SLU’s Barrie is the Barrier to Princeton Success
Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal needs no reminder of the opposing player who can make or break his team’s weekend games at St. Lawrence –goaltender Rachel Barrie.
“Rachel Barrie for two years in a row has killed us,” Kampersal said. “We’re hoping to get her back this weekend.”
St. Lawrence’s junior tri-captain Barrie has allowed just six goals to the Tigers in four career starts — all of which were one-goal victories. That does not bode well for No. 10 Princeton, who hopes its long bus ride out to Canton, N.Y. will result in its first points against the No. 5 Saints in four years. The Tigers, seeking their first victory against a ranked ECAC opponent of the season, will be facing Barrie as she comes off one of the most impressive series’ of her career.
Barrie’s 90-save weekend in two games against Dartmouth earned her USCHO.com Defensive Player of the Week Honors. In Saturday’s 3-2 defeat, she made 41 saves to keep the game tied until the final two minutes. She bounced back a day later and stopped 49 shots to preserve a 1-0 shutout.
She made 21 saves in the third period alone. Dartmouth was on the power play for nearly four consecutive minutes shortly after the Saints took the lead. Barrie stopped several chances from point-blank range during the stretch as the Saints were on their heels, and Dartmouth finished 0-for-7 on the power play for the day.
“She bought us that two points I felt,” said St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan.
The youth of St. Lawrence on the defensive end has made Barrie’s play all the more crucial. She hasn’t had the benefit of Canadian national team defenseman Isabelle Chartrand roaming the ice since her freshman year, when the Saints made the national championship game. This season the Saints are regularly rotating three freshmen defensemen, who have progressed confidently with Barrie backing them up.
“Rachel’s been her typical, consistent self,” Flanagan said. “She plays with a lot of confidence and certainly the players feed off that. There are times when you feel she’s an extra defenseman, pumping rebounds into the corner and helping us out, not just leaving things out front. When she’s on it’s as good as it gets.”
While Barrie has a history of single-handedly winning games for the Saints, her success hasn’t extended to the top level of competition out west. Barrie is 0-6-1 between three career starts against Minnesota-Duluth and four against Minnesota. She has yet to hold either team to fewer than three goals for a game.
St. Lawrence’s two worst outings of the season were losses to Minnesota by scores of 5-2 and 7-2, as the line of Krissy Wendell, Natalie Darwitz and Kelly Stephens punished the Saints. While those outings were far from Barrie’s best performance, Flanagan felt the results could have best been easily improved by matching up better against the Gophers’ speed –specifically doing a better job of slowing down Minnesota through the neutral zone, thus providing more support for the defensemen.
Having played four games in a row against the nation’s top four teams, Flanagan feels his team should be better prepared to face Princeton. He was quick to note, though, the Tigers were a challenging foe last year, and they should be even better this year with two U.S. national team players — Annamarie Holmes and Andrea Kilbourne — back in the lineup, as well as a strong freshman class. Kilbourne is Princeton’s leading overall scorer with eight assists and three goals — two of them short-handed.
Kampersal, on the other end, feels his team isn’t anywhere close to its full potential yet. The Tigers are coming off a weekend that included a disappointing 2-2 tie versus Maine, where Princeton floundered done the stretch, and Kampersal admitted the Black Bears probably deserved to win. A 6-2 win over Northeastern the next day, however, was much more encouraging.
“I still don’t think for the most part our best players have played their best,” he said. “Hopefully that’s a good sign that we can get better as the season gets going.”
Princeton hasn’t come together as quickly as anticipated largely because of a wrist injury to forward Gretchen Anderson, which caused her to miss the first six games of the season. Yet despite having played just four games, she still leads the team with five goals.
“We’re still working to get on the same page with Gretchen being back,” Kampersal said. “She’s an all-the-time threat which makes our team a little more scary with her out there. It takes the pressure off some of our other players.”
