PRINCETON, N.J. — With the score knotted at one in a fast, physical game at Baker Rink, Providence captain Karen Thatcher caught a breakout pass from junior Kristin Gigliotti. Carrying the puck along the boards, she eluded the Princeton defense with her gaze firmly fixed on junior linemate Sonny Watrous. With the precision of a Swiss watch, Thatcher fired a perfect pass.
Watrous fought through traffic, put her stick down, and put the pack past helpless Princeton senior goaltender Roxanne Gaudiel. Providence had the 2-1 lead which would they would not relinquish.
“We do it a lot in practice and the play was done so many times I saw it coming and it was like ‘Great, go!’” Thatcher said. “And luckily she got her stick on it and an easy goal.”
“It was an unbelievable pass but that’s a really strong play by Sonny Watrous,” said Providence coach Bob Deraney. “[Princeton] is strong and they’re diligent and they’re thorough, especially in front of the net, so for us to make that play, to execute with that much precision, that’s a great play. [Thatcher] made a great play bringing it down the wall and holding it long enough so that [Watrous] could get free, but at the same time for [Watrous] to make sure she put the stick on the ice and put in with that much authority, it’s a big-time play by two big-time players.”
Providence (10-6-2) had to come from behind to beat No. 7 Princeton (9-4-3). After a scoreless first period, the Tigers scored first, a power-play goal by sophomore Brittany Salmon on a pass from senior Sarah Butsch. Providence’s senior goalie Jana Bugden thought she had made the save, but it snuck between her pads and trickled across the goal-line.
Thatcher tied the score at 13:49 of the same period, also on a power play. Getting free of the defense, she was well-positioned in front of the net to knock in a rebound off Gaudiel’s pads.
“I think they just lost me for a second,” Thatcher said. “We had the man advantage and I was the extra man.”
Princeton had plenty of chances throughout the night, but either bad execution on odd-man rushes or great saves by Bugden squelched their efforts. Two saves in the first period, both on point-blank shots from about three feet away by Tiger senior Chrissie Norwich, stood out. The Tigers outshot the Friars 31-19 for the night.
“I think our goalie made some key saves that helped us to sustain some momentum,” Deraney said. “She’s like a third defenseman back there, which really helps our young defensive core.”
Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal was animated on the bench when each of the scoring opportunities came up empty.
“We probably had eight 2-on-1s and we never really made a great play on any of them,” Kampersal said. “We practiced 2-on-1s all week. It was bad decisions and bad execution.”
Deraney was proud of his team’s effort.
“I thought all 21 of our kids came to play today and that’s a big difference,” Deraney said. “For the first time this year I didn’t have any hesitancy to put any of our players out at any time. That’s a huge step for us.”
Thatcher was glad to see her team regain some physicality.
“It was fun game, it was really physical and fast, two great teams battling it out,” Thatcher said. “We’re trying to get back to playing a little more physical, we’re known for that.”
Providence’s next game is at home against Niagara on Saturday at 1 p.m. Princeton, which ended a ten-game homestand, will now hit the road for the next seven games, starting at Yale on Friday at 7 p.m.