PRINCETON, N.J. — Kim Pearce, the junior forward for No. 7 Princeton, has an appropriate nickname from her teammates: Big Cat. The 5-foot-10 Ottawa, Ont. native has been a key part of the Princeton offense since her arrival, but her play hit a new level on Friday night with six assists in a 7-0 shellacking of Cornell.
“It’s a testament to her hard work,” said Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal. “She came in as a freshman and was predominately a goal-scorer and now she has way more assists than she has goals. Her game has changed to be really complete.”
Indeed, Pearce now has 15 assists to only four goals on the season, and her six assists were one shy of the school record, set by Katherine Issel in 1992.
“I didn’t do a lot of it, it was people putting the puck in the net,” Pearce said modestly. “I just scurry around the net and they were the ones getting the stick on it.”
But Pearce was dominant whenever she was on the ice, moving through the Cornell players as if they were statues, skating with power and handling the puck with finesse.
Princeton, (6-3-2, 3-1-1 ECACHL), coming off five straight games that either ended in a tie or within one goal, was glad to score early and often, and Cornell (2-7, 0-5 ECACHL) was the unfortunate victim. It was Princeton’s 11th straight win over the Big Red.
“We needed a game where we really came out strong,” Pearce said. At just over 13 minutes of the first period, the Tigers already had a 3-0 lead.
“Before we knew it, it was 3-0,” said Cornell coach Doug Derraugh. “And then you’re playing catch-up hockey, you’re trying to be a little more offensive and sure you’re going to get caught if you don’t get the goals in there.”
The game began almost farcically, as if a coating of vegetable oil was on the ice, with players falling like bowling pins. The refs were busy blowing their whistles, with eight penalties called in the first period. Princeton cashed in, while Cornell could not.
“We took tough penalties and they made us pay, they took some penalties and we didn’t make them pay,” said Derraugh. The Tigers ended up 3-for-5 with the extra skater, while Cornell was 0-for-7.
The Tiger onslaught began when sophomore Marykate Oakley, exhibiting excellent stick-handling, scored on the power play. Less than two minutes later, Pearce set up freshman Christine Foster for her first collegiate goal. The third goal of the night was a coach’s dream, two quick passes from Oakley and Pearce and a shot by junior Laura Watt that was right out of a textbook.
During the second period, Cornell kept the Tigers at bay, at least until there was one second left, when sophomore Brittany Salmon fired a slapshot that hit the back of the net as the buzzer sounded.
In the third period, down 5-0 after a goal by Princeton freshman Annie Greenwood, and with 11:28 gone, Derraugh elected to pull his goalie, Beth Baronick. The strategy backfired as Salmon grabbed a turnover at center ice and had clear sailing for the empty net goal.
“The way I see it, we’re down 5-0, and there’s about ten minutes left in the game,” Derraugh said. “I figure, pull the goalie, see if we get a goal, and maybe we can get back in it. If they score, well, we were going to lose anyway. I always figure, whether you lose 4-0 or 10-0, it’s still a loss.”
Princeton senior netminder Roxanne Gaudiel picked up the victory, stopping eight shots. Freshman Kristen Young made her college debut by making six saves in the third period.
The final Princeton goal was notched by senior co-captain Heather Jackson. Remarkably, Pearce was on the bench.
Cornell will travel to play Quinnipiac on Saturday. Princeton hosts Colgate in a game broadcast live as the USCHO Game of the Week. Both games start at 4 p.m.