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Weekend split keeps women's hockey on playoff bubble

With the league tournament looming just a month away, the women's hockey team did not assert itself this weekend. For the time being, though, Princeton may have done enough to carry its playoff hopes.

After dismantling Findlay, 7-0, in a post-layoff tuneup Jan. 23, the Tigers began a string of 12 consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference games with a 3-1 loss to Dartmouth Saturday before rebounding to blank Boston College 2-0 Sunday afternoon.

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Princeton (8-7-4 overall, 6-6-2 ECAC), which currently sits tied for eighth place in the conference with St. Lawrence, must finish in the top eight in the league standings to qualify for the ECAC's postseason tournament.

Yet as a lackluster loss to Dartmouth (13-7-0, 12-4-0) and a tough victory over league cellar-dweller Boston College (5-14-1, 1-14-1) indicate, the Tigers are still looking to put everything together.

"I think both games we came out a little flat in the first period, but after that it tended to pick up," senior defender Dani Holtschlag said. "I think that the biggest thing for us is coming out and playing the first 10 minutes like we play the last 10 minutes. We have a tendency to sit back and wait, and we just need to come out more aggressively."

Barrage

Sunday, it took the Tigers more than 46 minutes to solve BC goaltender Christy Nentwig. Princeton peppered Nentwig throughout the game, but the score remained knotted at zero after two periods.

Sophomore forward Andrea Kilbourne finally lifted the goose egg from the scoreboard, scoring six minutes, 37 seconds into the final stanza to give Princeton a 1-0 lead. Junior defender Annamarie Holmes added another goal 1:33 later to give the Tigers — who outshot the Eagles 38-9 — their final tally.

"I think it was a little frustrating because we had a lot of great opportunities, but we just didn't have anything to show for it," Holtschlag said. "I was pretty proud of the way we came together to beat BC at the end."

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"We wanted to blow [Boston College] out of the water," freshman forward Nikola Holmes said, "but we ended up playing down to their level."

A day earlier, Princeton came out flat against Dartmouth and was unable to recover.

The Big Green's Kristen King scored with just 32 seconds remaining in the first period for the game's first tally, then added a second goal off a rebound 2:23 into the second period to give the Big Green a 2-0 lead.

Kilbourne drew the Tigers within one goal 6:02 into the second period, but Princeton was unable to solve Dartmouth netminder Meaghan Cahill again. Cahill stopped 20 Tiger shots, while freshman goalie Sarah Ahlquist turned aside 27 of the 30 shots she faced.

Missed opportunity

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"The frustrating part was we expect [Dartmouth] to come out strong, but they weren't playing well either," Nikola Holmes said. "But we just couldn't capitalize on that."

In their first game following the two-week exam layoff, though, the Tigers had no problem capitalizing, beating up on Findlay, a first-year team from central Ohio, Jan. 23 at Baker Rink. Seven different players recorded points for Princeton, highlighted by junior forward Abbey Fox's hat trick. Fox (three goals, one assist), Nikola Holmes (one goal, three assists) and Kilbourne (four assists) each tallied four points on the game while Annamarie Holmes added two goals for the Tigers.

Princeton sent a barrage of shots at Findlay goaltender Nickie Kelly, outshooting the Oilers 45-11. Ahlquist and freshman Lexi Fallon split time in net for the Tigers.

With 10 games remaining, Princeton faces a major challenge this weekend when Niagara — currently in seventh place in the ECAC standings — visits Baker Rink for a pair of games.

With the Purple Eagles sitting just ahead of the Tigers in the league standings, two wins could have a significant effect on securing a playoff spot.

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