Alex Kinney likes to hone her long range shooting on a daily basis, sometimes to the amusement of her teammates on the Princeton University women’s hockey team.
“I do that in practice a lot and everyone makes fun of me,” said Princeton senior forward Kinney. “I take a lot of slappers.”
Last Saturday against visiting Ohio State, Kinney’s teammates were smiling and cheering after she blasted a one-timer into the top of the net from the point to pull Princeton into a 1-1 tie early in the third period.
“I was just trying to get the puck to the net,” said Kinney, reflecting on her moment of brilliance.
“It was definitely good to get it in, right at the beginning of the period. It kind of gave us momentum for the rest of the period. I felt like we kind of hemmed them in after that.”
Building on the momentum from Kinney’s tally, Princeton pulled out a 2-1 win over the eighth-ranked Buckeyes as a late goal from sophomore Brianna Leahy proved to be the margin of victory.
Kinney was not surprised that sophomore Leahy found the back of the net.
“Leahy does a really good job of crashing the net always so that was definitely a good effort on her part,” said Kinney, reflecting on the win that improved Princeton to 4-6-2. “She did that yesterday too.”
Kinney and classmates Kelly Cooke and Corey Stearns are putting in big efforts as they go through their final campaign with the Tigers.
“It is definitely a different perspective being here for four years,” said the 5’9 Kinney, a native of Lake Forest, Ill. who now has 28 points in her Princeton career on 10 goals and 18 assists.
“You realize this is the last of the last of everything. I think as seniors, that sentiment is shared between all three of us so everybody is trying to make that go from the top to the bottom through the team. I think we had a team meeting the other day and we are starting to get it. It is good.”
The Princeton team has worked through some rough patches this season. “I think the beginning of the season is tough, not everyone knows the systems,” said Kinney, who had an assist on Friday as Princeton took a 2-0 lead into the third period against the Buckeyes only to fall 4-2 in the opener of the two-game set.
“You have to get used to the game format and showing up every period and every shift. Every single shift counts, definitely the freshmen are getting used to the pace of college hockey versus high school hockey, which is a lot different. I think everyone is getting on the same page, so hopefully that continues.”
Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal believes his team is getting on the same page.
“It has been a tough season so far but the kids have worked hard,” said Kampersal.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves by any stretch but we have had some tough luck definitely. I thought the Clarkson game [a 2-1 loss in overtime on November 17] was the first game we put together a really solid, smart tough hockey game. Maybe that was the turning point of our season.”
In the loss Friday, Princeton produced two power play goals to take take a 2-0 lead but then got overwhelmed in the third period as Ohio State outshot the Tigers 20-8 on the way to four unanswered goals.
“Last night, we played well but in the second period they took it to us pretty good and Kim [freshman goalie Kim Newell] bailed us out,” said Kampersal.
“You knew the dam was leaking and hopefully it wouldn’t break. Once they got that first goal, they had total momentum and we took some bad penalties.”
In preparing for the final game of the set, the Tigers focused on staying out of the box.
“We talked about that today,” said Kampersal. “We played smart all weekend, they played hard. We weren’t as disciplined last night as they we were today and that was the difference.”
In Kampersal’s view, Kinney’s tally made a big difference for Princeton “That was great, seconds into the period,” said Kampersal. “That was huge, that was an emotional lift. The seniors in general have had a good run so far.”
Kampersal noted that senior assistant captain Cooke has been giving the Tigers a lift all season long.
“Cookie had a great shorthanded goal against Robert Morris and had a penalty shot goal against Clarkson and then another breakaway here,” said Kampersal, whose team is 1-5-2 in ECAC Hockey action, good for seventh place in the league standings.
“Cookie has been playing phenomenal. She played great this week. She was unreal last week against St Lawrence/Clarkson. She has been doing a good job for sure.”
Freshman goalie Newell has been doing a good job for the Tigers, posting a 3.41 goals against average and a save percentage of .906 in starting all 12 games this season.
“She has been a little up and down, having more games and being young,” said Kampersal.
“She was a brick wall for two days this weekend. The goaltending position is an incredibly hard one and all I ever ask from the goalies is to give the team a chance to win and she battled. At big, key times, she made big, key saves.”
Kampersal is hoping that the team’s solid play against Ohio State last weekend can be a big boost going forward.
“Last year we had two ties with Ohio State that felt like wins and that seemed to get us rolling,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Union (3-6-2 overall, 0-2-2 ECACH) on November 30 and Rensselaer (2-10-2, 0-4 ECACH) on December 1. “I am hoping that can happen again.”
Kinney, for her part, believes that Princeton can build on its play this weekend and get on a roll.
“I think we are on the right track, this weekend should be a turnaround,” said Kinney. “We are pumped up, we kind of forgot what it was like to win.”