Princeton Defeats Colgate, Moves on to Quarterfinals

This had the feel of a pitcher's duel in a postseason Game 7, and in the end, Princeton's ace came through. As a result, his record-setting career, one that appeared to be over Saturday night, will continue for another week.

Colton Phinney, who has more saves than any goalie in Princeton hockey history and who has been the backbone of the program for four years, made 35 more of them, including several big ones down the stretch, to lead the Tigers to a 2-1 win over Colgate in the deciding game of the best-of-three opening round ECAC playoff series Sunday night at Hobey Baker Rink.

Princeton wins the series in which all three games were decided by one goal, including two in overtime. Princeton was only playing Sunday because it tied the must-win Game 2 one day earlier with one second left in regulation before winning it in the OT.

It is the first ECAC series win for Princeton since the 2009 playoffs.The seventh-seeded Tigers now advance to the ECAC quarterfinals next weekend, for another best-of-three, this time at second-seeded Union, who beat Princeton 7-3 and 4-2 earlier this season.

Princeton fell behind 1-0 six minutes into Sunday's game on a goal by Jake Kulevich but Phinney slammed the door shut from there. He was outstanding in the third period as Colgate pushed hard for the equalizer, hoping to repeat Princeton's Game 2 magic.

The Tigers took the lead with 6:43 left in the second period, when Max Véronneau set up Ryan Kuffner perfectly for what would prove to be the winning goal. Princeton's first goal came on a drive from the top on the power play from Derek Topatigh, who scored his second of the year. Topatigh appears to like the big moment, as his other goal beat Clarkson in overtime.

Véronneau and Kuffner are sophomores. Topatigh is a freshman. They have plenty of time ahead as Tigers.

For Phinney, the challenge this weekend was more immediate. After being in net for only 12 wins his first three years, when puck after puck was thrown his way, Phinney has been as responsible as anyone for Princeton's reemergence as a tough opponent in Ron Fogarty's third year as head coach. Phinney went over the 3,000-save mark and set the school career record earlier this season, and in fact, he ranks first in Division I among active goalies in career saves, with Colgate's Charlie Finn, who also had a strong series, second.

Phinney's career number now stands at 3,372 - and counting - as Princeton moves on and Colgate goes home. It's a razor-thin margin, and it's the harsh reality of the playoffs, especially in deciding games.

For those occasions, it's best to have your ace ready to go.