Women's Ice Hockey: Riding 3-game winning streak, Tigers to visit ECAC opponents to defend perfect 2013 record
Since coming back from a two-and-a-half week hiatus for finals and Intersession, however, the Tigers have looked like a different team. Not only have they won their first three games since the break, but they have dominated the opposition. Princeton has outscored its opponents 12-2, an indication of a newfound offensive potency and the dexterity of freshman goaltender Kimberly Newell.
“When we got back from the holiday, the assistant coaches did a great job,” head coach Jeff Kampersal ’92 said. “I was away in Finland, but when I came back, the team was more prepared, crisper and did a better job staying focused. It shows that the girls did a great job in terms of keeping their work ethic over break.”
One could point to the combined records of Penn State, Yale and Brown, a meager 15-52-4, as an explanation for the Tiger’s three-game winning streak, but that would belittle the success of a team that looks completely different from the one we seen for most of the season. A strong team chemistry, which at points may have been lacking on the ice, has emerged as a defining quality for Princeton and enhanced its ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone and create opportunities.
The goaltending of Newell has been the biggest asset for the Tigers on their three-game winning streak. Newell was named ECAC Goalie of the Week with a total of 63 saves in three games, and she achieved a .969 save percentage and a .75 goals against average over that span.
“Both goaltenders have helped with team morale,” Kampersal said. “There was a time period when both [Newell and sophomore goaltender Ashley Holt] weren’t feeling great, but now they are healthy and are peaking at the right time. Kimberly’s award was well deserved. She has had a major presence for us in the net.”
Freshman forward Molly Contini also received honors as ECAC Rookie of the Week for her play in the past three games. She has scored four goals over that span and recorded her first career hat trick in the 6-1 win over Brown last Saturday.
“My personal success can really be attributed as part of the team’s success as a whole,” Contini said. “[Senior forwards] Cooky [Kelly Cooke] and Corey [Stearns] both move the puck really well, and they are really fast. I am more of a finisher, and they make it really easy for me.”
Princeton will face off against Colgate (8-16-3) and fourth-ranked Cornell (19-4) on Friday and Saturday. The Tigers will be celebrating forwards Cooke, Stearns and Alex Kinney as part of Senior Parents Weekend.
The Tigers’ first game against Colgate ended in a 3-3 tie and is what Kampersal calls a “must win” conference game. The Raiders sit in ninth place in the conference standings, just one place behind Princeton. Saturday’s game against Cornell will be an opportunity for Princeton to take some points from a team near the top of the standings, but it will take a massive effort from the Tigers to knock off a very solid Big Red squad.
“It’s tough to prepare for two games against two very different teams. Cornell attacks really aggressively, so it requires a different type of preparation. In practice we have to play to the strengths of each team. One day we will work on Colgate and then another on Cornell,” Kampersal said.
The final weeks of the season will come down to defense. Over their victories, the Tigers have been able to keep the puck on the offensive side of the ice, but some detrimental tendencies in the defensive zone still linger. In order to make a run in the playoffs, Princeton will also need to capitalize off of power plays and ride the stellar goaltending displayed in the past few games.
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