It took three one-goal games, some comebacks and a Game 3 overtime, but St. Lawrence defeated Princeton in the ECAC Quarterfinals. The loss, which happened at historic Baker Rink, knocked the Tigers out of the ECAC tournament.
“That was that was pretty awful,” captain Cristin Shanahan said. “I would have to say obviously that was not the way that we wanted our playoff series to go. It was a very hard-fought battle. St. Lawrence is always a really tough opponent for us.”
The Saints took a 1-0 game one, but the Tigers scored two goals late for a 4-3 win in Game 2. In Game 3, the Tigers were down again, but a late goal from Molly Contini sent the game in overtime.
“[The] St. Lawrence series was an awesome series,” Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal said. “When I watched some of the other games in the weekend I thought it was a little dry, but our games were really exciting. [There were] a lot of emotions, a lot of joy and pain. We were on the short end of it but we played pretty well.”
While Princeton was out of the ECAC tournament, the Tigers weren’t sure if their season was over. After the loss, the Tigers were seventh in the PairWise – just on the NCAA tournament bubble. But to get in, Princeton needed all the top seeds to win their respective conference tournaments.
The WCHA and ECAC finals featured four teams all ahead of Princeton in the PairWise. But the wild card was the Hockey East title, which featured Boston University and Boston College. With BU on the outside looking in, Princeton needed a BC win.
“We obviously would’ve liked [Game 3] to go another way, but a lot of people were pretty optimistic even after the game,” Shanahan said. “We were like, no matter what happens, we still had a great season.”
With three conference finals the Sunday after Princeton’s Game 3 loss to St. Lawrence, the Tigers had to wait a week.
“The days leading up to Sunday, our heartbeats were through the roof,” Shanahan said.
With midterms also looming, the Tigers had to study and wait for their season fate. But on Sunday afternoon, the top seeds did win. And BC beattBU 5-0 to cement Princeton’s spot in the NCAA tournament.
“[After the loss] we probably thought that it was over,” Kampersal said. “But then looking at the numbers later on, we thought that if the favorites would win the next weekend we’d have a chance at it. Everybody, all the favorites helped us out and gave us the chance that I feel that we deserved.”
And on Sunday night, the NCAA selection committee formally called Princeton’s name for the tournament.
“All day Sunday none of us I think got any studying done because we were so excited,” Shanahan said. “Then Sunday night, I know personally I couldn’t sleep all night because I was still so happy. And I think a lot of other players were that happy too.”
While waiting for their fate, the Tigers continued practices as normal after taking a couple days off after the series loss.
“Our first practice back, the coaches tried to make it a little fun because we were still down in the dumps about [the loss],” Shanahan said. “But they picked it up. Ee had a couple good practices and then we had the Sunday off just like always and we found out and then this week’s been full on at it.”
After discovering they would play No. 3 seed Minnesota, the Tigers have focused on combatting the Gophers’ attack in practice. While the Tigers finished the season seventh in the PairWise, the NCAA selection committee gave Princeton the sixth seed. Sarah Fraser, the chair of the NCAA women’s hockey selection committee, told BC Interruption the committee felt Princeton’s strength of schedule was stronger than Northeastern’s – hence the higher seed.
It’s the first time since 2006 the Tigers have made the NCAA tournament, and just the second time in program history. This season Princeton recorded a program-record 22 wins.
“All year has been an emotional year,” Kampersal said. “It’s been kind of like a Friday Night Lights year just with different real-life issues going on,” head coach Jeff Kampersal said. “But the kids have dealt with it well.”