Women's Hockey: Tigers split series with No. 8 Ohio State
The women’s hockey team was searching for a breakthrough victory as it headed into a back-to-back series with No. 8 Ohio State (11-5). Princeton (4-6-2) was coming off a tough 1-2 overtime loss to No. 3 Clarkson and had not fared well against ranked opponents, having been shut out 4-0 by then No. 2 Cornell and losing 9-1 to then No. 9 Harvard. The Tigers dropped the first match last Friday to the Buckeyes 4-2 despite holding a 2-0 lead at the start of the third period but came back on Saturday to win 2-1.
Going into the rematch, the Tigers were not ready to feel sorry for themselves. Head coach Jeff Kampersal ’92 had them fired up and focused, and Princeton was ready to cut back on mental mistakes, avoid turnovers and keep play as simple and clean as possible.
On Saturday, it was the Buckeyes who had the 1-0 lead going into the third period off a goal from forward Ally Tarr in the first frame. The Tigers came out into the third with an aggressive edge. Only 14 seconds into the period, senior forward Corey Stearns assisted fellow senior forward Alex Kinney, who ripped a shot past Ohio State goalie Lisa Steffes from the right side of the ice.
While the Buckeyes threatened to retake the lead late in the third period, firing shot after shot, it was the Tigers who were able to capitalize. With just over three minutes left in regulation, sophomore defenseman Brianne Mahoney broke it out to junior forward Olivia Mucha. Mucha hit sophomore forward Brianna Leahy as she was going up the right side, and she put it right through the five-hole for the score.
“I honestly just took it to the net,” Leahy said. “I took it to the net and was able to slip it past the goalie. I was set up perfectly, and then I was able to finish.”
The Tigers would hold off the Buckeyes for the team’s biggest win of the season thus far. Freshman netminder Kimberly Newell posted an impressive game, letting up only one goal on 34 shots.
Friday’s game looked promising for the Tigers, as they had taken a 2-0 lead entering the third period off power-play goals from Leahy and sophomore defenseman Ali Pankowski. But Ohio State, which outshot Princeton 43-14 in the final two periods, came roaring back, scoring three goals in less than 10 minutes. It would add one more goal on an empty net in the closing seconds to make it a final score of 4-2, as the script from Saturday was flipped the previous day.
“We had a few mental lapses,” Leahy said. “They are a good team, and they are going to capitalize on our mistakes. We aren’t used to being up. It was a new position for us. We just let our foot off the gas.”
The silver lining for the game was the toughness of Newell, who had a career-high 47 saves.
Splitting the weekend series with Ohio State, Princeton improved to 4-6-2 while the Buckeyes fell to 11-5. The win was the Tigers’ first against a ranked opponent this season.
“We were waiting for our breakthrough game,” Leahy said. “We haven’t had the best record, but a lot of our losses have been close. We came off of a tough loss last week and got a big victory. It helps a lot with our confidence.”
Princeton looks forward to facing league opponent Union on Friday at home. The Tigers led for almost all of their first game against Union this season, until the Dutchwomen tied the game in the final seconds, ending in a 1-1 stalemate. Princeton will also take the ice on Saturday against Rensselaer, which the Tigers beat 6-5 in the matchup earlier this month. Princeton will be working on its defensive zone and blocking goals this week in practice to prepare for the remainder of the season.
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