Tiger Women's Hockey Opening Season, Hoping Depth, Speed Make the Difference
By Bill Alden
The 2005-06 season hasn't even started and the Princeton University women's hockey team has already suffered a major loss.
This September, star junior forward Liz Keady was called up to the U.S. national team to skate for a spot on the squad that will be chosen to play in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
While Keady's leave of absence is a setback, Tiger head coach Jeff Kampersal isn't going to dwell on that situation as Princeton opens its campaign by competing in the Nichols Tournament this weekend in Buffalo with games against Boston College on October 29 and Vermont on October 30.
"Mentally we had always planned to lose her," said Kampersal, who is in his 10th season guiding the program. "She has been making so much progress. She is great in the dressing room and on the ice. We're certainly going to miss her."
Kampersal's sanguine attitude is attributable to the fact that Princeton returns most of its top guns from a year ago. Leading scorer, junior Kim Pearce (15 goals, 15 assists), is back together with classmates Laura Watt (9 goals, 17 assists) and Dina McCumber (3 goals, 18 assists) and senior Heather Jackson (6 goals, 17 assists).
"Watt, Pearce, and Jackson should get us going," said Kampersal, whose team scored 84 goals last winter in going 16-10-5. "We hope to have three, maybe four lines. We do have depth and speed."
In addition to that core of veterans, Kampersal believes two freshman, Annie Greenwood and Christine Foster, should give the team some extra punch up front.
"Annie Greenwood proved she can be a good scorer at high school," said Kampersal of the former Hotchkiss School star. "I think she can do it at this level. Christine Foster is a tough, all-around player. She should contribute."
As for the Princeton defense, Kampersal is looking for McCumber, senior Chrissie Norwich and junior Kate Hession to lead the way. "Dina and Chrissie provide punch in the back," added Kampersal. "Chrissie was hurt last year but she is on the way to being the way she was. Kate Hession has gotten better each and every year. She really came on for us last year down the stretch."
The Tiger who came along the most last year was goalie Roxanne Gaudiel, an All-Ivy performer in her first year as a starter. Kampersal is expecting big things of the senior netminder from Venice, Fla.
"Last year she played a lot of minutes for us," said Kampersal of Gaudiel who started all 31 of Princeton's games last season and compiled a sparkling 1.89 goals against average. "She is really athletic and is a student of the game. She leads by making the big saves."
Kampersal believes that the sour ending to last season which saw Princeton fall 2-0 to Yale in the first round of the ECAC Hockey League playoffs has left the the team hungry.
"We have good senior leadership from our captains Heather [Jackson] and Tarah [Clark]," asserted Kampersal. "They have done a good job with our dry land training. It's their fourth season and they know how we practice. They have the kids working hard."
The team's diligence will come in handy in what Kampersal believes will be a season of parity and tight games in the ECACHL. "This should be a big year for college hockey," said Kampersal. "Anyone from one to 11 in our league can win. A lot of the teams are mirror images of each other. Each game is going to come down to who wants it that night."
Princeton needs to show more desire this year when it comes to its finishing around the net. "We defended well last year," said Kampersal, whose club surrendered just an average of two goals a game. "The key is for our offense to be more productive. We have to be better in front of the net."
Kampersal is hoping his club can start developing the right chemistry this weekend. "It'll be interesting," added Kampersal. "The teams we'll be playing will have already played five or six games. It'll be good to get on the road and bond together."