PRINCETON, N.J. — When two teams are in a dead-even tie in the rankings, one would expect them to play a close game, and Princeton and Brown did not disappoint as the two teams ranked No. 8 in the USCHO poll played a taut, nerve-jangling game down to the wire at Hobey Baker Rink. Princeton came out ahead, 3-2.
While Princeton (3-1-1, 2-1 ECACHL) was missing potent scorer Liz Keady to the Four Nations Cup tournament, Brown (3-2, 2-1 ECACHL) was also down a key player, as last year’s All-Ivy and Second Team All-ECAC forward Jessica Link aggravated a high-ankle sprain during pregame warmups and sat out the contest. Her status had been doubtful entering the week.
“Our biggest adjustment we had to make was not having Link in the lineup,” said Brown coach Digit Murphy. “It kind of killed one of our power-play units. I’m playing a lot of kids up right now. I’m not trying to make excuses. These kids are getting some experience, they’re playing with some guts. But that breakaway at the beginning of the third period came back to haunt us.”
The breakaway Murphy was referring to was the game winner, scored by Princeton sophomore forward Laura Watt 40 seconds into the third period. The play began with a steal by junior co-captain Heather Jackson at her own blue line. She zoomed forward on a two-on-one with Watt and found her open in front for a 3-1 lead that the Tigers would not relinquish.
The goal was only one facet of Watt’s sterling play. She also won 22 faceoffs on the night and was effective on the penalty kill.
“Watt was really awesome for us,” said Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal. “That goal was really nice. I thought she had great faceoffs.”
Watt excelled defensively as well, particularly on the power play. Special teams played an important role during the game, as there was a steady parade of players from both sides headed to the penalty box, eighteen players whistled for infractions in all.
“The penalty kill was a big deal tonight,” Watt said. “I worked a lot with Heather Jackson and I thought we did a really good job of trading off, particularly in the last three minutes. I just had to push aside how tired I was and be strong on faceoffs.”
The Bears made the home crowd tense when they cut the score to 3-2 with 2:14 left. With a power play and an extra attacker, senior defenseman Amy McLaughlin ripped a high shot from inside the blue line that eluded Princeton goalie Roxanne Gaudiel. But Princeton toughed out the remaining two minutes and held on for the victory.
“Browns third forward came up really high. That eliminated the man-on-man to try to get us to come away from the net,” Kampersal said of the frantic last moments of the game. “Our kids did a nice job by not going above the tops of the circles and in keeping it in tight.”
The first goal of the night came quickly. At 1:35 of the first period, sophomore forward Alison Ralph found a loose puck in the crease and knocked it in for an early Princeton lead.
Thereafter, both teams settled in for some fine defensive play, and no one scored until just past the midway point of the second period, when freshman forward Brittany Salmon tallied her first career goal on the power play to give Princeton a 2-0 lead.
Brown jumped right back into it toward the end of the period on their power play, when sophomore forward Christine Holdredge pounced on a rebound and fired it past Gaudiel to cut the deficit to 2-1, thus setting the stage for Watts heroics in the third period.
Both goaltenders performed admirably and pleased their coaches. Gaudiel, a junior from Venice, Fla., made some acrobatic saves, including a spectacular glove save during a two-man disadvantage. She finished the evening with 24 stops.
“That was Roxy’s best game since she’s been here,” said Kampersal. “She’s getting more and more confident and she kept us in there.”
Silverman made 21 saves, including several clutch ones on a 5-on-3 disadvantage that lasted over a minute. Silverman’s play, combined with the efforts of O’Hara Shipe and Marie-Pier Desbiens, leaves Murphy with an interesting dilemma for future games.
“Stacy, O’Hare, and Marie-Pier are playing really well,” Murphy said. “I feel like Joe Torre juggling the lineup It’s a nice problem to have.”
Brown next travels to New Haven Saturday to take on Yale, while Princeton hosts Harvard in a game that will be broadcast live as the USCHO.com Game of the Week. Both games start at 4 p.m.