Leaning on its freshman class, No. 11 St. Lawrence overcame two deficits to defeat No. 6 Princeton, 3-2, squaring the best-of-three ECAC Hockey first round series at 1-1 in Princeton, N.J.
The decisive Game 3 is at 4 p.m. Sunday. The winner will advance to the ECAC quarterfinals next week. St. Lawrence (11-20-5 overall) would head to Union or Yale in the quarterfinals, while Princeton would travel to either Dartmouth or Cornell.
“We're still facing elimination,” SLU coach Joe Marsh said. “I told them the same stuff (after the game). We just have to try to keep our season going.”
St. Lawrence's rookie of the year hopeful Greg Carey twice pulled the Saints even with Princeton and freshman Kyle Essery scored the game-winner midway through the third period. Rookie goalie Matt Weninger, who was knocked out of his last start on Feb. 19, made 28 saves. He'll likely get the start for the decisive third game.
“(The freshmen) played great,” Marsh said. “It was a good effort; it was a pretty gritty effort. Carey had two unbelievable goals on the power play. The kid can shoot the puck.”
Carey's first goal erased an early 1-0 deficit on a power play at 9:38 of the first period. He rifled a shot from the point past Princeton freshman goalie Sean Bonar, who had held the Saints to only one goal in Game 1. Bonar finished with 19 saves, but allowed three goals. In his first two games against the Saints this year, Bonar surrendered only two goals in 120 minutes.
Princeton regained the lead at 4:13 of the second when Princeton's star freshman Andrew Calof scored on Weninger. But back-to-back penalties only 26 seconds apart gave SLU a critical 5-on-3 power play.
Carey again answered for St. Lawrence. He rocketed another shot from the point while Nic Vangog screened Bonar. The shots snuck inside the far post.
“That was big. It always is when you're 5-on-3,” Marsh said. “(Carey's) wristers are just bullets. The guys did a great job and got it to where it needed to go.”
Kyle Essery gave St. Lawrence its first lead of the series at 9:42 of the third off an odd-man rush. Sean Flanagan found him on the weak side to give the Saints the 3-2 edge.
“It’s the playoffs,” Marsh said. “That’s when big players emerge.”
Weninger, meanwhile, continued to stuff Princeton's attack with 12 saves in the final period, including several over the final 90 seconds as Princeton pulled its goalie for an extra attacker. Weninger came on in Game 1 after Robby Moss surrendered three goals. He allowed only one more score in the final 30 minutes on Friday. Game 2 proved a continuation of that effort and helped St. Lawrence force Game 3.
The win didn't come without some setbacks for St. Lawrence. Senior captain Jared Keller left with a knee injury and did not return. Marsh said he would miss the rest of the season. Assistant captain Jacob Drewiske also left with an injury. He is questionable for today's game.