PU Women’s Hockey Headed to ECACH Semis As Freshman Fillier Provides Offensive Spark
FRESH APPROACH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sarah Fillier chases down the puck last Friday evening as Princeton hosted St. Lawrence in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals. Freshman forward Fillier tallied four goals and two assists on the weekend as fourth-seeded Princeton swept the fifth-seeded Saints in the best-of-three series, winning 4-1 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday. The Tigers, now 20-6-5 overall, play at top-seeded Cornell (22-4-6) in the ECACH semis on March 9 with the victor advancing to the title game a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
With the Princeton University women’s hockey team mired in a three-game losing streak and locked in a scoreless game with St. Lawrence last Friday at Hobey Baker Rink heading into the second period of their ECAC Hockey quarterfinal opener, the Tigers needed a jolt.
Princeton freshman forward Sarah Fillier provided that spark, tallying three straight goals in the second period as the Tigers built a 3-0 lead on the way to a 4-1 triumph.
“One of the main things we said in the room going into the second was just bear down in front of the net and just keep going with the good habits that we had,” recalled Fillier.
“When we have the lead, I think we play more comfortable and make smarter plays.”
A day later, the Tigers found themselves in a 1-1 tie heading into the second period and once again seized momentum, outscoring the Saints 2-1 in the frame with Fillier assisting on the goals by Carly Bullock and Maggie Connors.
“We didn’t panic or anything, we knew what we did in the last game was clicking for us and we just had to take a breath and work through it,” said Fillier.
“It is huge, getting that chance to sit on the room and talk things out and see what is working. St. Lawrence is a really good team and it is tough to predict what they are going to do every time we play them. I feel like we caught on to what they were doing and adjusted our game a little bit.”
With Karly Lund scoring early in the third period to give Princeton a 4-2 lead and Fillier adding a tally with 7:03 left in regulation, the Tigers pulled away to 6-2 win and a series sweep, setting up a semifinal matchup at Cornell on March 9.
“They have gotten a few late goals on us before; we were a little bit hesitant, making some forced plays,” said Fillier, who was later named the ECACH Player of the Week for her performance against the Saints.
“Getting that extra goal really helped everyone calm down and stay solid to the end of the game.”
Filler has been taken aback by her sensational play in her debut campaign as she now leads the Tigers with 54 points on 20 goals ands 34 assists.
“I came in and expected to have a big learning curve and everything,” said Fillier, a 5’5 native of Georgetown, Ontario, who has played for the Canadian senior national team.
“I have just been lucky to play with really good quality players like Bully [Carly Bullock] and Maggie [Connors]; they are really supportive.”
Fillier and her classmates have felt that support from day one. “Our team has really gathered around our freshmen class and brought us in and taught us about the team culture,” added Fillier. “One of our big words is grateful and being grateful. We look at the history of Princeton and where we are going to bring the program.”
Princeton head coach Cara Morey is certainly grateful to have Fillier on her squad.
“Sarah is amazing with the pressure she plays under,” said Morey. “Everybody is draped all over her as she is playing. She is being covered by two and three kids at a time and she is still finding ways to put the puck into the net or set up somebody else. She is totally unselfish too, that is her first hat trick this season. That is something to say because she is such a puck passer.”
Filler’s passing prowess helped Princeton get the upper hand in the second period on Saturday.
“They were supporting each other all over the ice, no one was on an island,” said Morey.“They always had someone to move the puck to. We talked about a few things that we could try that we thought would work against them and it did.”
Senior star and co-captain Karlie Lund, who scored the first Princeton goal with one second left in the first period and then added the insurance tally, had a big performance in her Baker finale.
“She came to play on her last game at Baker, you could tell it was a special game,” said Morey. “She was dialed in from the beginning, she was unreal.”
Junior goalie Steph Neatby was dialed in as well, making 30 saves on Friday and 24 a day later.
“I thought she was great this weekend, she made the saves that she needed to make,” said Morey of Neatby. “She kept us in the game when we needed her to, hopefully that is a big confidence builder for her.”
The squad gained confidence collectively as it broke out of its slump. “Going into playoffs on a three-game losing streak when you had only lost three games all year before that is mentally challenging,” said Morey, whose team is now 20-6-5.
“I am so happy with the way they responded and showed that they can win because that St Lawrence team is no joke. They are so hard to play against. For us to bounce back with this, I think we have got our confidence back. We remembered that we were good.”
Morey believes that her team is poised for more good things this weekend at the ECACH final four as it faces host Cornell (22-4-6) in one semi with Colgate and Clarkson battling in the other matchup and the victors advancing to the title game on March 10.
“We had a really good push through the middle of the season; we were playing great but we also had some tough ties,” said Morey.
“I think we did start to get thinking that we were invincible so getting knocked down to earth a little bit is always good as long as it is at the right time. Now we are on the up.”
In Fillier’s view, that adversity prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Tigers.
“It is good to go through things and gain experience and learn how we are going to get out of things,” said Fillier. “It only gets tougher from here.”