For Jaimie McDonell, her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team turned out to be a lost year.
McDonell tore a ligament in her knee before the 2012-13 season began. She was later diagnosed with a hip injury that required surgery. As a result, McDonell never saw a minute of playing time.
“I just tried to be a positive, supportive teammate the best I could even though I was a little miserable by myself,” said McDonell.
“I got back on the ice in the end of April, beginning of May. It wasn’t full contact until August.”
Back to full speed this season, sophomore forward McDonell has been a positive force for the Tigers, as she has scored nine points in four goals and five assists and is tied for third on the team in scoring.
McDonell is savoring her return to action. “Especially after an injury, it makes you so grateful for every time you get out there,” said McDonell. “You don’t realize how fast it can all go away. The seniors are starting to feel that now.”
Last Friday, McDonell helped Princeton get off to a fast start against Rensselaer as she scored a first period goal to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead on the way to a 4-1 victory.
In reflecting on her tally, McDonell acknowledged she was in the right place at the right time as she deflected the puck past the Rensselaer goalie.
“I saw [Ali] Pankowski taking a one-timer and I just braced myself a little bit,” recalled McDonell, a 5’8 native of East York, Ontario. “I was pretty confident from where it hit me.”
Bouncing back from losing two games at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota over Thanksgiving weekend, Princeton showed confidence against RPI from the opening face-off.
“We had our mindset, we knew what we wanted to do, we had a game plan and we just stuck to the basics and got the job done out there,” said McDonell of the Tigers who got the job done a day later as they completed a weekend sweep by topping Union 4-1.
“I think we set the tone in the first and we kept sticking to our game plan. We didn’t fall apart, we kept doing it and eventually we just kept going.”
While McDonell is thrilled to be doing well this season, she is quick to credit her linemates, junior Brianna Leahy and freshman Hilary Lloyd, with helping her produce.
“I feel good but it is also who I am playing with,” said McDonell. “My line is really clicking; I wouldn’t be able to do it without my wingers and defensemen.”
Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal liked the way his team clicked in the win over Rensselaer.
“We played solidly in the first and still played well as the game continued,” said Kampersal, who got two goals from Denna Laing and one from Olivia Mucha in the triumph.
“The shorthanded goal by Laing was huge and even the second one coming before the first period was up was big. I think that was just the second game all year that we have scored the first goal so that was a big goal, no question.”
Having McDonell on the ice this season has been a big plus for the Tigers. “We thought we would get Jaimie back by Christmas time last season but that didn’t happen so that was a bummer,” said Kampersal.
“She is a heart and soul player, she is a good kid in the middle. She works really hard. She has been consistently good for us all year.”
Senior captain Laing has been a consistent force all season long for Princeton.
“Denna played solid for us as well,” said Kampersal of his senior captain who now has a team-high 11 points on four goals and seven assists. “That shorthanded goal was good and she got that third one. She is a big, strong kid. She skates hard and she works hard. It takes a lot to bring her down. She is a player who has endurance and can last. She can play good strong minutes for us.”
Kampersal was hoping for a strong weekend from his team in its last action before a holiday hiatus.
“We need a strong day tomorrow and then we need a break,” said Kampersal, whose team ended the weekend at 7-6-2 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey and is next in action when it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3.
“It will be nice to get a whole healthy lineup out there. The focus is just getting our power play better.”
McDonell, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can get better and better as the season unfolds.
“I think this could be a turning point in the season,” asserted McDonnell.
“After the past two weeks, we really needed to bounce back and show the league who we are and get back to how we were playing before. We had a rough patch, it is all about adversity.”
And McDonell certainly knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.