Women’s hockey secures regular season, earns home advantage for playoffs| Feb 22, 2016
The women’s hockey team (21-6-2 overall, 14-6-2 ECAC) secured a strong finish to their historic regular season this past weekend. The Tigers tied with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (10-15-7, 8-9-5) by a score of 3-3 on Friday and then defeated Union College (0-28-6, 0-19-3) in a 4-2 victory on Saturday. The clutch finish will earn the women’s hockey team home-rink advantage in this weekend’s ECAC quarterfinals.
Needing two points to secure home-rink advantage, pressure was mounting for the Tigers on Friday night. When Princeton faced the Engineers in early January, the otherwise dominant Tigers had escaped with a 3-2 victory; Friday’s match would be Rensselaer’s chance at redemption.
Despite skating at home in Princeton’s Baker Rink, the Tigers skittered back and forth against Rensselaer. Unlike the previous meeting between the two, the foes exchanged goals until the final second of the game.
Junior forward Fiona McKenna scored the first goal of the game in the final three minutes of the first period, giving Princeton the lead. The Illinois native commanded the puck across the rink before outmaneuvering Rensselaer’s goalie.
Unfortunately, the Engineers controlled the second period with two goals from Shayna Tomlinson. The RPI lead placed the Tigers in a rare deficit and jeopardized the Orange and Black's chances of home-rink advantage in the ECAC playoffs.
The RPI lead persisted into the final nine minutes of the match until sophomore forward Kiersten Falck surprised with a mid-range shot of her own. Unfortunately, the Engineers were quick in their response. Just a minute later, RPI responded to restore the Engineers' lead.
With time against them, the Tigers felt the imminent possibility of suffering just their third loss of the season. However, the Orange and Black accepted the challenge calmly. With just three minutes remaining in the game, freshman forward Karlie Lund powered the puck into the goal. With the score even at 3-3, the two teams eventually progressed onto overtime. However, neither force managed to reach the net in the extra time, handing Princeton its sixth tie of the season.
With the tie, Princeton developed a sufficient scoring cushion against Union College, as the Tigers only needed a tie in order to secure home-rink advantage. Fortunately, the Tigers did even better. In a sense, the victory was foreseeable, as the Tigers had only lost once in 25 prior meetings between the foes. When the Tigers faced Union earlier this year, Princeton shut out the Dutchwomen by a score of 5-0. The Dutchwomen also had not won a single game all season.
Similar to their previous meeting against the Dutchwomen, the Tigers pounced early against Union. For the majority of the game, the Dutchwomen could not respond to frequent Orange and Black goals. By the third period, Princeton had accumulated a 4-0 lead. In the process, junior forward Audrey Potts, junior defender Kelsey Koelzer, sophomore defender Emily Achterkirch and freshman defender Kimiko Marinacci all edged in goals. In unconventional fashion, the majority of Princeton goals came from defenders.
With the Saturday night victory, the Tigers finished their regular season atop the Ivy League, third in the ECAC and eighth in the nation, a feat for the history books. Yet, the battle continues as Princeton will host St. Lawrence for the ECAC quarterfinals this weekend.