Last season, the Harvard Crimson rode a 21-game unbeaten streak to its third consecutive NCAA Finals appearance. The Princeton Tigers were one of the reasons the streak didn’t include 21 victories, logging a 1-1 tie with the ECACHL Champions at Bright Hockey Center in late January. Many of the principals from that contest are no longer around to partake in this weekend’s sequel. However, this longtime Ivy rivalry goes well beyond graduated seniors and departed national teamers, and a win for either side could be an important springboard in the first weekend of ECACHL conference play.
Game Time: Sat. 4 p.m. ET (Broadcast Links)
No. 7 Harvard (1-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 ECACHL)
Top Scorers: Sarah Wilson, Fr. (2-0-2), Katie Johnston, Jr. , F (1-1-2), Laura Brady, So., F (1-1-2), Kristen Kester, Fr., F (1-1-2)
Top Goaltender: Ali Boe, Sr. (1-0-0, 0.00, 1.000)
Scoring Offense: 7.00 (1st)
Scoring Defense: 0.00 (1st)
Penalty Minutes: 14.0 (18th)
Power Play: 2 of 7, 28.6% (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 6 of 6, 100.0% (1st)
The collection of All-Conference, All-American, and All-World performers that Harvard has already had to replace is impressive. So for her next trick, all Coach Katey Stone has to do is compensate for the departure of record-setting sniper Nicole Corriero, all-league defenseman Ashley Banfield, and national teamers Julie Chu, Caitlin Cahow, and Sarah Vaillancourt. But in a season that has already shown flashes of unprecedented parity, maybe the operative question for the Crimson is simply “why not?” After all, the roster includes 12 players who have known nothing but ECACHL and NCAA championship games, and had the NCAA Tournament included eight teams back in 2002, a similarly-depleted Harvard squad would still have been on the bubble to be the last team in the field.
The new Harvard formula will have to start with solid goaltending from senior Ali Boe, who significantly raised her level of play during the team’s second-half surge a year ago and set the school career shutout record this past Saturday. Boe figures to be tested quite a bit this year especially early on because of a very young defense in front of her that includes three rookies and two sophomores. Up front, Harvard no longer has the single go-to player or line to rely on game after game so Stone is probably hoping for more days like the season-opener against Robert Morris when nine different forwards figured in the scoring. Special teams, always a hallmark of Harvard’s success, will be more critical than ever to a Crimson team that has not carried a power play below 21% since 1998 and actually led the nation during the last Olympic year.
Princeton (1-0-1 overall, 0-0-0 ECACHL)
Top Scorers: Kim Pearce, Jr., F (2-1-3), Kate Hession, Jr., D (1-1-2), Dina McCumber, Jr., D (0-2-2)
Top Goaltender: Roxanne Gaudiel, Sr. (1-0-1, 1.39, .943)
Scoring Offense: 2.00 (T-20th)
Scoring Defense: 1.50 (7th)
Penalty Minutes: 12.0 (23rd)
Power Play: 0 of 7, 0.0% (32nd)
Penalty Kill: 9 of 12, 75.0% (29th)
Princeton’s situation is fairly similar to that of Harvard excepting a little more seasoning on the blueline and a little less playoff experience. Coach Jeff Kampersal begins his 10th season with no questions as to who his No. 1 goaltender will be after Roxanne Gaudiel notched the second highest single-season goals-against average and save percentage in the history of the program in 2004-05. Junior Dina McCumber, the leading returning scorer among ECACHL defensemen, anchors a blueline group that also includes senior Chrissie Norwich and junior Kate Hession, who notched the first goal of her career in the season-opening tie against Boston College.
Offensive output remains the big question mark for the Tiger program. Princeton’s goal total dropped by 23 from 2004 and 2005, not far off the 30 goals that graduated along with Gretchen Anderson. On the eve of the season, Old Nassau also lost Liz Keady to the U.S. National Team; Keady had a hand in 33 percent of the team’s goals last season. Leading scorer Kim Pearce is back, though, after turning a 10-goal rookie season into a team-best 15-15-30 as a sophomore. After Pearce, Kampersal will look next to what he has called his most versatile performer in junior Laura Watt, who returns to center after skating some games on defense a year ago. The rest of the early-season top six includes seniors Heather Jackson (53 points the last two seasons) and Sarah Butsch, sophomore Brittany Salmon (voted the team’s Rookie of the Year in 2004-05), and freshman Annie Greenwood.