CANTON, N.Y. — Hockey isn’t always a fair game as No. 2 seed Princeton found out all too well in its ECACHL semifinal matchup against No. 3 Brown tonight.
Despite a totally dominant performance and a 42-16 shot advantage, Princeton (21-7-4) fell 1-0 to Brown (15-12-5). The Tigers fell to 0-5 all-time in conference semifinal games. Princeton seemed destined to reach its first final with a nine-game win streak prior to today, but it was not to be.
“Obviously I’m not even going to try to explain the game of hockey,” said Bears coach Digit Murphy. “It’s not fair to Princeton, they outworked us and outhustled us and deserved to win, but we have an unbelievable goalie who was remarkable tonight.”
That goalie was O’Hara Shipe, who stopped all 42 Princeton shots.
The second ECACHL semifinal of the day was like dj vu relative to the day’s first semifinal. Once again, the team that clearly carried the play and had the majority of the shots on goal came up empty-handed.
“Tough game tonight, we threw the kitchen sink at them, but [Shipe] stood on her head” said Tigers coach Jeff Kampersal.
The first period was a back and forth affair, with the Tigers taking only a slight advantage in shots and possession. Even though the Tigers seemed to carry control of the play there were no clear scoring opportunities for either side.
The Tigers came out in the second period re-energized and completely seized control of the game, which they would never relinquish. However, amidst all the pressure they were applying on the Bears, they made one blunder that would ultimately cost them the game and a spot in the ECACHL final.
“We made on bad play on the turnover that led to the goal, you can’t say too much in the locker room to a team that made one mistake,” Kampersal said.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the second period, the puck was passed from deep inside the Tiger offensive zone towards the blue-line. Both Tiger defenders went to make a play on the puck, but each yielded to each other allowing Rylee Olewinski to sneak by. Olewinski skated in on a breakaway and managed to slide the puck between the legs of Tigers goalie Roxanne Gaudiel as she fell down. The Bears took the 1-0 and never let go.
“This is a lucky barn for Rylee,” said Murphy, noting this was Olewinski’s second playoff game-winning goal for the Bears at Appleton Arena in the last two seasons. “She was in and out of the lineup last year, but her attitude and work ethic have been amazing this season, and she has worked her way onto the top line”.
The Tigers gave the Bears and Shipe all they could muster in the remainder of the second period and the duration of the third. The shot discrepancy in the second and third periods alone gave the Tigers a 33-11 advantage.
“I wish we had capitalized on the power play better tonight, I also think we should have had a few more, there was a lot of holding and interference, but even with that being said, the real issue is the fact we simply couldn’t get a shot by [Shipe]” said Kampersal.
In the third period the Bears went into a shell defensively, with all five skaters in a tight defensive formation in front of Shipe. With this formation they blocked countless shots, and what did get through was smothered by Shipe, who turned in a gem of a performance.
“I can’t take credit for any wins we had this season,” Shipe said. “Tonight the defenders did a great job clearing rebounds. There weren’t a lot of second opportunities.”
The Bears will now move on to face No. 4 seed Harvard in Sunday’s ECACHL final at 2 p.m. in Appleton Arena. The winner of this contest will not only be the league champion but will also earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Conversely, the season will be over for the losing side.