PRINCETON, N.J. — Those hockey fans who like their games high-scoring would not have enjoyed the season so far at Hobey Baker Rink. No. 9 Princeton, an offensively challenged team that’s also a stalwart on defense, has played some low-scoring affairs. But Friday night’s game against ECACHL rival Colgate topped them all by ending in a scoreless tie.
The game was much more fluid and action-packed than the score would indicate. Princeton (6-4-2, 2-3-1 ECACHL) had 35 shots on goal, while Colgate (6-7-1, 1-3-1 ECACHL) had 23. There were many scoring opportunities on both sides as the puck at times resembled a pinball when bouncing from end-to-end. But after 65 minutes of hockey, goaltenders Roxanne Gaudiel of Princeton and Brooke Wheeler of Colgate reigned supreme.
“She’s been great. Thank God we have her. Otherwise we’d be in a lot of trouble right now,” Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal said of Gaudiel. “She’s stepped up and done the job that was expected of her. She was in the national program, she has that heralded past. She’s no slouch in there. It’s just up to us to make the most of our opportunities. She’s giving us a chance to stay in these games but we’re not taking advantage of it.”
Gaudiel has allowed no goals in her last seven periods and just three goals in her last five games. Kampersal has tried various combinations of lines to give her some offensive support, but to little avail.
“We probably over-coached,” Kampersal said. “We juggle around so much, it probably drives them nuts. We ought to just let them do their thing and see what happens. It’s back to the lab.”
Against Colgate, junior co-captain Heather Jackson and speed demon forward Liz Keady teamed up for the best Princeton scoring opportunity of the night. On the penalty kill, Jackson collected a loose puck off a blocked shot, streaked toward the goal and made a perfect pass to Keady coming up on the other side, but she couldn’t get her stick down.
Wheeler jumped up to fourth nationally in save percentage after this latest effort.
“I’ve been happy with the way [Wheeler] has played since she got an opportunity at Harvard and Brown,” said Colgate coach Scott Wiley. “She’s pretty simple. She just stops the puck and covers it and is not real flashy, but her goals against average is great and her save percentage is great. We’ll probably keep riding her for a while.”
Colgate’s best scoring chance was during an uncharacteristic defensive lapse by Princeton during the second period. In a one-minute span the Raiders had two odd-man rushes, both ending with shots by senior forward Amanda Barre. But Gaudiel came up big, stopping both threats with acrobatic saves.
In an unusual occurrence, there were only five non-matching penalties called on the night, so each power play took on extra importance as the double shutout progressed. Princeton put on the pressure during its advantages, blasting nine shots in their two power plays. The Tigers tantalized the home crowd by missing open nets or having their shots fall snugly into Wheeler’s glove.
Wiley was philosophical about his team’s performance.
“At the end of every game, I sort of evaluate how we played, maybe not necessarily as much as the outcome,” Wiley said. “Did we work hard? Did we do some good things? Did we complete? Did we battle for sixty minutes? That’s more kind of what I’m looking at and I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part. Did we have some chances to score? Yes. Should we have? Obviously, you’re always looking to score some goals. We come into Princeton on the road and leave here with a point. We’ve got to be pleased with that.”
After watching sixty-five minutes of scoreless hockey, one wonders if the standard of goaltending has risen this year across the league.
“I think that overall, having been on the men’s side for five years, and now seven seasons here, there does seem to be steady growth in the talent level of goaltending across the league,” said Princeton assistant coach Craig Fiander, who coaches the Tiger goalies. “I think it’s encouraging. The goaltenders across North America, men and women, they’re starting so much younger, I think they’re getting to the technical details at such a young age. I think that women and men’s goaltenders, across the board, coming into the college ranks, are so much more knowledgeable in the position.”
Princeton next hosts Cornell on Saturday. Colgate travels to New Haven on Saturday to take on Yale. Both games are at 4 p.m.