At first glance, they don’t seem like the most likely candidates for a topsy-turvy rivalry. One owns a national championship, two conference championships, four national tournament appearances, and a gaudy 157-34-7 record over the past six seasons. The other has produced a solid, but hardly spectacular, 94-71-14 mark during the same stretch and has yet to reach a conference final or qualify for the national tournament.
Yet while Harvard-Princeton may not rank as the most celebrated rivalry in women’s hockey, it has become one of the game’s more unpredictable matchups in recent years, especially against the backdrop of the Tigers’ Baker Rink. Princeton has successfully defended its home ice against the Crimson in 3 of the last 4 regular season meetings. Harvard notched an OT win (on a short-handed goal) during its 1999 championship run and swept a first-round playoff series in 2002. This weekend’s meeting between the two Big Three constituents offers its fair share of variables as both teams seek to cope with the absence of key cogs due to the Four Nations Cup and the graduation of some of the best players their respective programs have ever known.
No. 3 Harvard (2-0-1)
Top Scorers: Nicole Corriero, Sr., F (3-3-6), Sarah Vaillancourt, Fr., F (3-2-5), Ashley Banfield, Sr., D (1-4-5)
Top Goaltenders: Ali Boe, Jr. (2-0-0, 1.50, .893), Emily Vitt, So. (0-0-1, 1.85, 0.933)
Scoring Offense: 4.33 (7th)
Scoring Defense: 1.67 (8th)
Penalty Minutes: 18.0 (T-8th)
Power Play: 5 of 25, 20.0% (8th)
Penalty Kill: 21 of 23, 91.3% (7th)
Losing players to international commitments has become an annual rite for Harvard. Last season’s Four Nations Cup caused little disruption as the Crimson only had to contend with Division I neophyte Union. The schedule is less forgiving this time around and Harvard’s record already reflects the impact of the tougher opposition (a 2-2 tie with No. 10 Providence). Still missing star forwards Julie Chu and Sarah Vaillancourt, the Crimson may find little respite on the weekend road trip with Princeton, up to No. 8 in the latest USCHO/CSTV rankings, and Yale, who played Harvard even until the final seven seconds of the teams’ last meeting. Not to mention Harvard is only three games into its adjustment to life without 2004 Kazmaier Award winner Angela Ruggiero.
Fortunately, Coach Katey Stone still has some proven pillars to lean on. Tri-captain and 2004 Kazmaier nominee Nicole Corriero has pocketed three goals and three dimes in her first three games, and packs a potent mix of strength and creative shotmaking into her 5’4 frame. Fellow senior Ashley Banfield, overshadowed for most of her career by the likes of Ruggiero and first-year assistant coach Jamie Hagerman, seems to have settled comfortably into the role of top defenseman for the Harvard blueline corps. Stone has also lauded the budding competition in net between incumbent starter Ali Boe and sophomore Emily Vitt, who stopped 28 of 30 shots against Providence this past Wednesday.
T-No. 8 Princeton (2-1-1)
Top Scorers: Liz Keady, So., F (2-3-5), Dina McCumber, So., D (1-4-5), Laura Watt, So., F (0-5-5)
Top Goaltender: Roxanne Gaudiel, Jr. (2-1-1, 2.21, .894)
Scoring Offense: 3.00 (T-11th)
Scoring Defense: 2.25 (T-12th)
Penalty Minutes: 18.0 (T-8th)
Power Play: 5 of 30, 16.7% (T-11th)
Penalty Kill: 24 of 29, 82.8% (21st)
The last two seasons have set a new standard of excellence for Princeton women’s hockey. Back-to-back 20-win campaigns bested the previous high watermark for wins in a season (17). Gone are workhorse netminder Megan Van Beusekom, All-ECAC defenseman Angela Gooldy, and 30-goal gunslinger Gretchen Anderson. However, expectations remain high and a home series with T-No. 8 Brown and Harvard offers a prime opportunity for Princeton to make an early push up the conference ladder.
The netminding chores now belong to junior Roxanne Gaudiel, whose four starts were highlighted by a 22-save performance in a 4-1 win at Providence. Co-captain Becky Stewart has shifted back to defense this season, while classmate Heather Jackson represents the primary returning threat on offense after a 30-point season in 2003-04. However, Coach Jeff Kampersal believes his nucleus class may be his talented crew of sophomores. Liz Keady will miss this weekend’s action for U.S. national duty in the Four Nations Cup. Kim Pearce pumped in four goals in the season-opener and lit the lamp twice in last year’s home victory over Harvard, while Laura Watt and defender Dina McCumber presently share the team scoring lead with Keady.