On paper, it would appear that the Princeton University women’s hockey team ended the season with a whimper, getting swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series last weekend by No. 5 Cornell.
But on the ice, the Tigers banged heads with Big Red from beginning to end, battling to the final whistle in two nailbiters that saw Cornell prevail 3-2 and 5-3.
“We played well; we had offensive chances, some we took advantage of, some we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team finished the winter with a final record of 14-13-4. “I am overall proud of the team, they never quit when they faced adversity.”
In the series opener on Friday, Princeton played with pride taking a 2-0 lead on second period goals by Sally Butler and Hilary Lloyd. But Cornell handled that adversity by scoring three unanswered tallies in the third to pull out a 3-2 victory.
“We were up 2-0 in the first game and Kim [Newell] made two huge saves and we had five scoring chances after that in the second but we just didn’t put them in,” lamented Kampersal.
“If we had been up 3-0, it would have been tougher. They have two unbelievable players who played 80 percent of third period and they were so fast. They ended up cashing in their chances; they come at you fast with flurries.”
In Game 2 a day later, the Tigers started fast, jumping out to a 1-0 lead after one period. The Big Red responded with three straight goals and then held a late Princeton rally.
“Our first five minutes was solid and our first period was solid,” said Kampersal, who got goals from Butler, Denna Laing, and Cassidy Tucker in the defeat.
“They started to turn things up and they got ahead 3-1. We fought to get it back to 3-2 and 4-3. There was a weird, awkward bounce on their fourth goal.”
While things didn’t turn out last weekend as Kampersal would have wanted, he enjoyed the journey this winter.
“It is the kind of year that you don’t want to end,” asserted Kampersal. “The kids were great, it was a lot of fun to coach this team. We talked about desire, toughness, being competitive, and being grateful, those were our four core values.”
Kampersal credited his senior group of Katie Jones, Gabie Figueroa, Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, Butler, and Laing with exemplifying those values.
“The seniors gave great leadership, they battled all the way to the end,” said Kampersal.
“They were hockey players, they cared, and they were committed. They left a great impression on the rookies.”
Going forward, Kampersal is looking for a similar commitment from his returning players.
“We need to step up in terms of conditioning, they need to approach the spring like it is the middle of the season,” said Kampersal.
“We have seven freshmen and Jaimie McDonnell who was playing her first season. They played quite a lot and they were a big part of things for us. They are skilled hockey players. They can only get better. They need to get physically stronger and build up their endurance.”