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Vol. LXV, No. 42
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WEB GEM: Princeton University women’s ice hockey goalie Rachel Weber guards the crease in action last winter. Pressed into the starting lineup last season due to injury, Weber emerged as a star, posting a goals against average of 1.77 and six shutouts on the way to earning second-team All-ECACH and All-Ivy League honors and the Tiger team MVP award. The Hudson, Wisc. native set a program and ECAC Hockey record with a scoreless streak of more than 289 minutes. The Tigers are depending on their senior goalie to provide more of the same this winter. Princeton opens its 2011-12 season by hosting No. 8 Northeastern (4-0) on October 21 and Niagara (2-4) a day later.

With Star Goalie Weber Primed for Senior Year, Princeton Women’s Hockey Exuding Optimism

Bill Alden

Rachel Weber took over as the starting goalie for the Princeton University women’s hockey team eight games into last winter.

At first, it looked like the junior career back-up wasn’t up to the challenge of replacing the injured Cassie Seguin as the Tigers went 0-6-1 in Weber’s first seven starts.

But then Weber earned a shutout in a 4-0 win over Brown in early December and caught fire, changing the course of Princeton’s season.

In a period stretching from late December into early January, Weber had four straight shutouts and set a program and ECAC Hockey record with a scoreless streak of more than 289 minutes.

Riding its sizzling goalie, Princeton went 13-2-1 over its last 16 regular season games to rise to fourth place in the ECACH standings.

While the Tigers ended up losing to Quinnipiac in the ECACH playoffs, the emergence of Weber and the team’s corresponding reversal of fortune made it a winter to remember.

With Princeton set to drop the puck on its 2011-12 season by hosting No. 8 Northeastern (4-0) on October 21 and Niagara (2-4) a day later, Tiger head coach Jeff Kampersal is looking for more of the same out of Weber in her final campaign.

“I think it is a team effort but Rachel played a really big part in things,” said Kampersal of Weber, who ended up with a goals against average of 1.77 and six shutouts last winter on the way to earning second-team All-ECACH and All-Ivy League honors and the Tiger team MVP award.

“We need her to match the same intensity and try her best everyday. She is doing a lot of work with Z-dunk. [goalie coach John Zdunkiewicz]. She has such a good disposition. If things go well, she takes that in stride. If things go badly, she takes that in stride as well. The kids gravitate to her.”

Princeton lost two of its top kids on defense with the graduation of Sasha Sherry and Laura Martindale.

“We will miss Sasha and Marty, they were four-year starters,” said Kampersal, who guided the Tigers to a final record of 16-14-1 last winter and brings a 233-184-41 record into his 16th season at the helm of the program.

“They were on the the ECAC All-Rookie Team as freshmen and went on to have stellar careers.”

Kampersal is hoping that freshman defenders Brianne Mahoney and Ali Pankowski can follow in the footsteps of his graduated stars.

“I am looking for the two freshmen, Mahoney and Pankowski, to contribute,” said Kampersal. ”They are going to have to.”

Princeton boasts some veterans who should help along the back line in sophomores Rose Alleva (4 assists on 2011-12), Gabie Figueroa (1 goal, 7 assists), senior co-captain Charissa Stadnyk (2 goals, 5 assists), and senior Julie Johnson (4 goals, 6 assists).

“Rose should be really good for us; she played a lot of minutes last season, she takes away time and space,” said Kampersal, noting that Figueroa is currently sidelined due to injury and should be back on the ice in November.

“Staddy had a very good year. She has worked so hard over the summer; she did well in our fitness tests. We will be rotating Johnson back there.”

Kampersal is depending on his corps of battle-tested group of senior forwards, co-captain Paula Romanchuk (8 goals, 7 assists), Danielle DiCesare (2 goals, 6 assists), and Heather Landry (5 goals, 4 assists), to give the Tigers some good work in their swan song.

“The senior group is a big group; we need them to step up and take charge,” said Kampersal.

“They have that capability. They are 4-year players and did a good job of running captain’s practices this fall. They are taking ownership. They are good, solid players.”

The Tigers have firepower with juniors Corey Stearns (7 goals, 8 assists), Kelly Cooke (2 goals, 2 assists), and Alex Kinney (2 goals, 3 assists) together with sophomores Olivia Mucha (9 goals, 12 assists), Sally Butler (9 goals, 10 assists) and Denna Laing (8 goals, 10 assists).

“We are looking for the three junior forwards, Corey, Cookie, and Kinney, to step up,” added Kampersal.

“The sophomores had terrific seasons last year. They provide a lot of energy. They are all good skaters and good around the net.”

There is a new energy around the program with the addition of new assistant coaches Cara Morey and Lee-J Mirasolo.

“It has been really good,” said Kampersal, reflecting on his revamped staff which saw top assistant Amy Bourbeau leave this summer to become the head coach of the Brown women’s program.

“Cara has done a phenomenal job; she has already helped us with recruiting in Canada. She took over the preseason conditioning, giving the girls vocal encouragement and speed training. She is bringing in a culture change, getting them to be as fit as possible. Lee-J is super nice, super organized. She will help with recruiting American players. The girls love both of them. They bring new ideas and a fresh approach.”

Those new ideas will come in handy as Princeton faces a challenging opening weekend.

“It will be tough because both of them will have already played a few games,” said Kampersal,

“Northeastern is loaded. They have got good coaching [Dave Flint] and a good goalie [Florence Schelling]. Kendall Coyne is one of the best young players in the U.S. program. Niagara has played some really tough teams already. They are a tough, gritty team.”

In Kampersal’s view, his team has what it takes to emerge as one of the toughest squads in the ECACH.

“Our expectations are high,” asserted Kampersal. “Once we get everyone going, we expect to do well. We want to stay in the top 4 in the league and challenge for top 10 nationally. We need to be sound defensively and play well in front of our goalie. We need to do better in our own end, we have to be better offensively, better on the power play.”

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