SAVING GRACE: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Katie Alden makes a save in recent action. Senior co-captain Alden helped PDS post a 9-12-2 record this winter as it advanced to the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Katie Alden began playing organized hockey in the fourth grade at the McGraw Rink on the campus of Princeton Day School when she joined the Nassau Hockey League in 2006.
Last month, Alden (this reporter’s daughter) came full circle, taking the ice as the senior goalie for the PDS girls’ hockey team as it hosted Kent Place in its season finale.
For senior captain Alden, finishing her high school career on the rink where she started the game was fitting.
“I am sure a lot of us who live in the area started playing at Nassau,” said Alden. “To start and end your career in the same place is special.”
Over the last four years, Alden has relished her PDS career. “I really enjoyed playing for the PDS Panthers all four years,” said Alden. “I grew in skill and in spirit in my four years here.”
Alden acknowledged that there were some mixed emotions as she and classmates, Sophie Jensen, Sophie Ward, Anna Williams, and Pria Louka were recognized before the finale in the program’s annual Senior Night.
“Ice hockey is my favorite sport so it is sad to have been a part of a team for four years and know that this is your last game with them,” said Alden, who made 22 saves in the contest as PDS fell 3-2 in overtime.
“I spent the most time and effort on hockey. I don’t play for travel teams in other sports. It is a really fun game, it is fast moving. As a goalie, I have the best perspective on the ice. It is similar to being a goalie in field hockey. I like that pressure, I thrive on that pressure.”
Serving as team captain this winter allowed Alden to apply the perspective she gained from helping to lead the PDS field hockey team this fall.
“Coming off the field hockey season where I was a co-captain, I had some good leadership experience,” added Alden, an All-Prep B performer in field hockey and recipient of that program’s Varsity Award.
“Going into the season, I really focused on having fun while also being passionate and focused during game time.”
Alden’s focus was reflected in her performance on the ice this season as she posted a 6-4 record with a 2.00 goals against average and an .887 save percentage.
“I was very happy with my stats this year,” said Alden, who produced a pair of shutouts in wins over Princeton High.
“Coming from my freshman year, I improved my stats each year. I would compare my save percentage from each game the different years. I was always improving. With PHS I don’t think I shut them out both times last year.”
The PDS seniors tried their best to create a happy atmosphere around the team.
“Even though they don’t play travel hockey it is clear that they love the game,” said Alden of her classmates.
“They really have fun when they are out there. They try their best to win battles and generate some offense for us. Sometimes the very serious travel girls get a little too wrapped up in the game, they let the score affect them too much. We have to remind them that it is all a game. We are here to have fun.”
PDS head coach Lorna Cook loves what the team’s Class of 2015 has brought to the program.
“I have been thinking about them a lot and how much fun it has been coaching them and seeing their improvement and growth on and off the ice,” said Cook.
“They were the class that came in with me so they mean a lot. It is a great group. We will miss them a lot, not just on the ice but the personality they brought to the long bus rides and on the bench. They are a fun group; their personalities work together for the team.”
Cook appreciates the effort she got from Alden over the last four years.
“Katie has improved a lot as a goalie, she has gotten better every season,” said Cook of Alden, who received the program’s Varsity Award.
“She was at almost all of the practices and games for the last four years. She gave the commitment level you want to see a player give a team. She has a passion for the game and sets the example for the younger players.”
The two Sophies, as they are known around the program, each received the team’s Coach’s Award and served as assistant captains.
“Sophie J. (2 goals and 4 assists this season) surprised us by how much she improved,” said Cook. “She gained confidence while she was away in Colorado. Sophie Ward (1 assist) has gotten better too, she is a smart player, she knows where to go on the ice. Had she played longer she would have been even better. She loved it and it was great.”
The pair of Williams (1 goal) and Louka (1 goal, 3 assists) got better and better as the season unfolded.
“Anna improved a lot; she could stick handle through people,” said Cook. “She was not shy, she would battle anyone. She doesn’t get penalties, she plays the right way and she plays hard. Pria learned a lot from that attitude. She would battle on the boards and she did what she needed to do on the ice.”
While PDS battled hard to make the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament, Cook acknowledged that the team could have done better than the 9-12-2 mark it posted.
“Obviously with the record, there were a few games that stand out that we should have won, the first and last in particular,” said Cook.
“At the same time, it is a really young team and it’s not bad for them to go through challenges and learn that they have to bring it every day.”
Three of the team’s young players, freshman forward Malia Leveson (11 goals, 10 assists), sophomore defenseman Kristi Serafin (7 goals, 10 assists), and sophomore goalie Annika Asplundh (2.54 goals against average, .920 save percentage), brought it throughout the winter. Serafin and Asplundh earned second-team All-WIHLMA recognition while Leveson was an honorable mention choice.
“It is hard when you are younger to be the leaders on the ice,” said Cook.
“They developed into those roles nicely, they gained a lot of experience that is going to help us for next year. They stood out in every game. Malia and Kristi brought another level of speed. It is not a secret that we were getting outshot in a lot of games and Annika kept us in games. You need a goalie like that.”
The Panthers got needed depth from sophomores Daphne Stanton (3 goals, 2 assists), Ashley Cavuto (9 goals, 12 assists), and Kiely French (8 goals, 5 assists) along with junior Emma Stillwaggon (7 goals, 4 assists).
“Daphne and Ashley improved a lot, the way they approached situations and took charge more,” said Cook.
“Daphne has always been good defensively but she improved offensively and put in some big goals for us. We could feel that coming at the end of last year. Emma and Kiely stepped up and played defense. When you are a natural forward that is not what you want to do but they went into it with a good attitude. They were still effective offensively and they broke up plays and played well in the d-zone.”
Cook is depending on the returning players to step up even more going forward.
“We are trying to up our intensity and take it to another level,” said Cook.
“We need to get physically stronger; we need to keep pushing it forward. We have a solid foundation. We have a lot of good young players, we just need to reach a higher gear.”
Alden, for her part, likes the way the team reached a higher level of unity this winter.
“It has been a great season with these girls,” said Alden, a WIHLMA All-Academic first team honoree who is headed to Bucknell University this fall.
“Coming from different travel teams and different levels, some playing travel hockey and some not playing travel hockey, it is hard to really get on the same page and learn the system but we really got together.”