As the rain fell in Hempstead, New York, two ranked teams looked to improve their record at a chilly Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University.
For Princeton, it was their first regular season game of 2013 and, after losing a core of defenders, the back end of the field had a lot to prove.
The matchup featured two freshman goaltenders, both looking to replace legends for their prospective programs. For Hofstra, rookie Chris Selva took the helm after losing Andrew Gvozden to graduation in 2013. He performed well against a potent Princeton offense, producing a 44 percent save percentage. In no way was it a stellar performance, but he certainly managed the game well considering his lack of big game experience. Princeton featured freshman Matt O'Connor in goal, replacing All-American Tyler Fiorito who started for four seasons as a Tiger. O'Connor started off shaky, but quickly gained confidence in his first collegiate win, posting a 46 percent save rate.
The Princeton defense is completely rebuilt, with no starter having played the same position in 2012. Freshman Mark Strabo impressed in his debut at close defense, with veteran Derek Raabe providing strong play as well. Nick Fernandez, a converted defensive midfielder, showed little hesitation in his new role, playing physical defense against a strong Hofstra offense. The communication among the Tigers defenders failed at times, giving Hofstra easy goals on the doorstep, something that will only improve as the young group grows together in 2013. O'Connor's confidence in goal was shown as his vocal leadership became more evident as the game went on. Consistency will be the goal for this unit moving forward, as the Tigers' schedule leaves little room for mistakes.
As far as offense was concerned, what was thought to be a high scoring affair (especially with the new rule changes), proved to be a low scoring battle between two tough teams. Junior Torin Varn was outstanding for the Pride, scoring four goals and getting under the skin of Princeton's young goaltender early in the game. He now has nine goals in two games, a great way to start the 2013 season. Hofstra's leading scorer from 2012, Adrian Sorichetti, was kept in check by only tallying an assist in the contest. Sam Llinares pitched in with a goal and two assists for Hofstra, but it was not enough to get by the Tigers.
Princeton's offense benefited by basically having everyone back on the roster in 2013. All-American and Tewaaraton hopeful Tom Schreiber had two goals and an assist on the day, proving to be too much to the aggressive double teams and quick slides from the Pride defense. Freshman Ryan Ambler lived up to the hype, producing a goal and three assists in his first career game. Mike MacDonald, a crafty left handed attackman, picked up right where he left off last year, scoring three goals on the day. Reliable Senior Jeff Froccaro added two goals and an assist as the Tigers pulled away in the second half.
The turning point in the game came when Princeton switched it up at the face-off X. Head Coach Chris Bates decided Bobby Lucas would take the draws in the second half, which provided a boost to a Princeton team that was struggling to maintain possession on the slick turf. His physicality provided the Tigers with the ability to win tough ground balls, leading to increased possession time and an opportunity to drain the game clock in the second half.
Moving forward, Hofstra will visit Fairfield on Tuesday, February 26 for a 4 pm ET contest. Princeton will travel to Johns Hopkins for a prime-time Friday night matchup (3/1), face off is at 5 pm ET.
All Princeton games can be heard on 103.3 WPRB FM in New Jersey.