Princeton Women’s Hockey Clinches Playoff Berth
The Princeton Women’s Hockey Team clinched a trip to the ECAC playoffs with a 4-1 defeat of Yale Friday night in New Haven. Penalties and defense would be keys the game in many ways as the Tigers needed to overcome several obstacles including a slow start, three successive penalty kills, and only being able to ice 14 skaters including just four defenders.
“I think we started a little bit slow, and kinda strayed from our systems and habits, but then we slowly picked up and got a little better and better throughout the game,” Princeton Head Coach Cara Morey said. “So I was pretty happy with their end result but also with their worth ethic as it improved throughout the three periods.”
While Princeton did have an advantage in the first period, Yale did have their chances. However, Claire Thompson got the Tigers on the board first launching a shot from the top of the zone past Yale’s Tera Hofmann assisted by Carly Bullock and Sarah Verbeek at 4:35.
Penalties started to matter in the game when Yale’s Emma Vlasic would tie it up at 5:37 in the second on the power play. She had skated into nearly the same position Thompson had been and launched a blast past Stephanie Neatby of Princeton. Mallory Souliotis and Greta Skarzynski had the assists on what was the only Bulldogs point.
The Tigers would take the initiative back and three minutes later Carly Bullock and Annie MacDonald broke in on a two on one. MacDonald fed it across to Bullock who outmaneuvered a Yale defender and the keeper to deposit the puck in the net. Sylvie Wallin also assisted on the quick play and the game winning goal.
Later, the visitors made Yale pay for the next penalty of the game at 13:48 when Kimiko Marinacci slapped the biscuit from near the blue line into the netting. Kiersten Falck and Keiko DeClerck helped set up the play during the rotation.
Penalties continued to play a crucial role in the game with Yale desperate to climb out of a 3-1 hole in the third. The Tigers were called for three infractions in close succession, giving the Bulldogs over four minutes of power play time including two segments of five on three play, but the Tigers defenders and Neatby let nothing in.
“It was a good chance to work on our three versus fives!” Morey noted. “We got to work on that kill quite a bit and I was pretty happy with the way they executed that kill. We had some awesome blocked shots during it. After all that I called a time out to get them to settle down and realize we’re going to back to five on five, and let’s play some real hockey throughout the end of that third period.”
With the Elis struggling to get the offensive momentum at even strength or with the skater advantage, Yale’s Grace Wickens was called for an unnecessary hit after play was called dead giving Princeton a power play for two minutes and cutting into the time her team had to come back. To make things worse, after the Bulldogs killed that penalty, another followed a minute later on a check behind the net, and two more minutes were lost effectively ending any chance the Bulldogs had. After the return to even strength, Bullock added a dagger anyway when she got the puck off a Yale zone face-off and rocketed it into the net within seconds assisted by Karlie Lund.
Yale’s offense is fully capable of doing some damage, but was contained so the defensive effort of the Tigers with only four defenders is especially notable.
“We’ve only had four defenders since I’d say late December, so they’ve been playing this way for a long time,” Morey explained. “So they know how to manage themselves throughout the games right now so by game two tomorrow, they still have a little bit left in them, but it’s definitely a struggle for them, and they have to battle it every week, but we have to be careful with the way we practice, and kind of manage their energy level throughout the entire week as we head into playoffs.”
Thompson, Stephanie Sucharda, Wallin, and Marinacci did what they needed to and Wallin and Sucharda’s play was especially noticed in getting the disc out of the Princeton zone. Also, Marinacci’s play in the third disrupted many Yale chances. Overall, the four defenders really kept the Bulldogs from getting too many solid chances, and they often swept the puck from the danger zone in front. The forwards did plenty defensively too. The team closed off a lot of shooting lanes on the penalty kill and otherwise as Yale was taking odd angle, low probability shots. What did get through the defense, Neatby took care of other than the Vlasic goal.
“Neatby has been solid for us throughout this stretch. After Christmas break she came back and has been a big factor in the turnaround our season that we’ve had,” Morey said.
Thompson had three blocks, Sucharda had two, and Wallin had one. Forwards also got into the action with Lund blocking three, Sharon Frankel blocking two, and Bullock and MacKenzie Ebel having one apiece.
Yale’s played hard defensively as well, with Julia Yetman and Saroya Tinker each blocking three shots, and Kara Drexler, Skarzynski, and Kaitlin Gately had two each, with five other players with one. But Princeton found the three shooting lanes they needed for three hard shots, and the breakaway was a defensive mishap. The home team also gave up a few turnovers in the defensive zone notably in the first. Hoffman’s performance in net was harder to judge as two shots got through the screen, she was beaten on a 2 on 1, and the instantaneous shot off the face-off got past her, but she made 25 saves on many other credible chances.
Bullock and Ebel led Princeton with five shots apiece, and Thompson, Shannon Griffin, Falck, and DeClerck had three as well as the attempts were spread out across the roster. Vlasic had eight of Yale’s 25 shots and many of the most credible opportunities. Rebecca Foggia had an especially active day with four shots, and Tinker had three shots.
Yale is still one point ahead of RPI for the final ECAC playoff spot. They will have to win against Quinnipiac Saturday or RPI will have to lose.