PRINCETON, N.J. – In the early seconds of overtime, Princeton controlled the puck. The Tigers brought it into St. Lawrence’s zone, where Jaimie McDonell fought for the puck along the boards. She sent it up to Kimiko Marinacci, who lasered it to Kelsey Koelzer for the one-timer.
Koelzer’s shot was all Princeton needed to defeat St. Lawrence 4-3 in overtime on Saturday afternoon.
“I think it was great speed through the neutral zone, great work by the forwards to get the puck in deep and I think that was the key,” Koelzer said. “And then moving the puck right up to Kimiko on the point and then she noticed that my girl had gone back to the net front so she fed it right across and I was able to get a nice one-time shot on it.”
It wasn’t Koelzer’s first overtime goal, as the defender had skated coast-to-coast to defeat Harvard back in November. She’s second in the nation with her two overtime goals and is the country’s second highest-scoring defender. Koelzer’s 15 goals are the most in the nation.
The forward-turned-defender has been a big part of Princeton’s defense, but also a big part of its attack.
Koelzer spent her freshman as a forward, where she finished with 10 points over 31 games. Last year the Pennsylvania native swapped to defender, where she posted 26 points over 31 games.
“The toughest adjustmenet was just kind of keep a good head on your shoulders and know that you now have a different responsibility,” Koelzer said. “[It was] how to balance the defensive play with joining the rushes and the offensive production that I’ve been able to have. I think that was one of the hardest things for me.”
Now Koelzer is a part of one the nation’s best defenses. The Tigers allow just 1.56 goals, sixth best in the country.
“She still has things to learn on defense, but she’s becoming a great defender and knowing when to turn it on offensively,” Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal said in January. “At this point like team’s haven’t really had an answer for her. So she attacks them like on that second wave of attack which is hard to defense.”
Koelzer’s overtime goal against Harvard was an example of her forward speed at work, as she weaved in and out of players to get the game-winning goal. Koelzer now has 29 points this season, which is a new career high. The junior is also on a four-game scoring streak and has eight points (6g, 2a) over that stretch.
This year Princeton’s offense has jumped a little and averages 3.19 goals per game – seventh in the country. But the Tigers still don’t score as much as Boston College, which has the best offense. The Eagles have the highest-scoring defender in the nation in Megan Keller, who has 40 points.
“Kelsey’s really been phenomenal for two years. Last year she had to me I guess statistically one of the best seasons of any defensemen that we’ve ever had here at Princeton,” Kampersal said. “But also when you put her in the national picture, she was second overall in D scoring going against kids who’ve played on teams that score five goals per game and we had only had two.”