January 8, 2020

With Connors Producing Natural Hat Trick, PU Women’s Hockey Sweeps Saint Anselm

IN A RUSH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Maggie Connors races up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Connors tallied three goals and an assist to help No. 7 Princeton defeat Saint Anselm 10-0. The Tigers, now 13-4 overall, resume ECAC Hockey action this weekend by playing at Dartmouth on January 10 and at Harvard on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted Saint Anselm last Saturday afternoon, Maggie Connors turned the contest into her personal showcase.

Princeton sophomore forward Connors assisted on a goal by classmate Sarah Fillier 2:03 into the game and then scored three straight goals for a natural hat trick as the Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the end of the first period.

With two of her goals coming on assists by Fillier,  Connors credited their partnership with sparking her outburst.

“Playing with a player like Sarah Fillier makes it pretty easy, it is just being in the right spots at the right time,” said Connors, reflecting on her third career hat trick.

“We talked before the game; we really want to get our chemistry going for the second half of the year after having a break.”

The Tigers kept it going as they cruised to a 10-0 win, picking up their play from Friday night when they were sluggish early in returning from the holiday break before pulling away for a 5-0 win over Saint Anselm.

“We came into this game knowing that we wanted to play a full 60 minutes because we have been a little bit inconsistent. at some points throughout the year,” said Connors, a 5’6 native of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, who now has 23 points on the season with a team-high 13 goals and 10 assists.

“We had a few different goals that we wanted to work on – keeping high energy and things like that. We really just focused on those few aspects and I think we really did well tonight. It was a little bit sloppy yesterday; I think yesterday’s game was getting back into it. Today we were finally back on track like we usually are.”

The Princeton players did well across the board over the weekend. Freshman Emma Kee scored her first career goal and Daniella Calabrese had her first career assist on Friday with sophomore goalie Cassie Reale earning her first career shutout in the win. A day later, junior Amanda Harris notched her first goal of the season while sophomore Kayla Fillier scored her first career goal.

“The highlight of that was just how much individuals on our team had success,” said Connors.

“We really thought about everyone. We wanted everyone else to have success. That is huge and the wins came off of that. Emma getting her first goal yesterday and Cassie getting a shutout. Dani being super close to her first goal and Harris getting on the board. Kayla got that first goal which was long overdue. It was awesome.”

In the view of Connors, the No. 7 Tigers, now 13-4, have the chance to produce an awesome season.

“We are halfway through the year now so our team is really well bonded and I think with the consistency thing, we have gotten better almost every game with that,” said Connors.

“Today we played a full 60 minutes; we did really well with that. We tried to just stick with detail. When we set goals before the game on things that we want to focus on and do, everything just comes really naturally.”

With a season of college hockey under her belt, things are coming more naturally for Connors this winter.

“In freshman year, everything is just so new; the competition is new, the systems are new and you are getting used to things,” said Connors.

“This year, you know what to expect. Last year it might have looked like we were doing really well on the ice as a freshman class and that we were doing really well as a team but the biggest adjustment was trying to deal with hockey and school. We understand now how to deal with all of the different aspects of Princeton.”

Attending the 2019 Hockey Canada National Women’s Development Team Selection Camp in August has helped Connors be even more competitive.

“Playing with Canada; it is a level slightly above this and things just move a little bit faster,” added Connors.

“There is not much time and space with the puck. Playing with them gets me so much better no matter what. I love going to those camps. Sarah and Claire [Thompson] were there this summer, which was awesome.”

Princeton head coach Cara Morey knows that she has two high level performers in Connors and Sarah Fillier.

“Maggie can score and Sarah obviously can find her so they are lethal,” added Morey. “Maggie just snipes. When she has the opportunity, she is going to bury it.”

Morey relished getting the opportunity to give all of her players a chance to shine in the two-game set with Saint Anselm.

“It was an important weekend because we got every single player in with significant time,” said Morey

“All three goalies, all of our forwards, and all of our defense got to play some meaningful minutes so it was a great weekend for that reason. It was really great for team culture because we have the usual players that get a lot of recognition. The bench was amazing, they were supporting everybody there.”

That supportive attitude was exemplified by senior assistant captain Carly Bullock, who typically plays on a line with Connors and Fillier.

“Everybody filled roles so we moved people around,” said Morey. “I put Bullock with two freshmen to really help them elevate their game and I thought she did a great job helping support them. Anne Kuehl has really stepped up in the last few weeks, she is getting consistent. Dani [Calabrese] has been getting more aggressive and gritty and it is causing a lot more turnover which is giving Annie more puck possession. That line did great this weekend. This weekend we were really trying to come together as a team with our culture.”

With the Tigers heading to New England this weekend to play at Dartmouth on January 10 and at Harvard on January 11, Morey is hoping that team chemistry will pay dividends.

“Next weekend is huge, it is two Ivy League games, the Ivy games are always big and we have some redemption with Harvard,” said Morey, whose club fell 6-2 to the Crimson on November 8.

“People have that game circled. Dartmouth is getting really good too and they are playing some strong hockey so it is going to be a battle. It is just really pushing the pace in practice, just knowing that we have a job to do and we have to work hard all week to get ready.”

Connors, for her part, is ready to get to work from the opening face-off on Friday.

“We just want to win each period; we really want to be consistent and the way to do that is to just focus on the first period of the first game and things will follow,” said Connors.

“We are going to work really hard this week to get prepared for these teams and hopefully it will go well. Our team knows how the last time against Harvard went; we are going to keep that in the back of our minds. It was a tough game for all of us. Sarah and Claire were gone with the Canada team; it was tough adjusting for that. You don’t take anything away from them, they played a great game. We definitely want to get back at them and get another shot.”