In women’s NCAA Division I collegiate hockey, there is no league as deep or as talented as the Eastern College Athletic Conference. In last year’s ECAC tournament, Clarkson University, the eventual national champion, could not even emerge victorious from its own league, losing to Cornell in a hard-fought title game. This year, with four of the eight competing teams ranked Top 10 nationally, the Tigers (15-12-2, 13-8-1 ECAC)will have their work cut out for them, as they hope to beat the odds and reverse some recent history, starting with their upcoming best-of-three quarterfinal matchup at No. 6 Quinnipiac University (24-7-3, 15-5-2).
In 10 previous trips to the ECAC quarterfinals, the Tigers have only advanced twice since 2006 and have never reached a championship game. Blocking the road to the semifinals this winter stand the ferocious Bobcats of Quinnipiac.
The Bobcats and the Tigers have met twice already this season, with Quinnipiac winning both showdowns by two goals. In the first matchup onNov. 25, the two teams skated through a highly competitive game in which the Tigers were unable to break through against their opponents’ defense and goaltender Chelsea Laden. In an even more closely fought rematch, sophomore forward Molly Contini’s goal in the third period brought the Tigers within one late in the game, but an empty net score with 32 seconds to play allowed the Bobcats to exhale and cement their victory.
As evidenced by the results against Quinnipiac this season, the Tigers will need to solve the puzzle extended by Laden and Quinnipiac’s staunch defense if they hope to advance. Laden (23-7-2) leads the nation in shutouts with 14 and ranks fourth in goals against average, at 1.16. What’s more, the Bobcats average 1.12 goals against per game are good for a tie for first in the nation.
If they are to challenge Laden and Quinnipiac this weekend, the Tigers will need their playmakers to play a key part. Contini, the leading goal-scorer (16) and point-scorer (28), will need to catalyze the offense. Princeton will also look toward sophomore defenseman Kelsey Koelzer (26 points) and junior forward Jaimie McDonnell (24) to emerge in leading roles in the weekend’s competition. Protecting the Tiger net, junior Kimberly Newell will need to stand tall and shut down a talented Quinnipiac attack.
There are some accolades to report as the Ivy League season came to an end last week. Head coach Jeff Kampersal ’92, in his 18th year at the helm, was voted the Ivy League coach of the year. Four of his players also earned Ivy League honors. Koelzer was selected as a unanimous pick for first-team All-Ivy, while Newell and McDonnell landed on the second team, and Contini earned honorable mention consideration. Additionally, freshman defenseman Emily Achterkirch was named the ECAC freshman of the week for her efforts in last weekend’s play.
The puck will drop on3:30 on Friday,3:00 on Saturday, and (if necessary) 1:00 on Sunday afternoon in Hamden, Conn. With a stiff task ahead, the Tigers must play at their best to extend their season.
While the women have finished their regular season, the men have one last ECAC weekend remaining before next weekend’s postseason opener. The Tigers will travel northon Fridayand Saturdayto snow-covered Hanover, N.H., and Cambridge, Mass., in what could potentially be a preview of an opening round ECAC postseason matchup.
Regardless of this weekend’s events, Princeton (4-19-3, 2-16-2 ECAC) will finish last in the ECAC, in which all 12 teams are guaranteed a playoff bid in men’s play. Much of the rest of the league, though, remains in flux. As the top four schools are guaranteed first-round byes, much lies at stake this weekend for contending teams.
By way of finishing 12th, the Tigers will square off against the No. 5 team in a best-of-three road series next weekend. Five teams — Yale (25 points), Colgate (23), Harvard (23), Dartmouth (22) and Cornell (21) — remain vying for spots three through seven in the ECAC, and Princeton will meet one of these teams next weekend. Before the Tigers reach the postseason, however, they still have unfinished business, as they will seek revenge for prior losseson Friday andSaturdaynights.
In Hanoveron Friday, Princeton will meet streaking Dartmouth (13-10-4, 10-8-2), which brings a 7-2-1 record in its last 10 games into the meeting. In the first matchup between the two Ivy League schools, the Big Green bested the Tigers 4-2, firing 42 shots on Princeton sophomore netminder Colton Phinney. Goals by senior Aaron Kesselman and junior Jonathan Liau were bright spots in that matchup, but Princeton will need to bring its best form if it hopes to compete with what will be a highly motivated Dartmouth team.
The Big Green will play with added fire, asFriday’sdecision could be the difference in the race for the Ivy League Championship. Yale, playing Cornellon Saturday, leads Dartmouth by one point, with this weekend’s matchups carrying huge implications in both the ECAC and Ivy leagues.
The following night in Cambridge, Princeton will battle Ancient Eight rival No. 16 Harvard (14-10-3, 10-7-3). Unlike its counterparts in Hanover, the Crimson is trending downward, compiling a 3-6-1 record in its last 10 contests. Once ranked No. 4 in the nation, Harvard has found itself in middling form of late.
In the first battle between the two Ivy opponents, then-No.9 Harvard managed a whopping 55 shots on goal. Phinney, in a stellar effort, managed to stop a career-high 51 of these salvos. Despite their young goaltender’s phenomenal effort, as well as goals by sophomore Tommy Davis, freshman Joe Grabowski, and Kesselman, the Tigers could not reel in the victory, falling 4-3.
Princeton and Dartmouth will face off at 7 p.m. on Friday, and the Tigers meet the Crimson at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Both games can be found on the Ivy League Digital Network.