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Women's hockey faces pivotal weekend

The guest list hasn't quite been finished yet. Some already know that they'll be going; others aren't so sure. The members of the women's hockey team only know this — they want their invite.

The Tigers are on the cusp of making the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference playoffs and have six games left to prove that they deserve a spot.

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Eight teams in the 13-member conference make the playoffs each year. Princeton (10-8-5, 8-7-3 ECAC) is currently ranked eighth with 19 points and can solidify its chances of making the postseason when it travels this weekend to face St. Lawrence and Cornell.

"We control our own destiny," head coach Jeff Kampersal '92 said. "If we can get four points on this weekend, mathematically we'd be in pretty good shape."

The games this weekend are the most important of the Tigers' final six — and the most winnable. St. Lawrence (15-12-0, 8-10-0) is ninth in the ECAC and just three points behind Princeton. The Big Red (11-12-1, 7-12-1) is 10th and trails the Tigers by four points.

The Tigers need to extend their lead over these fellow bubble teams, and put as many points between themselves and their opponents as possible.

Princeton faced the Saints once already this season and lost, by a 4-2 count. Against Cornell, the Tigers had better luck winning 3-2.

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That was at the beginning of the year, however, and since then the team has come together.

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"Since the second half of the season, we've been playing pretty well," Kampersal said.

Princeton is 5-2-2 in its last nine games, including a pair of muchneeded wins this weekend — the Tigers' first weekend sweep of the season.

The Tigers picked up four points by defeating cellar-dweller Maine (4-15-1, 1-15-1) and upsetting fifth-place New Hampshire (19-7-0, 12-5-0).

"We're very optimistic after we beat UNH," freshman netminder Sarah Ahlquist — recently named ECAC goaltender of the week — said. "We figured that if we could beat one of the top teams, we should be able to beat teams like St. Lawrence and Cornell.

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Princeton will have another opportunity to pick up some points the following weekend, but they'll again have to do it on the road. The Tigers will face fourth-place Providence and sixth-place Northeastern. Princeton lost and tied during its first meetings with these two teams — losing to Providence.

The last two games for the Tigers will only get tougher. Princeton will play host to ECAC-leading Brown and third-place Harvard, each of whom trounced the Tigers once already this season, by scores of 4-2 and 7-1, respectively.

Finishing off the regular season against two powerhouses only increases the need for wins this weekend. But there is a silver lining to playing the league leaders.

"Our road doesn't get any easier," Kampersal said, "but these are the teams we'll be facing when the playoffs come around so it's good that we face them now."

"We have to play the full 60 minutes," Ahlquist said. "Our problems have come when we've let down for a few minutes at a time and let teams come back into games that we had.

"So it's just being consistent and working hard and playing together for the whole game."

Princeton will need to heed this advice all weekend if it is to have a chance of reaching the ultimate goal — a spot in the ECAC tournament.

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