For Denna Laing, serving as the captain of the Princeton University women’s ice hockey team for a second year is proving to be a pleasure.
“It definitely makes a difference coming from last year to this year; I definitely have a better handle on things,” said senior forward Laing.
“Honestly, the team is making it easy for me. Nobody is disappointing me and it is making it really easy for me and very enjoyable. I am very proud of everyone.”
Laing certainly enjoyed herself last Friday, tallying a goal and an assist to help Princeton top University of New Hampshire 3-1.
The senior line of Laing and classmates Olivia Mucha and Sally Butler sparked the Tigers, generating a slew of chances and accounting for two of Princeton’s goals as the Tigers broke a scoreless tie by scoring three straight goals in a two-minute span from the end of the second period into the start of the third.
“We definitely know what is at stake,” said Laing, reflecting on the connection between the trio of classmates.
“We know if we are working hard out there, then everyone else will see that and follow our lead. That’s not to say that other lines are doing the exact same thing.”
Laing helped Princeton open the scoring as she fed Mucha for a goal with 1:06 remaining in the second period.
“It all started when we were forechecking down low and we put a lot of pressure on them and things kind of worked out for us,” said Laing.
“We were working hard so we were hoping that one would go in, Mucha had a couple of chances before that were so close. I am glad that she did get that one in and got us rolling.”
The Tigers kept rolling after the second intermission as they scored two goal in the first 59 seconds of the third period as Ali Pankowski and Laing found the back of the net.
“It definitely picked up the momentum for us,” said Laing, reflecting on the third period flurry.
“We were up 1-0 and it is easy to come back on that so we knew to come out hard for the third period.”
On her goal, Laing went hard to the net. “We were working hard down low and the puck was just sitting there for me on a rebound,” said Laing, who now has two goals and five assists in the season. “It was nice work by my linemates to get it there.”
Laing likes the way the Tigers are handling their work this season. “I definitely would say this year compared to other years, everyone is buying in,” asserted Laing, a 5’9 native of Marblehead, Mass. who has 57 points in her Princeton career on 24 goals and 33 assists.
“Everyone is following the rules. Everyone wants it, from the freshmen who came in here and have really made a difference to our sophomores who really worked hard over the summer and have picked it up. The junior and seniors have come back off of injuries and we are really firing. Everyone is working hard from the freshmen up. I think that is really making a difference.”
In the view of Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, the senior line made a huge difference for the Tigers in the win over UNH.
“They worked so hard; they got it done,” said Kampersal. “All year,
they are going to get it done for us. We are going to rely on them to come up big at the big times. They have been together for the most part for four years and there is some familiarity, no question.”
Kampersal is placing heavy reliance on Laing to spark the Tigers. “Denna brings a lot of heart and soul every time,” said Kampersal. “She did a good job on the penalty kill. She has always played super aggressive. She is strong. She is a workhorse for us.”
Princeton was strong defensively in the victory over UNH. “I thought our defense played well in the absence of Gabie [Figueroa] so it was good that they stepped up in her absence,” added Kampersal, who got another good defensive effort on Saturday as the Tigers tied No. 5 Boston College 1-1 to move to 5-2-1 overall.
“I thought Brie Mahoney was really good in the back as was Pankowski. They did a good job. Kim Newell was really solid in goal, she was solid physically, and solid mentally.”
Having gone 4-0-1 in its last five outings, Princeton is playing some solid hockey overall.
“I think we just focus on the conditioning and the practice,” said Kampersal of the Tigers who are fourth in the ECAC Hockey standings with a 4-2 league mark. “We are working on playing hard for five minutes at a time and restarting the next five minutes. I think that has been a good focus for us.”
The Tigers will have to keep that focus as they are facing a challenging slate of games over the next two weeks.
“We have a tough stretch coming up,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Clarkson (10-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 ECACH) on November 22, St. Lawrence (5-7 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on November 23, and Quinnipiac (10-1-3 overall, 3-1-2 ECACH) on November 26 before heading to the midwest for two games at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota (13-1 overall) over Thanksgiving break. “This is the heart of it. We have to prove our worth in the next five games.”
Laing, for her part, believes that Princeton has the heart to compete with the toughest foes.
“I honestly feel really confident with this team, more so than I have in past years,” said Laing.
“It is a great feeling to be a senior right now. Hopefully, we continue our path. It has only been seven games; we haven’t done anything yet. We are not satisfied yet. We are still looking to make a big impression and hopefully we can keep rolling like we are rolling.”