Sucharda Making Most of Senior Campaign, Sizzling PU Women’s Hockey on 12-0-4 Run
FINAL PUSH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Stephanie Sucharda fires the puck in recent action. Last weekend, senior defenseman and team captain Sucharda starred as Princeton defeated Harvard 4-1 on Friday and Dartmouth 5-2 on Saturday. Sucharda tallied an assist against the Crimson and added a goal a day later to help the fifth-ranked Tigers extend their program-record unbeaten streak to 16. Princeton, now 12-2-4 overall and 10-0-2 ECAC Hockey, plays at Cornell on January 11 and at Colgate on January 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
When the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted Merrimack for a two-game set in its first action after the holiday break, Stephanie Sucharda realized that the clock is ticking on her college career.
For senior defenseman and team captain Sucharda, the holidays drove home the fact that she only has weeks left with the Tigers.
“It is kind of sad, coming back from Christmas break, you realize that you are halfway done the season,” said Sucharda, a 5’8 native of Mississauga, Ontario.
“I am making the most of everything that we have left. I think this one of the favorite teams I have been on in my hockey career. I am happy that this will be the group of girls that I end my hockey career with. It definitely feels good and we have a good team this year, so I am hoping to make it last as long as possible.”
Sucharda had a good weekend as the Tigers returned from holiday break by tying Merrimack 1-1 on December 30 and then beating the Warriors 5-3 a day later.
In the second game, Sucharda helped jump start the Tiger offense, assisting on a goal by Carly Bullock as the Tigers knotted the game at 1-1 and then scoring a power play goal in the waning moments of the first period to put Princeton ahead 3-1.
“I haven’t been playing with Claire [Thompson] too much this year and we were put back together,” said Sucharda reflecting on her assist.
“We had some good chemistry last year. I just passed it to to her, she moved it up and whipped it across to [Carly] Bullock. With Bullock in the slot, you can’t really go wrong with that.”
On her goal, which came with 48 seconds left in the period, Sucharda blasted a one-timer from the point.
“It felt good to get that for sure; we were on the power play and there was some good movement up top between Sarah Verbeek, Mariah Keopple and myself and then Keopple passed it to me,” said Sucharda.
“[Sharon] Frankel had a great screen in front and Annie MacDonald did as well. The goalie couldn’t see a single thing and that whole side of the net was open. It feels really good for our second power play unit to get a goal like that, it was pretty important in the game.”
This past weekend, Sucharda kept up her superb play as Princeton defeated Harvard 4-1 on Friday and Dartmouth 5-2 on Saturday. Sucharda tallied an assist against the Crimson and added a goal a day later to help the fifth-ranked Tigers extend their program-record unbeaten streak to 16 (12-0-4).
“We actually beat the record when I was a freshman,” said Sucharda, noting that the previous mark was 12.
“We were the last ones to set the record; it definitely feels good. I think that we have such a solid team from the freshmen to the seniors. Everyone is fully bought in and we have great team chemistry. If someone is playing really well, they will play more. If someone is injured, we can afford to put out other players. It really comes down to depth and the girls we have in the locker room. They have been just great together.”
Princeton head coach Cara Morey credited Sucharda leading the way in the win over Merrimack.
“I thought Sucharda played great; it was one of her best games,” said Morey of Sucharda, who now has three goals and six assists on the season, giving her 59 points in her career on nine goals and 50 assists.
“She is just steady in the back. She had good gaps, she jumped into the rush, and had a great goal. She played amazing, she was probably our best one tonight.”
Tiger freshman standout Sarah Fillier is emerging as one of the best players in the ECACH, having been named the league’s Rookie of the Month for December. Fillier now has 26 points on 10 goals and 16 assists, second on the team to the 28 (13 goals, 15 assists) scored by junior standout Bullock.
“She is just getting better and better because she is feeling more comfortable in our systems and with her teammates,” said Morey. “She can really elevated her game at this point.”
Morey didn’t like the way Princeton got sloppy late in the second game against Merrimack.
“You are not going to win too many games if you take eight penalties,” said Morey.
“We did win the game because we put so much in the bank. But for me it is the consistency; we need to expect better of ourselves there.”
In Morey’s view, getting back into action with the weekend against Merrimack was a valuable experience.
“I thought this was a great series, Merrimack is a very strong team so it was good to face them,” said Morey.
“In some way, we learn from all these things. We have to learn now how to play with a 5-1 lead and maybe stay a little more disciplined.”
With Princeton showing better discipline in the wins over Harvard and Dartmouth as it improved to 12-2-4 overall and 10-0-2 ECAC Hockey, Morey is focused on the preseason not streak milestones.
“We are just trying to get better every single day and working towards playoffs,” said Morey, whose team plays at Cornell on January 11 and at Colgate on January 12 before going on hiatus for exams.
“The pressure was getting to 13 to own the record and now at this point, it doesn’t matter to me. We need to win the big games to get the team ready so when the playoffs come we are firing on all cylinders.”
Sucharda, for her part, is fired up to see what the Tigers can do over the rest of the season.
“It is keeping up the conditioning that we have; as it gets late in the season, a lot of teams lose their legs in the third period,” said Sucharda.
“We have one of the fittest teams in the league so I don’t think that will be a huge problem so continuing that as an emphasis is big. It is also continuing to play the game well. We have played different teams and have done well against all of them.”