A year after shocking nationally ranked No. 6 Harvard in a first round upset of the 2022 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) playoffs, Princeton women’s ice hockey (15–15–1 overall, 10–12–0 ECAC) set their sights on an even bigger upset against No. 3 Colgate (30–5–2, 18–3–1) this time around. Unfortunately for the Tigers, despite a thrilling win in the first game of the three-game series, an upset was not in the cards against the Raiders.
Sarah Fillier finishes off Game 1
In game one of the three-game series, the Tigers quickly showed they were a formidable challenge to Colgate’s firepower. A scoreless first period was buoyed by strong play from Princeton first-year goaltender Taylor Hyland, who stopped all nine Colgate attempts in the period.
The next two periods featured five goals total, with back-and-forth action throughout the final 40 minutes. It was Colgate who struck first blood on their red-hot power play, courtesy of forward Kaitlyn O’Donohoe’s wrister from the slot. Five minutes later, it was Princeton’s turn on the man advantage. On the power play, a scramble in front of the Colgate netminder put a loose puck on the stick of Princeton first-year forward Emerson O’Leary, who slammed it home for the tie.
Over the course of the weekend, it became imperative that Princeton stayed out of the box, as Colgate scored five power play goals on the weekend. One of those goals came at the end of the second period on Friday night, where forward Dara Greig netted the 2–1 lead with 16 seconds left.
In the third, however, Princeton’s top-end talent took over. Right out of the gate, a pretty passing play from the top line consisting of senior forward Maggie Connors, senior forward Kayla Fillier, and junior forward Sarah Fillier knotted the game at two. Going end to end, Kayla Fillier dropped the puck to her sister, Sarah Fillier, who fed Maggie Connors net-front for the easy finish.
Sarah Fillier and the Tigers continued their takeover at the halfway point of the period, as she received a pass from junior forward Emma Kee and skated in alone on Colgate goalie Kayle Osborne. With time and space, Sarah Fillier wired a shot glove-side for the go-ahead goal. The goal was Sarah Fillier’s 18th of the season, and it put game one to rest for the Tigers.
“I am incredibly proud of how our team came together this weekend,” Sarah Fillier wrote to The Daily Princetonian. “It speaks to the type of people we have in our locker room to put together a really great weekend of hockey against the number three team in the country.”
Tight loss for the Tigers despite Wunders efforts
Pushing the Raiders to the brink, the Tigers picked up right where they left off to begin game two. Although Colgate scored a power play goal to break open the scoresheet just 90 seconds in, Princeton quickly responded. With 6:56 remaining in the first period, standout first-year forward Issy Wunder rifled a shot for the tie.
Later in the period, Princeton caught Colgate lacking in the defensive zone. Forcing a turnover with under 10 seconds left before intermission, Sarah Fillier found a wide-open Connors in front, who made no mistake in putting the puck past the goaltender for the lead.
Colgate later tied the game in the second, on yet another power play goal from forward Kristýna Kaltounková, but Princeton regained the lead on a spectacular individual effort from Wunder that netted the third goal of the night for the Tigers.
Princeton had ample opportunity to steal the series from Colgate, considering the two separate leads they had in game two. Nevertheless, the resilience of Colgate should not be understated. Erasing the leads and shutting down the Princeton offense, the Raiders applied continuous pressure in the latter stages of the game, before forward Danielle Serdachny broke through for the game winner with five minutes to go.
“I think we played so tough,” head coach Cara Morey told ‘The Prince.’ “We played with so much heart and our whole coaching staff is just so proud of the way they played in that series. And it could have gone either way with a call here or there or a puck bounce here or there.”
Tigers fall in the series finale
In the winner-take-all elimination game Sunday afternoon, Hyland was terrific in the net for the Tigers, saving 43 of 45 Raider shots en route to a tight 2–1 loss.
“That was really neat to see such a young player in such an important position, rise up and play at that level,” Morey said of the young goaltender. “Against number three in the country, three times in a row, playoffs, do or die. She certainly gave us a chance to win that game.”
For a while, it looked as if Hyland’s incredible play would lift the Tigers to the upset. In the first period, after the opening eight shots on goal went to Colgate, Connors raced up the ice in a 2-on-2, and dropped the puck back to a trailing Sarah Fillier. Skating right into the slot, Sarah Fillier ripped a shot top shelf for the lead. It was her fourth point of the series as she and Connors continued to torment the Raiders.
Princeton, though, lost that lead quickly on yet another power play goal from Colgate, this time from forward Neena Brick. Brick poked a loose puck past Hyland on a scramble in front, which the Tigers unsuccessfully challenged for goaltender interference. The power play goal was Colgate’s fifth of the series.
While the ice wasn’t fully tilted to the Princeton defensive zone in the opening frame, the second period saw an unbelievable amount of pressure from the No. 3 team in the nation. Colgate had 19 shots on goal to Princeton’s six during the period, bringing their total up to 38 for the game.
In the third period, Hyland was unbreakable, and until Colgate’s Kaltounková deposited a goal past Hyland in a net-front scramble, Colgate was stymied by the young goaltender. After the Kaltounková goal, the Tigers were able to get a few good looks at the Raiders’ goal in the dying moments of the game, but the final score was in favor of the home side.
“It was tough to end the season in the ECAC quarterfinals,” Hyland said after the loss. “But, after facing adversity throughout the season there is a lot to be proud of for the fight we put up this weekend.”
For Morey and the rest of the Tigers, the series loss to Colgate is hopefully a necessary step in building to better moments.
“This is going to serve them really well in a couple years when we’re going for a national championship,” Morey stated. “These are the lessons that you don’t really understand at the moment, but the experience they just got of going through this kind of grind, in this series, will definitely set them up for success in the next couple of years.”
Cole Keller is an associate Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’
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