November 6, 2019

Fillier Providing Production, Leadership As Princeton Women’s Hockey Starts 4-1

GETTING HER FILL: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sarah Fillier heads up ice in recent action. Last week, sophomore star forward Fillier tallied two goals and one assist as Princeton defeated Quinnipiac 4-2 to open ECAC Hockey play. The Tigers, now 4-1 overall and 2-1 ECACH after beating Colgate 1-0 on Friday and losing 3-1 to Cornell the next day, host Harvard on November 8 and Dartmouth on November 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was only the first weekend of the season but Sarah Fillier felt snakebitten when she didn’t score a goal despite firing eight shots as the Princeton University women’s hockey team posted a pair of wins over Syracuse in late October.

So when sixth-ranked Princeton hosted Quinnipiac in its ECAC Hockey opener on October 29, sophomore forward Fillier was ready to break out.

“They have played a few more games than we have so they are more in stride than we are,” said Fillier, a 5’5 native of Georgetown, Ontario who tallied 22 goals and 35 assists for 57 points last winter in getting named as a second-team All-American and the National Rookie of the Year.

“We knew we had to pay attention the last few days and focus on them and come out here for a battle. It is our third game of the season, it is hard to get going sometimes.”

With the teams knotted at 1-1 headed into the third period, Fillier put the Tigers ahead with a power play goal on a feed from classmate Maggie Connors with 18:42 left in regulation

“I know Maggie is a skilled player; I was stuck at the top and I passed to her,” recalled Fillier.

“Their forward overcommitted and I just jumped into the spot and knew she was going to hit me right there.”

Fillier didn’t waste much time scoring her second goal, tallying 7:07 later as the Tigers pulled away to a 4-2 win over the Bobcats.

“One of the things that we talked about between the periods was just getting to the net,” said Fillier.

“I came off the bench, I got there and the puck just kid of popped to me.”

The team’s top line of Fillier, Connors and senior star Carly Bullock has been in synch from the opening face-off this season.

“Even last year, it was surreal,” said Fillier. “It is hard to find chemistry like that with people who are really talented and have great attitudes on the bench and are smart players. Over the summer we talked all the time; we knew this year that we had a big freshman class and we needed to step up and be leaders on and off the ice.”

Taking a bigger leadership role, Fillier is serving as a team captain this winter.

“It is a new spot, it is definitely in a different space than I was last year,” said Fillier.

“I learned a lot last year from our senior class. They were huge in my growth and development. They were super influential.”

Having been selected to take part in the 2019 Hockey Canada National Women’s Development Team Selection Camp this past August, Fillier grew as a player over the summer.

“Every time you play with the national team it gives you confidence,” said Fillier.

“You just learn so much in those few days that you go to camp, being there and just being a sponge and just soaking it all in. Then it is bringing it back and not being afraid to share everything you learned. Our team is really open to learning and growing as a group, that is awesome to have.”

Having taken her lumps early on in her freshman campaign last winter, Fillier has learned how to pace herself through the season.

“I had a slow start, I had no experience and it takes a while to get into the swing of things,” said Fillier.

“I think having that experience, knowing that you are going to go through highs and lows and not to get too high or too low with things. It is a long season and school has its stressful moments and you have to know when to take care of your body and when to push.”

Princeton head coach Cara Morey knew her team would have to push hard to beat Qunnipiac.

“Quinnipiac is one of the best teams in our league so we always know it is going to be a dogfight out there with them,” said Morey. “They are strong and physical.”

Princeton’s strong power play, which generated two goals against the Bobcats proved to be a difference in the game.

“The power play just has the chemistry,” said Morey, whose special teams unit is spearheaded by the trio of Fillier, Connors and Bullock along with senior defenseman Claire Thompson.

“They know where each other are, they know where to move the puck, they know what comes open. It is hard to defend because it is not the same plays every time.”

Morey liked the way the Tigers played in the third period as they outscored Qunnipiac 3-1 in the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“It was just keep it simple, I thought we were overhandling pucks. We were trying to make the pretty difficult plays instead of the easy, simple plays,” said Morey, whose team, now 4-1 overall and 2-1 ECACH, had a difficult time last weekend, edging Colgate 1-0 on Friday before losing 3-1 to No. 3 Cornell the next day.

“That was the message – better puck support. In the second period, our breakout was not good because we didn’t have good support. A couple of lucky bounces and all of a sudden you can play a littler easier. You can protect a lead a little easier in the last 10 minutes than when you are scrapping to keep it a close game.”

Seeing Fillier scrap for two goals was another plus in the win for Princeton

“They weren’t actually pretty, they weren’t some of her better shots,” said Morey.

“She actually whiffed it on the first one, the play was great. She needed that. She had lots of scoring chances against Syracuse last weekend that she didn’t put in. If you are one of those players, you start to take on the weight of the world.”

With senior goalie Steph Neatby making 36 saves against Quinnipiac to spearhead the defense, the Tigers are looking solid around the blue line.

“Steph has been really good, she is making it look simple,” said Morey.

“We have a lot of talent back there, it is a matter of keeping it simple. Sometimes our defense was trying to do too much on the breakouts. We have a really good d-corps.”

While Morey is happy with her team’s good start, she knows that there is a long way to go.

“I just see the work that we need to do, you are just looking at the next thing ahead,” said Morey, whose team hosts Harvard on November 8 and Dartmouth on November 9.

“You get it done and then you are focusing on what we have to do next. It’s a long season; we have to build, build, build.”

In Fillier’s view, Princeton has the potential to do some special things this winter. 

“When you are ranked, every team comes to play you with their best game as possible,” said Fillier.

“It is just making us better and it gets us excited to play games, knowing that every game is going to be a battle. We have a lot of things to work on. I know our coaches have a good path for us.”