Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 4
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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NET WORTH: Princeton University women’s ice hockey goalie Rachel Weber guards the net in recent action. After getting thrust into the starting role due to an injury to sophomore Cassie Seguin, Weber has emerged as a star. The junior netminder recently posted four straight shutouts and extended her scoreless streak to 289:43 before giving up a goal in a 3-1 win over St. Lawrence on January 8. Weber’s streak surpassed the ECACH record of 286:54 set by Amanda Mazzotta of Cornell and smashed the program record of 277:39 held by Roxanne Gaudiel. Weber will look to keep up her hot play when Princeton, now 10-10-1 overall and 7-6-1 in ECACH play, returns from a 20-day exam hiatus by hosting St. Lawrence on January 28 and Clarkson the next day.

Seizing Opportunity to Take Starring Role; PU Goalie Weber Produces Record Streak

Bill Alden

For much of her career with the Princeton University women’s ice hockey team, Rachel Weber has been viewed as a member of the supporting cast.

As a freshman in the 2008-09 season, Weber made just two appearances for a total of 21:15 as she backed up senior star Kristen Young.

A year later, Weber was again relegated to a reserve role as highly touted freshman Cassie Seguin was given the starting job. Undeterred, Weber ended up making 18 starts and posting a 2.05 goals against average when Seguin got sidelined due to injury.

This winter, Weber started her junior season on the bench as a healthy Seguin regained the top spot.

But with Seguin getting hurt again, Weber found herself thrust into the starting role when Princeton hosted Dartmouth on November 12.

The 5’9 junior from Hudson, Wis. decided that she wanted this starting stint to last a while.

“I needed to make the most of my opportunity,” recalled Weber. “I have been preparing well the whole year.”

But even Weber wasn’t prepared for how well things have turned out. After going 0-5-1 in her first six starts, Weber produced one of the greatest hot streaks in Princeton and ECAC Hockey history.

Starting with a 5-0 win over Syracuse on December 11, Weber went on to post four straight shutouts. She extended her scoreless streak to 289:43 before giving up a goal in a 3-1 win over St. Lawrence on January 8.

Weber’s streak surpassed the ECACH record of 286:54 set by Amanda Mazzotta of Cornell and smashed the program record of 277:39 held by Roxanne Gaudiel.

The unflappable Weber didn’t get carried away by her record-breaking run, which earned her three straight ECACH Goalie of the Week awards.

“I tried to not get too excited about it; I know that my mom was really excited about it,” said Weber with a laugh. “I was just thinking about the games. After it was over, it was a nice thing.”

Even as the losses piled up in November and December after she assumed the starting role, Weber saw progress.

“I felt like even in those losses, we weren’t playing all that badly,” said Weber, who in the grand tradition of goalie superstition notes that the shutout streak coincided with her receiving a repainted helmet which features a map of Wisconsin.

“The 1-0 loss to Cornell was something we built on. We came close in the second loss to Boston University.”

Weber’s even-keeled attitude comes second nature to her. “There is a lot of pressure in playing goalie,” said Weber. “I feel like I thrive under pressure with deadlines and all that.”

During her high school years, Weber thrived with the Minnesota Thoroughbreds travel hockey team, going 49-23-17 with 21 shutouts in her last three seasons there.

“I played for my high school team for one year; there was a girl I knew who played for the Minnesota Thoroughbreds who went on to play at the University of Minnesota,” said Weber, who was invited to the USA Hockey National Development Camp while with the Thoroughbreds.

“Early on I was thinking about playing beyond high school. The Thoroughbreds got a lot of exposure; a lot of coaches saw the team.”

When it came to choosing a college, Weber liked what she saw at Princeton. “I was considering Wisconsin and Wayne State,” recalled Weber.

“The academics at Princeton are unmatched anywhere and on my visit, I enjoyed the team camaraderie. Coach Kampersal had coached me in national camp and I liked his coaching style.”

Once Weber arrived at Princeton, her goalie style was influenced by playing behind Young.

“Young was a great role model for me; she helped me a lot,” said Weber. “I never had a goalie coach before and she really helped me on fundamentals and fine-tuning them.”

As Weber bided her time that season, she developed a comfort level with the team and Princeton.

“I didn’t expect to play much as a freshman and I understood that,” said Weber.

“As a competitor, you want to get into games so that was tough. Everybody gives their all in practice so that really helped me. Things were more stressful with the academic load but I adjusted pretty well.”

Coming into her sophomore year, Weber didn’t get too stressed as she shared time with Seguin.

“I kind of expected it; Cassie was one of the top recruited goalies in the country,” said Weber.

“We had competition within the team. It is a great opportunity for the team to have two really good goalies. It gives the team options.”

For Weber, a key confidence builder during her sophomore campaign came in November when she posted a 2-1 overtime win at Harvard.

“I remember the Harvard game,” said Weber, who posted shutouts against St. Lawrence and Yale later in the season. “I had 23 saves and almost had a shutout. They got a late goal and then I made a big save in overtime.”

While Weber is proud of the shutouts she has posted this winter, she knows that it is not a one-person show.

“My name is on the streak and the awards but it is to the credit of the whole Princeton team,” said Weber. “The defense has improved and that has increased my confidence.”

Princeton head coach Kampersal believes that Weber’s calm demeanor gives the Tigers confidence.

“She is so low key and such a cool kid,” said Kampersal. “I am glad for her. We have been blessed to have good goalies. I never thought Roxie’s streak would be broken.”

With Princeton returning from a 20-day exam hiatus by hosting St. Lawrence on January 28 and Clarkson the next day, Weber is hoping she and the Tigers can pick up where they left off as Princeton brought a seven-game winning streak into the break to improve to 10-10-1 overall and 7-6-1 in ECACH play.

“We started practice officially last Wednesday; we had captains’ practices all through break,” said Weber. “I am definitely getting into it.”

In Weber’s view, the team’s work in practice is a key to its success. “We need to keep working hard at practice,” said Weber, who has been putting in extra time with the team’s goalie coach, John Zdunkiewicz, noting that his drill sessions before Wednesday practices have become a staple. “When we practice well, we do better in the games.”

For Weber, doing well comes down to playing in the moment. “I think my strength is that I can recover quickly,” asserted Weber. “I have sports amnesia; if something bad happens, I forget it quickly.”

Weber’s record-breaking performance in a starring role this winter, though, won’t be soon forgotten.

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