Taking Another Step to Achieving Olympic Dream, PU Women’s Hockey Star Fillier Makes Canada Camp
ICE BREAKER: Sarah Filler controls the puck in a game this past winter during her sophomore season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95. This summer, Fillier was named to train with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Sarah Fillier just turned 20 this past June, but she is already on track to achieving a pair of ambitious goals in her ice hockey career.
Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95.
“I always plan to have a better season that the last one,” said the 5’4 Fillier, a native of Georgetown, Ontario who tallied 22 goals and 35 assists in each of her campaigns with the Tigers.
“I think the type of player that I am, you take points into that consideration and with that in mind, it would be great to be able to break records and set records.”
While Fillier didn’t increase her point total in her second season, she felt was a better player with a year of college experience under her belt.
“As a sophomore, I definitely had more confidence in the league for sure,” said Fillier, whose honors this winter included making American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) second-team All-America, first-team All-ECAC Hockey, first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-USCHO.
“I had been playing with Maggie [Connors] and Carly [Bullock] for a year and knowing how to handle school.”
Displaying that confidence on the international scene, Fillier has her sights on playing for Canada at the Beijing Winter Games. “Making the team in 2022, that is my goal for sure,” said Fillier.
Taking another step in the road to the Olympics, Fillier was named to train with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually throughout the summer.
“It is always an honor to get that invite, and being in the online camp, we still get to be together virtually,” said Fillier, who was named to the 2018-19 Canada National Development Team, competed in two International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World U18 Championships, winning silver in 2017 and bronze in 2018 as team captain, skated in the Four Nations Cup in November 2018, winning a silver medal with Hockey Canada as the only collegiate freshman on the roster, and was named to the 2020 World Women’s Hockey Championships team.
While the players weren’t able to be together on the ice this summer, they were still kept busy by the Canadian national program.
“We have weekly Zooms with mental performance, nutrition, strength and conditioning,” explained Fillier, who was joined in the camp by classmate Connors.
“It is basically trying to develop and get better. We lose the on-ice aspect but we get all of this great information from really great people in the program.”
Assimilating that information, Fillier has worked on fine-tuning her approach to the game.
“Even if I have not been on the ice developing in that sense, with these camps and staying connected with everyone, I have developed different parts of the game, definitely mentally, over these past few months,” said Fillier.
“I think I am definitely progressing. It might not be from being on the ice all of the time but in different ways.”
Fillier helped the Princeton team make a lot of progress this winter before the 2019-20 campaign canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the Tigers went 26-6-1 to set a program record for most wins in a season. Princeton edged No. 1 Cornell 3-2 in overtime in the ECAC Hockey final to earn its first league title and the sixth-ranked Tigers were slated to play at No. 4 Northeastern in the NCAA quarterfinals.
“We were playing the best hockey of our season and circumstances that you can’t really control came into play, it is really tough,” said Fillier.
“That win over Cornell was the best game we played all year. I think it is special too that we ended our season and our seniors ended their career on a win. That is really big and something that we will be able celebrate out of all of this stuff. We felt great going into the NCAAs. We had a lot of confidence. We were expecting to come out of that with a win. We saw ourselves in the Final 4. We were excited and we wanted to be in Boston to play.”
Fillier was excited to see the team’s Class of 2020, which included Carly Bullock, MacKenzie Ebel, Steph Neatby, Claire Thompson, and Sylvie Wallin, experience that victory over Cornell.
“Their class has been phenomenal, they have been through some tough seasons and they have been the backbone of our program,” said Fillier, who served as a team captain this winter.
“They really led that push this year. I got to get really close with all of them as part of that leadership group. They are great players and phenomenal people. The program and I are really going to miss them.”
Sent home from school in mid-March due the pandemic, Fillier and her teammates maintained that group feeling virtually.
“We just wanted to make sure that everyone got home and got settled in,” recalled Fillier.
“We have some pretty international kids so we were just waiting for everyone to get home and make sure everyone is safe. We tried to schedule some regular small group meetings with the coach and a couple of people to just to like say hi and check in once a week. Then we had some team Zooms weekly to check in. I know everyone’s class stayed really close.”
While Fillier was disappointed to see the season end abruptly, she was able to recharge through training at home.
“The time we got sent home was good timing from the perspective that, normally, at the end of our season, we take a good break to recover and regroup, so we had that,” said Fillier, whose twin sister, Kayla, also plays for the Tigers.
“I was able to rent some equipment, so we were able to set up our home gym here in Ontario.”
When Filler is able to get back in action on the ice, she will bring a different perspective to the game.
“It will definitely have a different mentality because now I know what it is like to be away from the game, away from my team, and away from my friends for six months,” said Fillier, who is taking a leave of absence from Princeton for the 2020-21 school year.
“I will think about just enjoying the moment and understanding the passion I have to play hockey. It is something I really do want to pursue and that is going to help with development and training and everything.”