This weekend, the No. 6 women’s hockey team (18–4–5, 15–2–3 ECAC) will travel to No. 5 Clarkson (24–7–1, 15–5–0) and St. Lawrence (13–13–6, 8–7–5). All three teams are in line to make the ECAC playoffs. But with no seeding yet decided, the stakes remain high.
Clarkson and Princeton are battling No. 4 Cornell (18–3–6, 15–3–2) both for the No. 1 seed in the ECAC tournament and for home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Home ice for the quarterfinals has already been decided for Princeton, Cornell, Clarkson, and Colgate — who, in some order, will finish as the top four seeds. St. Lawrence is in a four-team battle with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Harvard, and Quinnipiac for the fifth through eighth seeds.
On Friday at 6 p.m., the Tigers will head to Potsdam, N.Y., to take on the Golden Knights. Earlier this month in Princeton, Clarkson got the better of the Tigers, walking away with a 3–1 victory. The performance broke Princeton’s 20-game unbeaten streak — which, the longest in program history, had propelled them to a No. 4 national ranking.
In the Feb. 2 game, the Tigers dominated on offense; they outshot Clarkson 38–20. However, they were unable to get their power-play offense working. Though Princeton ranks No. 1 nationally in converting those power-play opportunities, the team netted no goals in six attempts. Princeton played a relatively clean game, finishing with only two penalties. However, the Golden Knights were able to capitalize on one of those chances. In all, an improved special teams performance on Friday could be a key for a Tigers win.
Princeton will face St. Lawrence in Canton, N.Y., at 3 p.m. on Saturday. When the teams met last, they played one of the Tigers’ most exciting games this year; with 3.2 seconds left in overtime, a goal by first-year forward Maggie Connors lifted Princeton to a 4–3 victory.
Princeton was able to net a power-play goal on one of its three opportunities. But unable to kill off all four of its penalties, it gave one up as well. Though the Saints outshot the Tigers 41–31, great net work by junior goalie Stephanie Neatby kept Princeton in the game. Neatby made 38 saves, including 16 in the third period alone. St. Lawrence’s goalie only had to face 14 shots over the second and third periods combined; expect the Tigers to up their offensive pressure come Saturday.
As mentioned, a lot of things can still happen in the ECAC standings. Princeton can currently finish anywhere from the first through third seed, but the team controls its destiny. A sweep this weekend will guarantee the Tigers the No. 1 spot. One win will guarantee them at least the No. 2; Cornell could only then earn the No. 1 seed if the Big Red sweeps this weekend against RPI and Union. Importantly, were Colgate, Cornell, and Princeton to end up tied on points, Princeton holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker against Clarkson remains undecided. Princeton can only win it if it beats the Golden Knights on Friday night and then has one of the following scenarios happen: Princeton wins over St. Lawrence, Clarkson loses to or ties with Quinnipiac, or Princeton and Clarkson tie on number of wins, because Princeton has a better record (3–2–1) than Clarkson (2–0–4) against the other teams in the top four.
For those unable to make the trips, the games will be streamed online on ESPN+ for fans in the United States. For fans abroad, there is a link on the GoPrincetonTigers website to access a stream. There will also be live updates available on the Princeton Women’s Hockey Twitter (@PWIH).