PRINCETON, N.J. — Late in the second period of a tense, full-throttle game between two teams fighting for the Ivy League title, Princeton sophomore MaryKate Oakley took matters into her own hands.
In a move that would make any team’s highlight reel, she broke free at center ice and came on strong toward Brown sophomore goalie O’Hara Shipe. Wielding her stick like a musketeer brandishes an epee, she made a couple of slick moves and deked Shipe out of position. The result was a 2-1 Tiger lead.
“That was one of the better goals I’ve seen in a while,” said Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal.
With just under 13 minutes remaining, Princeton junior defenseman Laura Watt cranked up and fired a low tracer from just inside the blue line. Somehow it made it through all the traffic and found the back of the net for the crucial insurance goal that proved to be necessary in a 3-2 win–the Tigers’ sixth straight.
“The points were open a lot all game,” Watt said. “Our forwards did an awesome job of getting it back to us. It was about time one hit the back of the net, because we had a lot of shots blocked, even inside the crease.”
“She is probably an underrated player in our league,” Kampersal said of Watt. “She’s probably one of the best kids, if not the best on our team. She can play forward, she can play D. She can see the whole rink and come up big when she’s supposed to.”
No. 6 Princeton (18-6-4, 14-3-2 ECACHL), like usual, set the tone in the first period. This season the Tigers have outscored their opponents 28-5 in the opening frame. The Brown players, back on their heels, were outshot 9-2. However, Shipe’s play and Princeton’s missed opportunities kept the game tight.
The only goal of the period came after Princeton sophomore Brittany Salmon scooted down ice with the puck. She was met and brought down to the ice by a Brown defender, but managed to get a nifty pass off to senior Sarah Butsch, who knocked it in front of the net.
“Our kids set the tempo in the first five minutes, it’s really important for us,” Kampersal.
Brown (12-12-4, 10-6-3 ECACHL) was a bit lucky that the first intermission deficit wasn’t higher, as Princeton missed several opportunities, including a couple odd-man rushes that came up empty.
“We dodged a bullet,” Brown coach Digit Murphy said. “When O’Hara Shipe comes to play, we feel more confident, and we saw that after the first period.”
Brown looked to be a different team after the first intermission.
“We just reminded them that they were in a game, and that it was an Ivy game,” Murphy said. “They needed a little reminding, a coaches’ friendly reminder. I think what happens with our team is they get a little mesmerized and they’re still young.”
Playing with renewed vigor, the Bears knotted the score at 4:11 of the second period on the power play. In an unusually sloppy penalty kill for the Tigers, senior Keaton Zucker held the puck uncontested behind the net. She slipped across the goal line and flipped the puck over the left shoulder of Tiger senior goaltender Roxanne Gaudiel.
Brown never quit battling after Oakley and Watt’s goals, but the Tigers were up for every challenge, killing off five third-period penalties. There was one scary moment when Salmon blocked a shot that caught under her chin. She was attended to by trainers on the ice, but was back on the ice later in the period.
Murphy called timeout with about three minutes to go and pulled Shipe for the extra skater. Princeton again fended off the Bear attack, and appeared to have the win in hand when Brown junior Kathryn Moos was whistled for cross-checking with less than a minute to play. Shipe returned to goal, and the Tigers were on a power-play.
But Brown senior captain Ashlee Drover made a perfect pass to sophomore Hayley Moore, who batted it past Gaudiel for the short-handed goal. Suddenly it was a one-goal game again, with eight seconds to go. Princeton, though, still had the extra skater, and managed to eke out the victory.
“I think the whole game we did not get the forecheck going, and that’s our game,” Murphy said. “Had we done that we might have given them a little better game than we did.”
Kampersal had special praise for his defensemen.
“Our five D had monster games,” Kampersal said. “They were in control the whole time which is a good sign for us.”
Princeton and Brown both conclude their regular seasons on Saturday. Princeton hosts Yale in a game that will settle the Ivy League title. Brown travels to Quinnipiac, and picking up a point will ensure home ice in the ECAC quarterfinals. Both games are at 4 p.m.