After Season Ends Abruptly for PU Women’s Hockey, Senior Star Bullock Will Continue Career in Sweden
HEADING TO EUROPE: Carly Bullock controls the puck in a game this winter during her senior season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team. With Bullock scoring a team-high 30 goals on the year, the Tigers won the ECAC Hockey tournament for the first time in program history and boasted a 26-6-1 record heading into the NCAA tournament. Princeton was deprived of a chance to make a run for a national title as the tourney was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bullock will get a chance to continue her hockey career as she recently signed a contract to play with Swedish professional club Linkoping HC. She will be joined on the squad by classmate and star goalie Steph Neatby. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Carly Bullock and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s hockey team believed that they were national title contenders as the squad headed into mid-March.
With senior star forward Bullock having scored a goal to help Princeton rally to a 3-2 overtime win at No. 1 Cornell on March 8 in the ECAC Hockey championship game, she sensed that the Tigers could go all the way in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“We were playing some of our best hockey, we had just beaten the No. 1 team in the championship game,” said Bullock, a native of Eden Prairie, Minn., noting that it was the first-ever ECACH title for the program.
“We have been a really close team all year but around the playoffs we just hit a new level. We were just having so much fun and I think that really translates to things on ice. We were singing and dancing between periods.”
But the fun stopped days later when all college winter and spring sports were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the Tigers getting ready to play at Northeastern in the NCAA quarterfinals, the abrupt end to the postseason run was hard to process for a team that had gone 26-6-1, setting a program record for most wins in a season.
“We had a quick mini banquet at the Metro North restaurant,” recalled Bullock, who led the Tigers in goals this season with 30 and won the team’s Elizabeth English trophy as its most valuable player in addition to earning first-team All-Ivy League and first-team All-ECACH recognition.
“It was really sad, it was a hard pill to swallow. We were just all in shock; we were in tears and hysterics.”
That shocking turn of events, though, won’t mark the end of Bullock’s hockey career as she recently signed a contract to play with Swedish professional club Linkoping HC.
“I had wanted to play in Europe for a while now; my brother (former Dartmouth star Ryan) played professionally for a year in France and loved his experience,” said Bullock, who will be joined on the squad by classmate and star goalie Steph Neatby.
“I knew some other teammates who went over there, Molly Strabley, Cassidy Tucker, and Kiersten Falck, and I got to see them all really enjoy their experience. I knew that was something that I wanted to do.”
With some help from Princeton assistant coach Courtney Kessel, Linkoping proved to be a good fit for Bullock.
“The Swedish League is one of the most competitive leagues; that is why I wanted to play over there,” said Bullock.
“Courtney actually played for Linkoping and still had connections there from when she played. She was able to get us in contact with their general manager and he was very interested in both Steph and I. It made it a really easy decision.”
Playing with Neatby will be a major plus for Bullock as she adjusts to Sweden.
“One of the deciding factors was finding a team that would take us both just because when you are going into such a new territory and a new experience, it is nice to have someone you know and someone that knows you,” said Bullock.
“It was really nice to have her as we were looking at teams and trying to figure out what we wanted.”
While Bullock is looking forward to playing at the pro level, she will miss being on campus this spring with her other classmates.
“It is really tough because you work so hard for three years leading up to this and that is what everyone is looking forward to,” said Bullock, a sociology major whose senior thesis dealt with issues regarding the Pink Tax.
“It is your post-thesis life. I am only in two classes so you get a lot more free time to get to hang out with your friends. It is hard to have that all rushed, saying goodbyes in three days. It is still tough. We are hoping that we can all get together at some point before we leave but I don’t know how the trajectory of this is going to work.”
Back in Minnesota, Bullock has stayed in contact virtually with her teammates over the last few months.
“We did a couple of Zoom workouts, that was fun as a way to stay in shape,” said Bullock.
“It is always better to work out with your friends and we have been having a couple full team Zooms and class Zooms and whoever wants to call. We have been Face-Timing a lot. It is really sad but it is nice to keep up with everyone.”
As she prepares for her first season at Linkoping, Bullock has been able to keep up her conditioning at home.
“I have a pretty decent set-up in my basement that I am able to work out,” said Bullock, who hopes to be in Sweden by August with the season slated to start in October.
“I have been on the elliptical and the stationary bike. Our strength trainer has been sending us workouts that you can do with no setup at all. So if you need to do squats with weights and don’t have any, you can use your backpack and a bunch of books, whatever you can find. They have been very accommodating and very helpful.”
With rinks hopefully opening soon, Bullock is itching to be skating again.
“Getting back on the ice is going to feel great,” said Bullock, noting that she wished her next rink session could be with her Princeton teammates.
“It has been so long; I am used to going on every day. Being in Minnesota, I am lucky I have access to a lot of ice and a lot of other college hockey players that I know to get on the ice with.”
Having established herself as one of the top scorers in the history of Princeton women’s hockey, Bullock is looking to keep producing as a pro.
“It is always something I wanted to do, to get signed and have it be so real and so close, I am extremely excited,” said Bullock, who ended her Tiger career with 159 points, the sixth-most in program history, and 95 goals, the fifth-most all-time for Princeton.
“I just really want to continue to play the way I have been playing the past four years at Princeton and continue improving my game. I hope that Steph and I can contribute to Linkoping and get the team to a good spot in the playoffs.”