Women enjoy successful season, look to take the next step
Though they did not compete in the NCAA Division I Championship tournament, the women of Princeton hockey had a unique view of the action. Of the eight teams competing, Princeton had played six of them over the course of the season, demonstrating just how difficult a road the Tigers travelled in their 2014-15 campaign.
Despite a schedule filled with talented teams with national pedigree, the Tigers compiled a 15-14-2 record overall, including a No. 6 13-8-1 performance in the formidable 12-team Eastern College Athletic Conference — perhaps the most talented league in the nation. Highlights included a 1-0 win over eventual national runner-up Harvard, a season sweep of top 10-ranked Cornell University and a runner-up finish in the Ivy League after a fierce race with Harvard that came down to the final day of the regular season.
After finishing No. 6 in the ECAC, the Tigers travelled to Hamden, Conn., for a best-of-three postseason quarterfinal series with Quinnipiac University, a team that had beaten Princeton twice during the regular season and wasthenranked No. 6 of all Division I teams. Attempting to advance past the quarterfinal stage of the tournament for the first time since 2006, the Tigers could not best the Bobcats and star goalie Chelsea Laden, falling 7-0 and 2-0 to end the season.
While the year ended in disappointing fashion, head coach Jeff Kampersal ’92, in his 19thyear at the helm of the program, said that his team “outperformed expectations” this season. He praised the squad's resiliency and recognized the four senior class members for setting a positive example for the team’s underclassmen. For his role in his team’s success this season, Kampersal was recognized as the Ivy League Coach of the Year. The coach deemed the honor a “collaborative award,” and credited assistant coaches Cara Morey and Lee Mirasolo and his players for his success.
While hockey is a team sport, a few players stood out as difference-makers for the Tigers this season. Sophomore forwardMolly Contini (coming off of hip surgery and a year off) and sophomore defensemanKelsey Koelzer were awarded All-ECAC second-team honors for their performances this season. Continiled the team in points with 28, compiling 16 goals and 12 assists. Her head coach called her “the most unselfish player” that he has seen in his time as coach, and credited her “unbelievable vision” as key to her strong campaign. Koelzer, who moved from forward to defenseman this season, recorded a remarkable 26 points from the blue line, with eight goals and 18 assists. Kampersal noted her big-time playmaking ability, saying, “She was spectacular all year … she had so many big goals.” Junior forwardJaimie McDonell (25 points) and sophomore forwardHilary Lloyd (21 points) also powered the offense. In net, junior Kimberly Newell was a workhorse, starting 26 games and compiling an impressive .925 save percentage while allowing 2.36 goals against per game.
Looking ahead to next season, the future seems bright. Although they will lose seniors Ali Pankowski, Brianna Leahy, Brianne Mahoney and Ashley Holt to graduation, the Orange and Black will return their top five point-scorers and starting goaltender from last this year. Asked about what steps the team needs to take in order to reach the next level, Kampersal stressed that it will take “a collective belief” in the program. He added, “we will have a pretty strong group next year,” and acknowledged that a window of opportunity is quickly emerging.
“Within these next one to three years we need to get things done,” he said. After a successful season, Kampersal and the Tigers seem hungry for more.
Men begin the rebuilding process under Fogarty
The men of Princeton hockey faced an uphill battle this season, long before the first puck dropped and the 2014-15 season got underway. After former head coach Bob Prier was canned over the summer and Ron Fogarty was given the keys to the program, the young Tigers team — which included nine freshmen and eight sophomores on the roster — had to learn an entirely new system. As if these challenges were not enough, injuries plagued the squad, especially during the first half of the year.
From a win-loss perspective, the Tigers did not enjoy much success this year. The team compiled a 4-23-3 record while finishing last in the ECAC, going 2-18-2. However, there was notable improvement as the season progressed. Head coach Ron Fogarty pointed to shots on net allowed as an indicator of this progress, saying “we were giving up mid-40 shots … at the beginning of the season. After Christmas, it was decreased by about 20.”He also lauded his team’s effort, saying, “our guys competed hard every night. There was no quit.”
One particular weekend late in the season demonstrated the progress and competitiveness that Fogarty mentioned, as the Tigers impressed with a 2-1 victory over Clarkson University and a 1-1 tie against a strong then-No. 20 St. Lawrence University squad, teams that had beaten the Tigers 4-0 and 3-0 respectively earlier in the season.
In men’s ECAC hockey, each team earns a playoff birth, and the Tigers had an opportunity to shock the conference when they travelled to No. 5 Dartmouth for a best-of-three postseason series. The matchup was closer than many expected — a testament to the team’s improvement over the season. A goal with less than two minutes to play led Dartmouth to a 3-2 victory in the opener, and only one goal separated the two teams in Game 2 before an empty net tally with five seconds to play cemented the 2-0 win and series sweep for the home team.
Junior forwardJonathan Liau led the Orange and Black with 14 points this season, scoring four goals and tallying ten assists. Sophomore forwardBen Foster recorded four goals and six assists and junior forwardKyle Rankin accumulated three goals and seven assists to lead the offense alongside Liau. While goals were often difficult to come by, the constant for the Tigers this season was the strong play of sophomore goaltender Colton Phinney. Speaking about the netminder, Fogarty remarked, “[Phinney] was no question our most valuable player throughout the season. He gave us a chance game-in and game-through. He did a great job.”
Fogarty was also quick to note that while the goalie had a strong campaign, he still has room for improvement — an exciting prospect for the Tigers. In 29 games, Phinney faced a whopping 953 shots, recording a save percentage of .910 and a goals against average of 3.08. His season included a stellar, career-high 51-save effort against then-No. 9 Harvard in a 4-3 loss.
While they will return their top three leading point-scorers, as well as their starting goaltender, the Tigers will lose six seniors to graduation next season — Tom Kroshus, Tucker Brockett, Aaron Kesselman, captain Tyler Maugeri, alternate captain Aaron Ave and Ryan Benitez. Fogarty said this class will be “deeply missed” and praised them as a group that “left a great foundation to build upon for Princeton hockey.”
Despite a difficult season from a win-loss perspective, Fogarty remains confident about the future of the program. He said the Tigers’ off-season work will be crucial to the team’s success next season, explaining, “It has to be a great summer of off-ice conditioning … We have to be better physically fit aerobically and anaerobically to handle the rigors of the game of Division-1 so that there are no mental breakdowns when we’re getting tired next year.”
While the rebuilding process takes time and patience, Fogarty thanked the Princeton fans for their backing, adding a statement that demonstrates the extent of his confidence in the direction of the program.
“I appreciate the fans supporting us,” he said, “and I promise them they’ll have a winning team to root for in the very near future.”