PRINCETON, N.J. — No. 7 Princeton came from behind to defeat a gutsy Quinnipiac team 2-1 at Baker Rink on Tuesday. Junior Laura Watt was the clutch performer, netting the game winner with just under nine minutes to play.
The Tigers were on the power play, when junior Kim Pearce took control of the puck on the blue line and dished to sophomore Marykate Oakley, who slid a pass to Watt for the backhander past the Bobcat’s freshman goalie, Connie Craig. After the game, the Tigers’ mood was more one of relief than exultation.
“We came out really poor,” said Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal. “I thought Quinnipiac probably deserved a little bit better than getting a loss in that game. We’ve played so many tough games that our team knows how to win, so I think we relied on experience here and that helped us. Other than that, we didn’t deserve the W.”
Statistically, Princeton (8-3-2, 5-1-1 ECACHL) dominated the game, outshooting the Bobcats 38-8 and winning faceoffs 44-28. But Quinnipiac (6-9-3, 2-6-2 ECACHL) hung tough, not backing down, and received tremendous play from Craig, who at times seemed to be in a shooting gallery, making one spectacular save after another. Craig has now gone 251 minutes without allowing an even-strength goal, but unfortunately for her the Bobcats could not stay out of the box, and Princeton cashed in on two power plays.
After a scoreless first period in which Princeton played suffocating defense, allowing zero shots on goal, Quinnipiac struck at 1:16 of the second period. On the power play, sophomore Karrah Stephen took a shot that Princeton’s senior goalie Roxanne Gaudiel blocked with her pads. The rebound went right to freshman Antoinette Maldonado, who was in the perfect position and knocked it past the helpless Gaudiel.
It was gut-check time for the Tigers. “We knew we could get the job done if we worked hard enough,” Watt said.
But the Tigers continued to miss scoring opportunities and Craig kept making the big save. It wasn’t until 14:03 of the second period that Princeton knotted the score, with Watt and Oakley setting up freshman Annie Greenwood, who has now scored in five straight games.
That goal seemed to give the Tigers new life, and they began to play with more authority. But still Craig would not yield. Then, at 11:31 of the third period, Quinnipiac junior Ashley Jaffray was whistled for cross-checking. Fifteen seconds later, Watt rung up the game winner.
Watt is one of a core group of Princeton players who have a blue-collar approach to the game. They don’t have gaudy numbers, but they constantly work hard, are always around the puck, and never give in to pressure. She has played both center and back on the blue line, and is adept at both.
“The one thing we lacked today was vision from most of our players, not recognizing that they’re on a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-2,” said Kampersal. “But Watt has vision. The reason that she’s back there [on defense] is that she’s really good with the puck, she can make a play, she can make that first pass. All-around, she’s a phenomenal player. We need to rely on her all the time.”
Quinnipiac coach Michael Barrett was proud of his team’s effort. “I thought we battled hard,” Barrett said. “They’re a really hard working team, but we didn’t back off them at all. I think we dug down deep. Connie [Craig] played well again in the net. Even though the shots were lopsided I think we did a good job of keeping most of them to the outside.”
Quinnipiac next hosts Maine on Friday night, while Princeton hosts Wayne State. Both games are at 7 p.m.