Goals by Denna Laing and Sally Butler, as well as a 22-save effort from senior goaltender Rachel Weber, led the Princeton women's hockey team to a 2-1 victory over Rensselaer Friday night at Baker Rink.
The win improves Princeton's record to 11-13-4, 9-10-2 in the ECAC. With 20 league points, Princeton is now assured of a seventh seed in the postseason, which starts next weekend.
Princeton outshot Rensselaer 26-23, though the Engineers fired off 12 shots in a furious comeback attempt in the final period.
Rensselaer couldn't have asked for a better start to the game. Seconds into the opening faceoff, freshman Taylor Mahoney found herself skating alone with the puck down the left side of the ice. With a defender chasing her, she fired a shot past senior goaltender Rachel Weber for a 1-0 lead 23 seconds into the game.
Princeton didn't let Rensselaer establish control of play after the early goal, and that reslience was rewarded midway through the period with an equalizer. Junior Alex Kinney found freshman teammate Brianne Mahoney, who wound and fired at the Engineer goal. Freshman Kelly O'Brien made the save, but was not able to keep the puck. Princeton sophomore Denna Laing was first on it and scored her eighth of the season to even the game at 1-1.
Some clutch goaltending and an assist from the post helped Princeton skate into intermission with the 1-1 tie. Forced to fight off a brief 5-on-3, Rensselaer took a shot from the left circle that hit the post, and Weber followed up with a glove save on a point blank shot from the right circle.
After fighting off the rest of the penalty to open the period, Princeton earned its first lead of the game about six minutes in. Senior Julie Johnson controlled the puck along the right boards and centered a pass to sophomore Sally Butler, who was inside the right circle. Butler took the shot and beat O'Brien for her team-best 13th goal of the season.
Princeton kept the lead with its swarming defense, especially during a stretch with eight minutes remaining, when a mass of players in front of Weber continuously blocked shots while the Engineers fought for the tie. One final shot was able to get through, but Weber took care of it and Princeton finally cleared the puck to end the surge.
Both teams fought off power plays midway through the third period, and Rensselaer had an ideal opportunity to tie the game with four minutes remaining, but Weber stuffed Taylor Horton on a partial breakaway. Weber kept the rebound away from a charging Engineer, and Horton was left shaking her head behind the goal at the missed opportunity.
Rensselaer did maintain control of the puck for another minute, but Weber made another glove save to force a faceoff. Yet another charge with two minutes left was saved by Weber, but this time the puck trickled across the open goal mouth. Butler knocked it away, and Princeton was able to get the puck up the ice to give Weber a moment to breathe.
Rensselaer pulled O'Brien with just over one minute remaining, and Princeton senior Paula Romanchuk nearly iced the game with a slapshot, but it struck the pipe and went wide. Weber needed one more kick save off a shot that appeared to be well-screened, but she saw the puck in time to knock it away and secure the 2-1 victory.
Princeton will host Union during its regular season finale Saturday at 4 p.m. The game, which will also be the final Skate With The Tigers game for the women's season, will also serve as Senior Day; members of the Class of 2012 will be honored prior to the game.