PRINCETON, N.J. — By 6:04 of the first period Saturday afternoon, No. 8 Princeton accomplished what it hadn’t done its previous four games combined score two goals. Both goals were on the power-play, an area that had vexed the Tigers during their loss to Yale Wednesday night, when they went 0-for-8. But the offense clicked tonight against Connecticut at Hobey Baker Rink and the defense made those two goals stand in a 3-1 Princeton win.
Princeton (5-4-1, 2-3 ECACHL) seemed to have the ice tilt in its direction for the first six minutes. Sophomore forward Laura Watt started the scoring at 2:38, knocking in a rebound off a shot by sophomore forward Liz Keady. Just under three-and-half minutes later, the Tigers added another power play goal, this by sophomore forward Kim Pearce, who muscled in a rebound after a long slap-shot by sophomore defender Kate Hession.
“We just tried to simplify [the power play] and just get it back to our point and have the points throw it on net and have our forwards crash the net which they did,” Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal said.
Connecticut, (5-4-3, 2-1 HE) settled down thereafter, and the rest of the game was a dogfight.
“In the first five minutes of the game I don’t think we came out fired up,” Connecticut coach Heather Linstad said. “We gave up two very soft power-play goals. I think we just didn’t play well in the first five minutes.”
The Huskies struck back at 10:16 of the first period, when sophomore defender Natalie Vibert made a perfect pass from the corner to freshman forward Bridget King, who was left alone in front of the net and hammered it home for a power-play goal.
“I thought we were still in the game and I thought we came back and established ourselves,” Linstad said. “I thought we turned it around, I thought we played even after that. We had some scoring opportunities after that and we just couldn’t capitalize.”
The Princeton defense, led by junior Chrissie Norwich, then stiffened and would not bend, and junior goaltender Roxanne Gaudiel made several clutch saves to keep her team in the game.
“Chrissie Norwich played unreal out there today but I think just has a whole group they were all really good,” Kampersal said. “We defend well. That’s not an issue for us, it’s scoring goals.”
The gritty play of the defensive unit was perhaps best exemplified by the last penalty kill at 12:46 of the third period, during which the Tigers were still clinging to a 2-1 lead. With senior co-captain Becky Stewart in the box for tripping, the defense killed off the penalty without allowing a shot. Minutes later junior co-captain Heather Jackson ended all doubt when she scored an empty-net goal.
After a difficult loss against Yale, Kampersal had looked for someone on his team to step up.
“Watt, Pearce, Jackson – they all chipped in,” Kampersal said. “Our better players all made the most of their chances today.”
“I think we came ready to go after such a rough loss Wednesday night,” Jackson said, “shooting more, being more aggressive as well.”
Princeton and Connecticut will have a rematch at Hobey Baker Rink on Sunday at 1 p.m.