This Friday and Saturday, women's ice hockey (3-1 overall, 2-0 ECAC)) will face Rochester Institute of Technology (5-3-2, 0-1-1 College Hockey America) in a double header. The Tigers are feeling confident after their wins against Colgate University and then No. 6 Cornell last weekend. Unlike other teams the Tigers face, RIT is a rather unknown opponent. The last time Princeton played RIT was two years ago, when they won their division. From what the Tigers know, RIT is a formidable team, but the depth and talent of Princeton’s roster has a great shot at coming out with a win.
In addition to taking on RIT, the Princeton men’s and women’s ice hockey teams are joining forces to support “Stick it to Cancer,” a fundraiser for colon cancer research, on Saturday. The fundraiser was coordinated by Fiona McKenna and her friend at RIT, whose father passed away from colon cancera year ago from this weekend. The teams’ goal is to raise $5,000 for colon cancer research. There will be various games and activities at the halftime intermission, and baked goods will be sold for the cause. Fans can also donate at the rink or online. Admission to the women’s game will be free to the public, and free to students for the men’s game.
Since it has been two years since the Tigers have faced RIT, the coaches have been spending a lot of time analyzing their opponents' game film to get a sense of their playing style. The women have been practicing with a great sense of purpose in preparation for this weekend.
“We’re trying to get a sense of their systems –their power plays, penalty kills and forechecks,” junior forward Jaimie McDonnell said. “Different teams have different styles. Some are less aggressive, and others will go full force at you on the defensive end. There are two ideologies, and a coach will look at a team’s strengths and decide which is better. A team with fast skaters can send two players out strong, but a team that’s stronger defensively will hang back a little more.”
The Tigers are really clicking this year, and with the incredible depth of the team, it’s hard to pick players to sit out. “Freshmen to seniors are all playing well. It’s a lot easier to see when offense is rolling. We scorednine goals this weekend, but our defense is just as strong. They’re the unsung heroes,” McDonnell said.
A couple of Tigers who stood out last weekend were freshman forward Kiersten Falck and junior goalie Kim Newell. Falck had a goal, and Newell had multiple saves. “When things were falling apart, Kim kept everything together,” McDonnell said.
Newell, who has been a starter since her freshman year, was invited by Hockey Canada to attend the 2014 National Women’s Team Fall Festival, which is an evaluation opportunity for the team that will represent Canada at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship.
Despite her accolades and phenomenal ability, Kim– or “Kimbo,” as she is called by her teammates–is down-to-earth and has a great sense of humor. “She has a pair of sassy pants that she likes to pull out here and there,” McDonnell said.
Looking forward into the season, McDonnell said she believes that any team has a great shot.
“The Ivy League is very tight,” McDonnell said. “Any weekend, any team could win.”
RIT is in the process of integrating into Division I. It was a Division III school for many years, and McDonnell’s freshman year was the first year RIT competed DI. This, however, says nothing about RIT’s experience. Last season, RIT won its division, but was not able to compete at NCAAs because there is an NCAA ruling which states that teams that are moving into DI cannot compete at NCAAs for their first two years. Therefore, this will be the first season in which RIT is eligible to make a run at the NCAA title.
“RIT doesn’t have any big names, but they are a hard-working team. Hard-working teams are often harder to beat than talent,” McDonnell said.
While RIT is not in the same division as Princeton, this game will affect the Tigers’ record and their ranking in the NCAA. While the game will not affect Princeton’s record in the Ivy League,it will set the tone for the rest of the season. A better record will garner the Tigers greater respect when they face other opponents. “If you know a team is a big opponent, you sit back on your heels a little more, and this little bit of confidence can make or break a team,” McDonnell said.
On the whole, however, the women’s ice hockey team is a fast-skating, hard-working group that has a great balance between veterans and fresh talent, and has the potential to be a championship team. The team’s great dynamics and good health have helped the Tigers maintain high spirits. Going into this weekend, there is no doubt they will put forth their very best efforts. “At the end of the day, it’s the team that makes more mistakes that’s going to lose. It’s really a game against yourself,” said McDonnell.