PRINCETON, N.J. — Heading into the homestretch of the 2005-2006 women’s college hockey season, many had circled this game between No. 6 Princeton and No. 8 Harvard as one that would go a long way in determining ECAC playoffs positioning and national championship seeding as well. Thus it was shocking that the Tigers handled the Crimson with ease in a 6-1 win at Baker Rink that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
“Every single person on the team realized the importance of the game,” Princeton co-captain Heather Jackson said. “It was really, really upbeat today. Everybody showed up ready to go. I think we all knew it was one of the biggest games for the rest of our season.”
The Tigers (14-6-4, 10-3-2 ECACHL) were coming off a split in the North Country, which moved them to their highest position in the rankings all season. Harvard (11-8-4, 7-4-4 ECACHL) , had struggled of late, scoring only four goals in its last five games. But few expected the complete domination that Princeton would produce its most lopsided victory over Harvard since 1982.
“Our seniors got the team ready,” Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal said. “In the years that I’ve been here, the teams that we’ve had that do well down the stretch have had great senior leadership. These guys really had it going before the game. They were prepared to play.”
Harvard coach Katey Stone offered no excuses.
“I think Princeton played really well today,” she said. “My hat’s off to them and I would give them all the credit. I think we got better as the game went on, but they came out furiously, and I thought they were the better team today.”
Princeton did come out furiously, out-shooting the Crimson 16-1 in the first period. But Harvard’s freshman netminder, Brittany Martin, made some tough saves to keep Princeton off the scoreboard. Finally, though, at 15:13, Princeton sophomore Brittany Salmon took the puck at her own blueline, skated through traffic all the way to the crease, and deked Martin out of her skates by tucking the puck between her legs.
Though Princeton’s senior goalie Roxanne Gaudiel only faced 16 shots for the night, many of her saves were of the circus variety, perhaps none bigger than the lone shot taken by Harvard in the first period. Freshman Kirsten Keater intercepted a pass and was all alone in the slot. Gaudiel got a glove on the ensuing shot and deflected it aside. That was the best scoring opportunity Harvard had until a meaningless power-play goal by junior Jennifer Sifers with about two minutes to play. Harvard was already down 6-0 by then.
In the second period, Salmon made it 2-0 with her second goal.
“I think [Salmon's] second, power-play goal, that one was really important,” Kampersal said. “She kept banging away at that puck.”
Just 42 seconds later, freshman Annie Greenwood slid one past Martin, and the Tigers had a 3-0 lead. Stone called timeout, but the Crimson ship was never righted. Princeton refused to let up the rest of the way, and Harvard was running on fumes. With only 23 seconds left in the second stanza, sophomore Marykate Oakley knocked in a rebound to make it 4-0.
“My linemate, Sonja [Novak], did absolutely all the work,” Oakley said. “She came in, she took the defense wide, she took it to the net.”
In the third period, the Tigers kept pouring it on. Oakley added another goal, this time an unassisted backhand. Junior Alison Ralph tallied the final score, a short-handed beauty that she carried all the way from the neutral zone.
“We have days when we struggle scoring goals and sometimes the execution is really good,” Kampersal said.
The final shots on goal total was Princeton 49, Harvard 16.
Princeton will host Dartmouth on Saturday, while Harvard travels to Quinnipiac. Both games start at 4 p.m.