Bemidji State. Phinney isn't a big goaltender but is athletic enough in net. He hasn't been a goaltender that can win you a game but he does enough to keep his team in games.

Overall, Quinnipiac matches up extremely well against Princeton as they have the more talented offense, defense and are better in goal as well. Anything less than a four point weekend would be a massive disappointment for this team and the goals they have set for this season. Princeton will play hard so this is not a team to overlook as they have played Quinnipiac very competitively over the past few seasons even if the results have not been there.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathan_singer.

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