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Sarah Fillier and Princeton women's hockey will take on Syracuse this weekend. Photo Credit: Owen Tedford / The Daily Princetonian

The women’s ice hockey team is ready for the Black Out. 

On Friday night, the eighth-ranked Tigers (7–2–0, 5–2–0 ECAC) take on the fifth ranked Clarkson Golden Knights (10–1–3, 3–0–1) in the first game of a critical weekend series at Hobey Baker Rink. The following day, Princeton will do battle against St. Lawrence University, who they last met in the first round of the 2019 ECAC Tournament. 

To say the Clarkson game is an important game may not be doing it justice. The Tigers will take aim against a team that swept last year’s season series, and has won 15 of the last 17 meetings. With two of the nation’s top 10 teams taking the ice, the ECAC — and perhaps the rest of the nation — will be watching to see which team sets the tone and collects a critical early season win. Perhaps adding a bit more pressure for the Tigers is their loss to No. 3 Cornell (7–0–1, 5–0–1 ECAC) in Ithaca earlier this year; a loss to Clarkson would put them behind two ECAC teams in the early jockey for the conference title. 

Fortunately, the Tigers will have some help off the ice, thanks to Black Out Baker. Chosen by the team prior to the season, the special night seems to bring out the best in the Tigers. Last season, an audience more than double its average size watched the home team thrash defending national champions Colgate 6–0.

Head Coach Cara Morey hopes for similar results this year.

“Our girls are real high energy team and they feed off the energy of others.” Morey said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.  “The more people are cheering … they rise to that level of energy.”

Princeton is coming into this game off of what Morey describes as its best weekend so far this season, but not the highest point it can achieve. Morey hopes to see the Tigers’ offense again clicking on that level, while also upping the team’s physicality this weekend, as it will face one of the best teams on its schedule.

“I think we need to be more difficult to play against,” Morey said. “We need to be grittier and more physical.”

Princeton will certainly have its fair share of impact playmakers, including sophomore forward Sarah Fillier and senior defender Claire Thompson, on the ice for this contest. Fillier and Thompson were deeply missed when they played together for Team Canada in exhibition matches against Team USA two weekends ago; both missed the Tigers’ disappointing loss against Harvard (5–0–0, 5–0–0 ECAC), which was — per Morey — the season’s low point. Fillier is sixth in the nation in points per game and assists per game. 

The most interesting matchup, however, will be the battle between senior forward Carly Bullock and Golden Knights junior forward Elizabeth Giguère, two of the top scorers in the country. Giguère is averaging one goal per game, and Bullock has tallied eight goals in the first nine games, giving her the fourth best goals per game average, at 0.89. Meanwhile, Giguère is first in the nation with an average of a goal a game, and is sixth in the nation in points per game. 

“Clarkson is always a very fun game to play because they are an exceptional program,” Morey noted. “They play a trap style game we are not used to. They trap you in the neutral zone and make it really difficult to sustain any type of offense. They are a physical team, it’s going to be a fast game.”

So far this season, the Tigers have also been fortunate to have two strong goalies — senior goalie Stephanie Neatby and junior goalie Rachel McQuigge. This duo has worked tremendously well, with a combined save percentage of nearly 93 percent, a 6–2 record, and two shut-outs (one each). Morey admitted, “I’ve been told it’s a good problem to have.”

She added, “They are both great; they both dominate the net. It’s harder to scheme against our goalies because they don’t know which one will start.” 

Princeton knows that a weekend slate features more than one game; taking on SLU will be a challenge of its own come Saturday. But for now, all the focus is on the showdown between top ECAC teams — one looking to usurp the recent dominance of the other — as the season kicks into high gear.

No. 5 is taking on No. 8, with a raucous crowd expected to fill the stands. Even though it’s only November, could the Tigers be gearing up for the game of the year? Morey’s response said it all.

“Yes.”

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