With Junior Sucharda Producing on Blue Line, PU Women’s Hockey Gets Into Win Column
SKATING HARD: Princeton University women’s hockey player Stephanie Sucharda, right, takes the puck up the ice in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior defenseman and assistant captain Sucharda chipped in an assist as Princeton topped Dartmouth 8-1. The Tigers, now 1-1-2 overall and 1-1 ECAC Hockey, play at Colgate on November 3 and at Cornell on November 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
The weekend got off to a rough start for the Princeton University women’s hockey team as it hosted Harvard last Friday night in its ECAC Hockey opener.
On their heels after tallying an early power play goal, Princeton was outshot 20-4 in the first period as the Crimson knotted the game a 1-1.
“It was a tough first period, we were not happy with how we started,” said Princeton junior defenseman and assistant captain Stephanie Sucharda, a 5’8 native of Mississauga, Ontario.
Six minutes into the contest, Sucharda helped provide a highlight of the first period for the Tigers as she assisted on the power play goal by sophomore Carly Bullock.
“They came at us pretty quickly; we were just trying to move the puck away from them,” said Sucharda.
“Carly sniped the top corner; I was so excited that I knocked her down. I think that was the most energy I had the whole game with that celebration. It was a good way to start the power play.”
The Tigers showed energy as they outshot Harvard 21-15 over the next two periods and knotted the game at 2-2 midway through the second period but ended up falling 3-2 to the Crimson.
“We definitely regrouped after that at the start of the second period and outshot them in that period,” said Sucharda.
“For the rest of the game, we played Princeton hockey. I think we were a little surprised at their speed at first, which we should not have been. I think that we really fought back.”
The Tigers came out shooting a day later against Dartmouth, scoring three unanswered goals in the first period on the way to an 8-1 win as they improved to 1-1-2 overall and 1-1 ECAC Hockey.
For Sucharda, assuming extra responsibility as a team leader has been surprisingly easy.
“We have such a good group of girls that I feel like everyone is kind of a leader on the team,” said Sucharda, who had an assist in the win over the Big Green. “Everyone jells so well so it is not too tough of a job to be a leader on this team but I am happy with the role.”
Noting that there are five sophomores and seven freshmen on the Princeton roster, Sucharda has tried to impart the basic principles of the program to the younger players.
“I am just trying to get them to understand the culture of our team and work towards one common goal,” added Sucharda. “They are great kids so it hasn’t been hard; that has been the main focus.”
Sucharda has helped the team’s defensemen keep focused as Princeton has given up just eight goals in its first four games.
“I think our d-corps has been unreal so far this year, we are just hoping to continue with that,” said Sucharda, who now has three assists on the season.
“Moving forward with the girls we have, I think we can do well and transition that to the offense and get the freshman forwards used to that a little more.”
Princeton head coach Cara Morey acknowledged that she had to shake things up to get the Tigers playing well after their shaky first period on Friday.
“It is time to wake up and play our hockey,” said Morey, recalling her message at the first intermission.
“Basically, we talked about supporting the puck and we talked about making the easy passes instead of the 20-foot plays. We talked about using each other and letting the puck do the work instead of our feet, and getting shots on net.”
Morey liked the way her players responded to the wake-up call. “The second period was great; that is the way we play,” said Morey, whose team outshot the Crimson 13-5 in the frame.
“The hockey was gritty. They battled, they had good habits, and they made good decisions with the puck.”
Sophomore star Carly Bullock has been making good decisions with the puck as she tallied both Princeton goals in the loss to Harvard and now has a team-high six goals on the season.
“Bullock is doing what we need her to do and we need the people around her to step up now and produce,” said Morey, who got great production in the win over Dartmouth as junior star Karlie Lund led the way with two goals and and an assist while freshmen Sarah Verbeek, Shannon Griffin, Sharon Frankel, and Amanda Harris each notched their first career goals.
“She can’t have to carry the whole team. Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on her and [Steph] Neatby in the net to win the games We need more people to step up at this point.”
While Princeton doesn’t have a lot of depth, with only 10 forwards and six defensemen on the squad along with three goalies, Sucharda believes that can help each of the Tigers to step up.
“I like having small rosters because everyone is playing every other shift or so, you are always in the game, you are always mentally focused and ready to go,” said Sucharda as the Tigers get ready to hit the road for games at Colgate on November 3 and at Cornell on November 4.
“It really helps the team come together; it is the basis of the team, everyone getting involved.”