Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 7
 
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS: Princeton University women’s hockey senior captain and star defenseman Stephanie Denino controls the puck in recent action. Overcoming a knee injury, Denino helped Princeton post two shutouts last weekend as the Tigers topped Clarkson 1-0 in overtime on Friday and then blanked St. Lawrence 3-0 a day later. Princeton, now 12-11-4 overall and 10-6-4 in ECAC Hockey play, ends regular season action this weekend by hosting Brown on February 19 and Yale on February 20.

With Irrepressible Denino Shrugging Off Injury, Tiger Women’s Hockey Posts Weekend Sweep

Bill Alden

When Stephanie Denino crumpled to the ice in agony in the game against Dartmouth in early January, it looked like her senior season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team may have been over.

After getting helped from the ice with one leg hanging limply, the senior captain cried in the training room as she dealt with the pain in her knee and the realization that her college career could be finished.

But the irrepressible Denino took advantage of exam break to put in some arduous rehab work in a bid to salvage her final college campaign.

After missing two games in late January, star defenseman Denino was back on the ice for the first weekend of February.

“I worked hard in the three weeks that we had off and it has really paid off,” said the 5’6 Denino, a native of Montreal, Quebec.

“I am just grateful that I get a chance to finish. The knee is not as stable but I am not paying attention to it. I am getting a good tape job, a good brace. I feel really protected.”

Last weekend, Denino helped protect the defensive zone with aplomb as Princeton posted two shutouts, topping Clarkson 1-0 in overtime on Friday and then blanking St. Lawrence 3-0 a day later.

In Denino’s view, the win over No. 4 and ECAC Hockey leader Clarkson could be a turning point for the Tigers, who are now 12-11-4 overall and 10-6-4 in ECACH play, good for sixth in the league standings.

“We are a resistant gang, you could see that in the overtime,” asserted Denino, with a knowing smile.

“We don’t want to stop believing. When a lot of people see the Tigers as a lower ranked team, we don’t want people taking us for granted. If we’re beating the No. 1 team in the ECAC, it is a testament to what it is we can do as a team. It is not that we don’t have enough talent, we have to keep building on these performances.”

After a subpar performance the weekend before when Princeton lost to Colgate and Cornell, the Tigers brought a sense of urgency into the Clarkson game.

“We wanted to make sure we understood what we did wrong but then we just wanted to flush it and start fresh,” said Denino, reflecting on the team’s mood last week.

“We know we still have a lot of good hockey left to play and we are just determined to show people that the Tigers are not done yet.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal liked the determination he saw from his players as they got ready for last weekend.

“We basically went back to the drawing board and instead of being woe is me, the team took to it well,” said Kampersal.

“They worked their tails off on Monday. When that snowstorm hit Wednesday, they all made their way to the rink and because not a lot of the workers were there, we pulled things together and had a decent workout. There was no Zamboni; it was pure pond hockey. They prepared well on Thursday.”

That preparation paid off in a victory that Kampersal hopes will be pivotal for his club.

“This team needs that so badly for their morale,” said Kampersal, reflecting on the win over Clarkson which saw the Tigers break through with a goal by Danielle DiCesare 2:26 into the extra session.

“They are a good group of kids, they work hard. In the beginning of that game, they played very smart but a little tentative, making sure that they didn’t make a mistake. After that they got a little grit and started playing a little bit better.”

The Tigers showed plenty of grit on offense as they put the clamps on a team that came into the evening at 20-7-3 overall.

“It starts in the goal out, Cassie [Seguin] played well,” said Kampersal, referring to his freshman goalie who had 21 saves on the evening.

“The defensive players did a good job. We did a good job on the rest of the d-zone coverage; the centers and forwards were good down low. It was much better than last weekend.”

Things go much better for Princeton when Denino is in the lineup. “Steph is one of the most positive kids I have met in my time here,” said Kampersal.

“I am pretty much a negative Nancy and she keeps me focused on seeing the sunshine in each day. The kid is just a warrior; she is battling out there. In general, the other players draw inspiration from her; whether it is vocally; whether it is how hard she works on a day-to-day basis. She wears her heart on the sleeve; she is a gutty, gritty kid.”

Kampersal is confident his players will show heart collectively as they look to build on last weekend.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Kampersal, whose team finishes up regular season play by hosting Brown on February 19 and Yale a day later.

“If we are going to do something more than we have been doing in the playoffs in recent years, hopefully that will give us the confidence that we can compete.”

Denino is confident that the Tigers will compete hard to the end. “I personally would like to go out with a bang as a senior; the past three years of not making it past the first round have hurt,” said Denino, referring to the team’s early exits in the ECACH playoffs.

“I think a game like this today really lifts the team’s spirits and it reminds us that there a lot of games to be played, a lot of battles to be fought. I am excited about what is to come.”

The Tigers are certainly excited to have Denino back on the ice with her battling spirit.

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