One stumbling point that Kampersal doesn’t think will be a factor is the long bus ride. Princeton has already made long trips to New Hampshire and Mercyhurst earlier this season. The Wildcats, Princeton’s first road opponent of the year, were not kind hosts as Princeton had to come back at 2 p.m. on Sunday following a 2-1 loss that started 7 p.m. on Saturday. The result was the Tigers’ worst outing of the year-a 7-3 defeat where the team’s one-on-one defense fell well short of expectations. Princeton fared better with a win and tie at Mercyhurst a week later, however, and expects even more improvement this weekend.
“We’re used to traveling on the bus now, and because we got a slap in the face at UNH, I think we’ll be more mentally prepared for the next day,” Kampersal said.
St. Lawrence, having played four games against two of the nation’s top four teams in the past week, justifiably feels it has been better tested leading up to this weekend’s games. And, unlike Princeton who hosts Ohio State next week, these are the Saints last two games of the year before winter break.
“Our last four games haven’t been patsies, so we’d like to think that we’re psychologically ready,” Flanagan said. “It’s the end of our semester and we’d like to crank it up and go out with a sweep.”
We’ve Been Here Before
For the second year in a row, defending ECAC champion Brown is not off to a strong start at 4-4-2.
The Bears last season pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of women’s college hockey when they started the year 4-5-1 and finished 21-3-1 before falling in the national championship game to UMD, as Kristy Zamora ended her college career with Frozen Four MVP honors. Expecting two miracles in a row might be a little much, but Brown coach Digit Murphy has no doubts of her team’s ability to come through in the end, again.
“In my opinion it doesn’t matter where we’re ranked, we’re always going to be in it, because our team near the end of the season historically has always found a way to win,” she said.
Murphy has given considerable playing time to many of the nine freshmen on her roster, so she sees a steep learning curve there, especially in their ability to adjust to speed of the top teams like Harvard and the Minnesota. Freshmen figured in all the Bear goals in Brown’s 5-3 loss to Minnesota and recent 3-2 loss to Harvard.
Murphy is looking forward to an immediate boost in January, when she hopes Krissy McManus will return to the lineup after missing all the season thus far with a groin injury. McManus was Brown’s third-leading goal-scorer last season, and she has the explosive speed that can produce the instant offense Brown’s young forward lines need.
“Right now I think we miss McManus a lot,” Murphy said. “We need her touch. We don’t have the snipers that Minnesota and Harvard have.”
Brown’s schedule started tough with half of its games against top ten teams — including each of the top four teams-and the Bears have kept the games close every time.
“We’ll find the combinations in the end,” Murphy said. “It’s never been pretty at the beginning of the season for Brown. It’s part of who we are — our history.”
On Top Again
Following Sunday’s victory over Brown, Harvard moved to the No. 1 ranking in the USCHO.com poll for the first time in three seasons.
Harvard captain Jamie Hagerman said that earning the No. 1 ranking was a great honor and a testament to the team’s hard work, but staying at No. 1 would be a much greater challenge.
“No. 1 is great, but it’s December 2nd, and we want be No. 1 in the last weekend of March. That’s what matters,” she said.
This week’s opponents Northeastern and Providence are, ironically, the opponents Harvard faced the last time it held the top rank in February of 2000. That weekend didn’t go so well, as the Crimson fell 1-0 to Providence and tied Northeastern 1-1.
Against Northeastern on Saturday — a likely preview of the Beanpot final in February — Harvard should have a clear advantage, seeing that it is idle on Friday while the Huskies play a typically draining battle against Brown.
No. 7 Providence, meanwhile, has historically been a nemesis for Harvard. The Friars dealt the Crimson its worst loss of the season — a 6-0 pasting last season — and took the 2001 Harvard team to overtime before bowing out in the ECAC quarterfinals. Providence is the only team to shut out Harvard over the past three years — and it has done it twice. The Friars have been strong but inconsistent this year, especially this past week where they could only muster ties against Brown and UConn after falling behind early.
Player of the Week-Gretchen Anderson, Jr., F, Princeton
Rookie of the Week-Carrie Schroyer, Fr., F, Harvard
Goaltender of the Week-Rachel Barrie, Jr., G, St. Lawrence