The men’s hockey team fell 4-1 to Michigan State before 4,744 fans in East Lansing on Friday night, in the first contest of a two-game series against the Big Ten opponent. With another loss Sunday, Princeton (3-10 overall, 2-6 ECAC) fell to 1-4 in its last five games and 2-10 in its last 12. Michigan State (4-7, 0-0 Big Ten) snapped a four-game losing streak with the victory, winning for the first time since early November.
The Spartans scored early and often, capitalizing on several opportunities to open a 4-0 margin before the Tigers netted the final goal of the game in the third period. Forward Joe Cox opened the scoring only 4:02 after the opening faceoff, beating Princeton’s freshman goaltender Colton Phinney to give Michigan State an early 1-0 lead. Although the Spartans would not find the net for the remainder of the first period, they would not relent, tallying a second goal in the middle frame before notching two more goals in the third period. Four different players scored for Michigan State.
Freshman forward Garrett Skrbich scored the Tigers’ only goal during the final frame, collecting his first career goal when he found the net with 3:11 remaining in the game. Senior forward Andrew Ammon brought the puck behind the net and fed it to Skrbich, who received the puck out in front and calmly put it away.
“It was great to see Garrett score late in the game,” head coach Bob Prier said. “It was a nice goal on a great feed from Ammon. Garrett did a good job of getting it off quickly.”
Despite falling by a three-goal margin, Princeton did create many scoring opportunities throughout the matchup. The Tigers outshot Michigan State 32-27 on the evening, and even outshot the Spartans in every period. Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand made 31 saves on the night, denying all but one Princeton try. The Tigers also went 0-4 on power play opportunities, despite killing four of five penalties on defense. Princeton will need to capitalize on these opportunities if the team hopes to turn its season around.
“We snapped it around relatively well on the power play and had some good looks, but we will need more traffic at the net to win on Sunday,” Prier said.
Friday night’s loss came on the heels of the Tigers’ enormous upset of No. 4 Quinnipiac (13-2-2, 6-1-1 ECAC) on the Saturday before. Despite losing to the Bobcats at home on Nov. 22 in the first game of a home-and-home set, Princeton defeated Quinnipiac 4-3 on the road the following evening. The victory boosted the Tigers’ morale in what has been a difficult early season, but was not enough to spur Princeton over Michigan State the following weekend.
“The win only helped our mindset,” Prier said. “We simply ran into a goalie who brought his A-game, even though we played pretty well and had many good scoring opportunities.”
In Sunday’s game, Princeton doubled the number of Friday’s goals, but so did Michigan State, and Princeton fell 8-2 to the Spartans. Once again, Michigan State built up an early lead, scoring three uncontested goals in the first period. The Spartans found the net twice more in the second before Princeton finally netted its first goal of the contest. Junior forward Aaron Kesselman intercepted a Trojan pass to center it to senior forward Jack Berger, who scored just nine minutes into the second period. Michigan State converted on a power play before the period was over, putting the Spartans ahead 6-1 before the final period.
Michigan State scored twice more in the last frame before junior defenseman Aaron Ave found the net for the third time this season with just under a minute left in the game. Skrbich’s attempt ricocheted off the boards after a save by the Michigan State goalie, and Ave scooped it up and took a quick shot to score Princeton’s second and final goal of the game.
The Tigers struggled with penalties, taking 11 throughout the course of the game to collect a total of 41 penalty minutes. The time that Princeton spent in the penalty box seriously limited the Tigers’ offense, with Michigan State outshooting Princeton 40-24. Senior goalie Sean Bonar added 32 saves, while the Spartans’ Jake Hildebrand stopped 22 shots.
Princeton will continue its play on the road as the team heads to upstate New York this weekend to face off in league play against Union on Friday and Rensselaer on Saturday.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article repeatedly misstated the name of the Michigan State team. They are called the Spartans. The ‘Prince’ regrets the errors.