Every time freshman defender Steph Sucharda texts associate head coach Cara Morey asking to work on something, Morey drives to Baker Rink to work with Sucharda.
One of the aspects Sucharda and Morey have worked on the most is footwork.
“That’s been amazing,” Sucharda said. “We’ve also worked on shooting a lot and having the confidence to shoot the puck. In practice all the time [head coach] Jeff [Kampersal] and Cara will be yelling at me to shoot the puck more.
“Confidence was sometimes an issue for me so they’ve done a really good job of encouraging me to get the shot off, which is has been really helpful for my game.”
Despite her freshman status, Sucharda has become one of the staples of Princeton’s defense, helping the team reach a program-record 22 wins. Sucharda has played in all 32 games this year.
“She is a great player, she’s very cerebral, she makes really good first passes,” Kampersal said. “I think some of her best hockey’s been of late, like that Game 1 [against] St. Lawrence was phenomenal. Then when Kelsey [Koelzer] went down in Game 3, she stepped up.”
Depending on her school schedule, Sucharda likes to spend extra time practicing on aspects like her footwork, something. If it’s a break week, she can get an extra two hours on the ice.
“You work on your game and the small things that you individually need to work on because the pratices are more team stuff for sure,” Sucharda said. “So when I’m able to go on with just Cara that’s when I think I make a lot of imrpoements.”
Sucharda is second amongst Princeton freshmen and Princeton defenders in scoring. Her 17 points are sixth amongst freshmen defenders nationally.
“I think she sees the ice really well,” Sucharda’s defensive partner Molly Strabley said. “Coming from the back she makes a lot of great passes and then she knows when to carry the puck as well.”
While Sucharda is known for her breakout passes and controlling the game, the defender has worked on being patient this year and making the right passes.
“At the start of the year I would try to force the play right away. Because I just wanted to pass to my teammates. … Good things happen when it’s on their sticks. But sometimes that would mean that I’m passing it to them in bad situations. So figuring it out that I can slwo the game down and then hit them with a pass to put them in a better situation definitely helped me improve my game,” Sucharda said.
“I’m not the fastest kid out there so I usually like to slow the game down, play it at my level and see the whole ice. And I really like playing here because my teammates are so great at getting open for passes so when I slow the game down they’ll be able to find an open spot [and] I can hit them with the puck.”
Entering the season, Princeton knew they would need Sucharda to step up for a thin defensive core. She’s played with junior Molly Strabley to become one of the team’s dominant defensive pairs.
“She’s been so helpful in giving me little tips and stuff and encouraging me on the bench,” Sucharda said.
Sucharda said her biggest improvement this season has been confidence as she’s transitioned into a big role with the team. The confidence has helped her carry the puck, take more shots and make the right passes.
“She’s really good, she’s a Canadian U18 player,” Kampersal said. “I think that in order for her to get better strength, just being physically stronger maybe a little meaner will help her out. But she’s on the all-rookie team, she’s met all our expectations. We thought she was going to be good coming in here and she was, so we’re really happy that she’s a Tiger.”