The Princeton women’s hockey team enters the 2013-14 season with great optimism. After losing just four letterwinners from last season and bringing in one of its most talented freshmen classes, the Tigers are ready for a fresh start.
Princeton has been picked to finish seventh in the 2013-14 ECAC Hockey Preseason Coaches' Poll, but the Tigers are aiming higher.
The Tigers season came to an abrupt end last year, as they finished just one place and one point out of qualifying for the ECAC playoffs. It marked the first time in 11 years the team did not compete in the postseason. The team is putting last year behind them and focusing solely on this season.
"There is no sense of redemption, last year is last year,” head coach Jeff Kampersal said. “We have eight new players in the line-up, including Jaimie McDonell, who was injured last year. Our goal is to bring our best every night, have no regrets, and improve each day. We are striving to create our identity - being consistent, disciplined, tough and competitive team. We will wear the Princeton shield proudly.
The team returns 15 of 19 letterwinners and bring in a healthy group of seven freshmen. With 22 members on the roster, this is Princeton’s largest team in seven years.
"If everyone is healthy, we will one healthy scratch. I can't remember the last time that happened, if ever. Having four balanced lines creates competition in practice and gets back to our players having a healthy work/rest ratio. Playing four lines will also help us bring more energy in Saturday's games. We are still trying to find the correct line combinations, but it's great to have options."
The Tigers will have to replace 41 percent of its scoring offense from last season with the loss of their top two scorers Corey Stearns and Kelly Cooke to graduation, as well as Alex Kinney who had 11 points.
"We are looking for scoring from everyone,” Kampersal said. “We will rely on Denna, Sally and Olivia early, but every forward has the ability and opportunity to contribute every night. Overall, we have a good mix of speed, toughness, and smarts."
The returning leading scorer is senior Sally Butler who had 15 points last year to finish third on the team in scoring Butler led the team in scoring during her sophomore year collecting 26 points and has the most career points on the team with 60 in 89 games.
Senior co-captain Denna Laing should also fill the role, as she was second on the team in points in 2011-12 with 22, while adding 10 last year.
Senior Olivia Mucha has struggled through injuries during her career at Princeton. She has missed about 20 games in comparison to her classmates, playing in just 35 games in the last two seasons combined. Mucha led the Tigers in scoring as a freshman with 21 points.
Junior Brianna Leahy finished fourth on the team in scoring last year with nine goals and five assists for 14 points. She was a presence on special teams with two power-play goals, one short-handed goal to go along with two game-winning goals.
A fresh face to the fans but not to the team is sophomore Jaimie McDonell. McDonell suffered a preseason injury last year that sat her on the bench for the entire season. She showed great promise in the team’s exhibition against McGill and should contribute some points.
Sophomores Maddie Peake and Cristin Shanahan played in every game as freshmen and had two points apiece.
Six freshmen will bolster the offense. They include Kelsey Koelzer and Hilary Lloyd who both made the scoresheet in Princeton’s exhibition game with McGill. Audrey Potts, Morgan Sly and Cassidy Tucker look to make an immediate impact. Fiona McKenna will add some pow in November when she joins the team after the conclusion of the women’s soccer season.
The Tigers return its entire defensive lineup from last season and add in one freshman.
"Our team defense will be a work in progress throughout the year because we are young,” Kampersal said. We have four upperclass D, who we expect to nurture and lead our younger players. We expect to lean on our seniors, Gabie and Rose, early in the season in crucial situations. In the net, we expect Kimberly and Ashley to do the job when their number is called."
There will be senior leadership co-captain Gabie Figueroa as well as senior Rose Alleva. Alleva is the team's leading returning scoring defender from a year ago. She had one goal and 10 assists, while Figueroa was next on the list with eight points. Figueroa had an assist in the team’s exhibition game versus McGill.
Junior Ali Pankowski has potential to be a top scorer from the blue line. She was third on the team in overall scoring as a freshman with three goals and 10 assists for 13 points.
The Tigers also return junior Brianne Mahoney and sophomore Karen MacDonald, and add freshman Molly Strabley.
Sophomore netminder Kimberly Newell will anchor the defense again this season. She is coming off of another summer with the Canadian Hockey program, playing with both the U-18 and the National Team. Last year she finished the season with a .915 save percentage and a 2.90 goals against average.
Junior Ashley Holt got experience in net last year. She played in eight games last year earning her first career win in a 4-1 victory over Connecticut, and made a career-high 30 saves in a game with Dartmouth. Holt posted a 1-2 record with a 3.35 GAA and a .861 save percentage.
Princeton’s schedule is more challenging than ever and brings an excited array of opponents into Hobey Baker Rink.
The first game at Hobey Baker Rink will pit Princeton against ECAC Champion and NCAA quarterfinalist Cornell on Friday, Nov. 1. The Tigers will face off with the defending national champion Minnesota in a pair of games in Minneapolis midway through the season. Other non-conference opponents include New Hampshire and Boston College at home on Nov. 15 & 16. Princeton also hosts Connecticut in a pair of games on Jan. 2 & 3. Second-year program Penn State will play its first game at Baker Rink when the Nittany Lions come to town for the Tigers' first game back from semester break on Jan. 28.