Coming into last weekend, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team hadn’t won its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational since 2002, a drought that Robin Linzmayer and her senior classmates were determined to end.
“I have been on this team for four years and every year all of the seniors say we are going to win this year because we haven’t won it for so long,” said star defenseman and team captain Linzmayer.
“We are the seniors this year so we were the ones that were — OK we are winning. This is our last chance.”
After defeating the Quarry Cats 4-0 in the opening round on Saturday, PDS had its chance for the title as it faced the Princeton Tiger Lilies in the championship game on Sunday morning at PDS’s Lisa McGraw Rink.
But with the elusive crown in sight, the Panthers fell behind 1-0 in the second period. But picking up its game, PDS responded with goals by Carly King and Linzmayer to take a 2-1 lead into the third period.
“You could tell as a group that we really wanted to win, especially between the second and third period when we came into the locker room,” said Linzmayer, whose fellow seniors include Mary Travers, Abby Sharer, Mimi Matthews, and Colby Triolo.
“We all went around talking about what we thought we could improve on in the game. You could definitely see the shift in the way the girls skated faster, went harder to the puck, and just put in that extra bit of effort to make it happen.”
The Panthers made things happen in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to pull away to a 5-1 triumph.
The breakthrough prompted a raucous post-game celebration as the PDS players hugged on the ice and posed for multiple team pictures in front of their goal with their hard earned trophy.
“I am really excited,” said a grinning Linzmayer “It took the team 11, 12 years and it took us three but I am glad we ended it on this note. I hope the underclassmen can keep it up and maybe it will be we haven’t lost in 10 years.”
Linzmayer strives to keep the team’s intensity up when she is on the ice.
“As a defenseman I am looking to be positive,” explained Linzmayer. “If I keep my feet moving, others will do the same. How I see it working in sports is that there is a lot of momentum shift from player to player. So if I can set the standard and get kids going, that is awesome because that is exactly what I am looking to do.”
PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook knows exactly what she is going to get from Linzmayer on a daily basis.
“Robin is consistent, she always comes and plays hard,” said Cook. “We have been working to get all the forwards helping out with our defense so the defenseman can be more aggressive in the offensive zone. I thought we did a good job of that today, which allowed Robin to take more control.”
Cook acknowledged that it took a while for the Panthers to take control of the title contest against a gritty Tiger Lilies squad.
“We were fortunate that we escaped the first period still scoreless,” said Cook.
“I think we came out flat. The girls were so excited that it took a little while to get things cooking. Carly picking up that first goal was huge, just to get one past her and get that momentum going and then getting the power play goal after that. The flurry of goals in the third period was great to see. Once they felt more comfortable working the puck around the offensive zone, they created more chances and got more shots.”
PDS got some great contributions across the board in the victory. “I thought Kristi [Serafin] did a better job towards the end of the game moving the puck on the rush,” said Cook, who got good goalie play from freshman Annika Asplundh along with junior Katie Alden, the PDS recipient of the Christopher Reeve Sportsmanship Award for the tournament
“Colby [Triolo] and Mary [Travers] did a good job as wingers getting up the ice. Daphne [Stanton] is always impressive, she is always so positionally sound. Emma [Stillwaggon] is dealing with an injury and took a stick to the neck. She is always beat up because of the way she plays; she is smaller and she plays tough. She battles hard and she did a really good job covering for our defense. She had a goal, that was a big one.”
It was big for the Panthers to finally achieve their breakthrough at the invitational. “It is great; the boys winning last year and this year puts some extra pressure on us,” said Cook, whose team improved to 3-0 with the win on Sunday.
“It is really nice to come away with a win. I thought the past two years, they have played really well in the tournament so it has been close. It is really nice to finally seal the deal today.”
In assessing her team’s hot start, Cook sees progress on and off the ice.
“Aside from the first period and a half today, they have looked really good,” said Cook, whose team hosts Pingry on December 11 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 16.
“They have created a lot of chances; they have moved the puck well. They are a really close team and you can see that in practices and games. We have really high expectations for this group. It is a lot of pressure but it is a lot of fun.”
Linzmayer, for her part, is looking forward to having a lot more fun this winter. “We get along really well; I am sure we are going to grow closer as the season goes along,” said Linzmayer.
“The seniors and the upperclassmen in general are all doing a great job bringing the team together. We have a lot of talent on the team, we have got a lot of work ethic. It looks like we are going to have a good season.”