For the Princeton University women’s hockey team, the task last weekend was clear.
If the Tigers won their games at Brown and Yale, they would clinch eighth place in the ECAC Hockey standings and the final spot in the upcoming league playoffs.
Princeton achieved step one on Friday as it edged Brown 2-1 with junior Olivia Mucha and freshman Molly Contini finding the back of the net in the first period and freshman goalie Kimberley newell making 23 saves.
“Mucha got us going early, she made a nice move and found a seam,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal.
“When she is scoring goals, we are a better team. Contini took a pass from Kelly Cooke on a 2-on-1 and roofed a backhand, that was a big-time goal. That was early in the game, I was hoping we would get more but Brown played really well. Kim Newell (freshman goalie) played solid all weekend, she did what we needed.”
Against Yale the next day, it looked like Princeton was on the way to the win it needed as it jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.
“We got the lead but we were not playing that well,” said Kampersal who got goals from Mucha and sophomore Brianna Leahy.
“We got a shorthanded goal to go up 2-0. We didn’t take our foot off the pedal but Yale played with a lot of passion. It was their Senior Day.”
Even though Princeton led 2-1 going into the third, Kampersal had a bad feeling.
“I knew we were hanging on,” said Kampersal. “We were tired on Saturday. Our fatigue and their passion made the difference in the third period.”
Things fell apart in the third period as Princeton yielded three unanswered goals to lose 4-2. Princeton’s loss combined with a victory by Colgate over Rensselaer left Princeton at 11-16-2 overall and 6-14-2 in ECAH play and in ninth place and out of the league playoffs for the first time since 2001.
The abrupt ending to the season was painful for Kampersal and his players.
“It’s definitely hard to go out like that,” said Kampersal. “It is not the year we hoped for. We have some things to be proud of but we have to coach better and play better. The three seniors (Alex Kinney, Kelly Cooke, and Corey Stearns) all had good years. Cookie and Corey carried us to the end, they played great.”
In Kampersal’s view, this year’s disappointment could sow the seeds for future success.
“It was definitely a negative but it can also be a positive,” asserted Kampersal.
“It is a slap in the face, but it can get us to focus more on things and be re-motivated to get back to where we were in 2006 and 2007. We need to work hard and come back in unbelievable physical shape. We need to be more disciplined and be better hockey players.”