This weekend the Tigers (6-1-1 overall, 4-0-0 Eastern College Athletic Conference) had a doubleheader facing conference rivals Union (1-10-2, 0-4-0) on Friday and RPI (1-9-3, 0-3-1) on Saturday. Princeton won both contests in overtime by scores of 3-2 and 2-1 respectively. Although Princeton had the home-ice advantage both days — the Tigers have never lost to Union at Baker Rink — both Union and RPI proved challenging opponents.
On Friday, sophomore forward Molly Contini had the winning goal in overtime after Union had scored in the last minute of regulation. Although Union was not as fast as some of the other teams the Princeton faces, the Dutchwomen were a gritty bunch that played hard from the corners.
“Union and RIT are similar teams in that they give 110%. You know they aren’t going to back down, and even though they might seem a little more passive, when they decide to come at you, they’re going to come at you hard,” junior defender Karen McDonald said.
Junior forward Jaimie McDonell and sophomore defender Kelsey Koelzer finished with a goal and an assist apiece on Friday. Junior goalie Kimberly Newell also had a standout performance playing both days.
“Kim carried us a lot when we were making mistakes on the ice,” McDonell said, “Its always great to have a goalie you can count on. [Sophomore forward] Hilary Lloyd also had a great game. She always works hard, and she’s a real force on offense.”
Newell felt that the team came out very strong in the first period, when they scored both of their regulation goals, of the game on Friday. “Union is a grinder team. They work really hard. There isn’t one specific thing that they are good at. They just try to get a bounce their way and capitalize on it,” Newell said.
Union had a strong power play that Princeton had to combat with an effective penalty kill forecheck, which prevented them from setting up. However, Princeton came out strong in the first period and was able to set the tone of the game from the start. The last goal that Union scored in the final minute of regulation play did not come off a Union player’s stick; rather, it bounced off a player in front of the net.
“The last goal was sort of a fluke,” McDonell said. “They are tough goals to come back from, but based on how we were playing, we knew we would come back. Going into overtime, we talked about trusting our teammates and about playing to win rather than playing not to lose.”
Going into Saturday, the team was fortunate knowing that Union and RPI have a similar playing style. While RPI was the stronger of the two teams, Newell believed that the Tigers could expect to come out with a win.
“Our team came in knowing that we had to play a full 60 minutes to come out successful, but we also knew that we were strong enough, fast enough and hard-working enough to take on RPI,” Newell said.
Compared to Union, RPI was a much faster team. The Engineers were physically larger and faster than Union, and the forwards were not afraid to pressure the defense. They were also better prepared and matched the Tigers’ systems very well, especially in the first period. However, there was not a point in the game when RPI was able to dominate, and the Tigers left feeling that it was their most successful game yet.
“RPI was the closest we came to playing a full game,” junior forward Cristin Shanahan, who also clinched the winning goal in overtime, said. “It was the closest we came to playing our best throughout the whole game.”
This is the fourth time that the team has gone into overtime this season, and the third time they have come out with a win. However, this is a testament to the Tigers’ ability to come out on top even when they are facing the hardest working teams in the ECAC.
“I thought our team showed a ton of heart this weekend,” Contini said. “RPI and Union are both very gritty, hard working teams. I’m really proud of the way we battled back and came up with both wins, but I think the biggest takeaway from this weekend is that we must play a complete 60-minute game. The ECAC is very deep, and if you take a shift off, you’ll pay.”
The Tigers will face St. Lawrence on Friday and Clarkson on Saturday at Baker Rink. Both are historically strong teams with Clarkson currently first in the league, leading the Tigers by a point. With a number of teams tied in the rankings this early in the season, this upcoming doubleheader will provide an opportunity for Princeton to separate itself from the rest of the pack.