After battling to the final seconds — and beyond — the Princeton women’s hockey team fell to St. Lawrence in overtime on Sunday, ending their season by falling two games to one in the ECAC quarterfinal series.
Princeton dropped the first contest in the three-game matchup between the two schools, falling 1-0 last Friday after Lawrence’s Kennedy Marchment scored the lone goal halfway through the third period. The Tigers were outshot 46-29, but senior goalie Kimberly Newell still had 45 saves — her second-highest number in a single game this season.
However, Princeton refused to fold after the setback. In the second game of the series, played last Saturday, the Tigers fell behind early and trailed St. Lawrence 2-0 well into the second period. Then, freshman Stephanie Sucharda put the home team on the scoreboard by scoring Princeton’s first goal of the game and her third of the season. The Tigers then took advantage of a penalty against junior defenseman Kelsey Koelzer, evening the score on the ensuing power play. Although St. Lawrence would score again on a power play of their own, Princeton had a huge third period — tying the score at 3-3 just after the 13-minute mark and grabbing the lead four minutes later. From there, the Tigers simply held on for the final few minutes; a desperation attempt by St. Lawrence to pull their goalie sealed the Princeton victory when the Saints were assessed a penalty for putting seven skaters on the ice. Although the Saints once more outshot the Tigers 36-27, Princeton had evened up the matchup and headed into the third and final game with a chance to continue moving forward in the conference tournament.
The final contest proved a powerful testament to the Tigers’ teamwork and resilience. Koelzer, an Ivy League Player of the Year and one of the backbones of the squad, went down with an injury during the first period and did not return, yet despite this loss and the pressure of facing a tough St. Lawrence squad, Princeton continued to give as good as they got. The Tigers scored first, with junior forward Cassidy Tucker firing a successful shot on goal eight minutes into the first period. Although St. Lawrence would eventually rack up two goals in the second period to take the lead, junior forward Molly Contini evened up the score again with just under five left in the second.
As the third period opened, St. Lawrence struck yet again, scoring on a long shot that found its way past Newell. From there the situation seemed to grow steadily more hopeless as minute after minute of the final period ticked by without a Princeton score. With little more than two minutes remaining and the Saints still leading 3-2, most would have assumed that the Tigers’ season was just about over.
Contini and Princeton squad disagreed.
A crucial St. Lawrence penalty with less than two minutes to go, along with the decision to pull Newell, gave the Tigers a 6-on-4 personnel advantage. From there, Princeton unloaded shot after shot at St. Lawrence. Ultimately, with only 15 seconds remaining, Contini found the net — tying the game and, against all odds, prolonging Princeton’s season for at least the length of the overtime period.
Unfortunately, luck did not favor the Tigers in extra time. Although Princeton did outshoot St. Lawrence 7-1, the Saints’ one shot happened to find its way into goal. St. Lawrence escaped with a thriller. The Tigers fell just short of continuing through the playoffs.
Although the loss stung for Princeton, the effort and resiliency of the team was on display throughout the three-day matchup. Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal expressed tremendous pride in the accomplishments of this squad over the course of the season.
"Our kids played with a lot of heart and soul," he said. "I’ve been doing this for 20 years and this year has been the most fun. It’s been the most trying year as well. There’s been some things our kids have battled and worked through and they're resilient. They’re an awesome group."