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Women's hockey's playoff hopes dim following pair of losses

The 'tables' of the Eastern College Athletic Conference women's hockey standings were set going into this weekend's two away games.

Princeton entered the weekend in eighth place in the ECAC and riding high off a two-game winning streak. The Tigers held a three-point lead over then ninth-place St. Lawrence and a four-point lead over then tenth-place Cornell.

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But how quickly the tables have turned.

Eight teams make the ECAC tournament at the end of the season, and Princeton (10-10-5 overall, 8-9-3 ECAC) had the perfect opportunity to solidify its position in the standings this weekend as it faced the only other teams below it in the standings that were still fighting for spots in the postseason. But the Tigers dropped their first game Saturday, 5-2, to the Saints in Canton, N.Y., and then lost in overtime to the Big Red in Ithaca, N.Y., the next day, 3-2.

St. Lawrence (17-12-0, 10-10-0) is now in sole possession of eighth place, while Cornell (13-12-1, 9-12-1) moved into a tie with the Tigers for ninth place.

The Tigers rebounded after a tough loss Saturday to battle Cornell to the wire the next day. Princeton trailed the Big Red for almost the entire game. A Big Red power-play goal in the first period — the only period in which Cornell outshot Princeton — gave Cornell the early lead. The Tigers would be successful in holding the Big Red scoreless on its other four power-play opportunities of the day, however.

In a wild second period, which saw six Cornell penalties to Princeton's three, the Tigers were given three extra power-play opportunities but could not convert on any of them. Instead, the Big Red took another opportunity to increase its lead, sending the puck past freshman netminder Sarah Ahlquist with two minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the second period.

The third period, however, belonged to Princeton. The Tigers got 13 shots off on Cornell goalie Elizabeth Connelly and held the Big Red to just a single shot. Junior defender Annamarie Holmes cut the lead in half off an assist from sophomore forward Andrea Kilbourne with 8:04 to play in regulation. Kilbourne would get a goal of her own with 2:03 left in the third period to tie the game at two off an assist from sophomore defender Aviva Grumet-Morris.

Sudden death

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The Tigers' surging comeback came to an abrupt end in overtime. While the Tigers had two scoring opportunities, the Big Red made its second shot of the extra session count, winning its third straight overtime game. The Tigers continued to outshoot their opponents, as they have all season long. Princeton had 39 shots on goal to Cornell's 19.

Against St. Lawrence Saturday, the Tigers once again managed to get more shots off than the Saints, just not more into the net. Ahlquist had 21 saves in goal while Saints' netminder Emily Stein made 31 stops.

St. Lawrence scored early and scored often. The Saints netted two goals in the first period, 1:31 apart. Princeton seemed to regain its composure in the beginning of the second period, however. With four seconds left on a Tiger power play, junior forward Abbey Fox sent the puck past Connelly unassisted to bring Princeton within one.

The momentum, however, was killed four minutes later. On another Princeton power play, the Saints managed to wrest the puck from the Tigers, storm down the ice, and score shorthanded, sending the score to 3-1.

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St. Lawrence went 2 of 4 on the power play, scoring both its goals in the third period. Kilbourne added a second goal for the Tigers in the third, but it was too little, too late.

The two losses make the playoff picture all the more convoluted. Princeton has no choice but to pick up some wins and will have to so either this weekend away at sixth-place Providence and fifth-place Northeastern, or at home in its final two games of the season against fourth-place Harvard and first-place Brown.

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