Freshman Star Fillier Making Immediate Impact As PU Women’s Hockey Rises to Top of ECACH
FILLING IT UP: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sarah Fillier heads up the ice in recent action. Freshman forward Fillier came up big last weekend, chipping in three assists as Princeton edged Quinnipiac 3-2 in Friday and then scoring two goals a day later as the Tigers topped the Bobcats 4-1 in the finale of a two-game set between the rivals. Fillier was later named the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week. The 6th-ranked Tigers, now 7-2-3 overall and 6-0-2 ECAC Hockey, play at Rensselaer on December 7 and at Union on December 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Sarah Fillier had to skip four games this November during her freshman campaign with the Princeton University women’s hockey team but she had a pretty good excuse.
The star forward was competing for Team Canada for the 4 Nations Cup from November 6-10 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as the only collegiate freshman on the squad.
As Princeton returned from a 13-day hiatus for its Thanksgiving break to host Quinnipiac last Friday, Fillier was primed to help the Tigers get rolling heading into December.
“I have been away for a lot of the games this season; definitely over Thanksgiving I had some time to reflect and think about what we want to do going to the next part of the season,” said Fillier, a 5’5 native of Georgetown, Ontario. “It is exciting to get something going in our second phase.”
Fillier got things going on Friday night at Hobey Baker Rink, assisting on a goal by Maggie Connors as the Tigers took a 1-0 lead over the Bobcats with 6:31 left in the first period.
“One of our goals is always to get a goal in the first period and start with momentum,” said Fillier. “It is a lot easier to play with the lead than playing catchup the entire game.”
Clinging to that 1-0 advantage heading into the third period, Princeton killed off a 5-on-3 penalty and then got two goals from junior defenseman Claire Thompson to extend the lead to 3-0.
“In the room before the third period, Cara [head coach Cara Morey] put a lot of emphasis on getting a lot of shots,” said Fillier, who picked up assists on both of Thompson’s tallies.
“Once we got that kill, we focused on getting pucks on net and hopefully good things would happen.”
Fillier is enjoying making things happen for the Tigers. “At home back in Canada when I played juniors, I was a player who moved the puck around and made some plays,” said Fillier. “It seems like I fit well in there, so I am enjoying that too.”
Princeton didn’t enjoy the last few minutes of the game as the Bobcats scored two unanswered goals to put the Tigers on their heels before they weathered the late surge to win 3-2.
“When you see that second goal go in, it is kind of tough,” said Fillier. “Cara just got us all focused, it was just take a breath and realize that we are OK, keep doing what we are doing and we are going to get the win.”
In adjusting to Princeton, Fillier has focused on time management, with assistance from her sister, freshman forward Kayla.
“I think the biggest challenge is the schedule; Princeton is obviously a phenomenal school, it was tough finding a balance in the beginning,” said Fillier.
“With a team full of people who have been through it before, I feel like I am really getting in the swing of things right now. Having my sister here with me is like having a little piece of home, it is helpful and comforting.”
Playing for Canada in the 4 Nations competition also helped Fillier get in the swing of things.
“When you are playing against the U.S., a big thing is speed and strength; getting used to that and being used to that culture and bringing it back here helps me,” said Fillier, who produced another strong performance on Saturday, scoring two goals as the Tigers topped the Bobcats 4-1 in the finale of a two-game set between the rivals and later getting named the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week.
“It is a bit of challenge, playing with a lot of new people. At the beginning of my freshman year, I wasn’t really used to a lot of things here. There are a lot of positives to take back because a lot of those players from the Canadian team have been to college and they have that experience, so that has definitely helped with the transition.”
Being on the same line at Princeton with fellow freshman and Canadian national player Maggie Connors has eased the transition for Fillier.
“We play on the U18 together and were in the U18 world championships and the U22 series this summer so we have got a lot of playing time together,” said Fillier. “We are really close friends so it helps a lot with chemistry and on the ice.”
Princeton head coach Cara Morey liked the energy she saw from her players as they hit the ice on Friday after their layoff.
“They were ready for a game, which was great,” said Morey. “It is always great to have a lot of time off to spend with your family and reenergize and find that passion again.”
Morey credited Fillier with showing passion against Quinnipiac. “Sarah was outstanding tonight. She looked like she was shot out of a cannon; that is one of Sarah’s best games,” said Morey of Fillier, who now has 15 points in eight games on three goals and 12 assists as the Tigers improved to 7-2-3 overall and 6-0-2 ECACH with the sweep of the Bobcats. “She played with speed, she played with poise. She is so smart and is so good with the puck. She is a big difference maker.”
Junior star Thompson, senior defenseman and team captain Stephanie Sucharada and senior forward and assistant captain Karlie Lund also made a difference for the Tigers in the win over Quinnipiac.
“Claire was awesome tonight, she was sniping from the point; those were great shots,” said Morey. “She has good vision, she did well. Sucharda was steady in the back today and I thought Lund had a great game again.”
While Morey wasn’t happy with how her team played down the stretch on Friday, she believes that the late scare will benefit the Tigers, now ranked No. 6 nationally and having risen to first place in the ECACH standings, in the long run.
“I kept talking to them about finishing strong, I am really disappointed in the last two and a half minutes of play but I think all of these things are learning experiences,” added Morey, whose team plays at Rensselaer on December 7 and at Union on December 8. “We have a lot of young players out there and little things like this help us to get ready for the end of the season.”
Fillier, for her part, believes that the Tigers are ready to keep rolling.
“We are definitely headed in the right direction, even from our first two games against No. 1 Wisconsin,” said Fillier. “Although we lost those games (4-3 on October 19, 4-0 on October 21),
I think that was a confidence boost for us and we have really carried through with that throughout these games.”