It had been a long wait for Jaimie McDonnell ’16 — and a longer wait for the Princeton women’s hockey program — but on Feb. 6, the Tigers finally earned their ring.
Princeton clinched its first Ivy League championship since 2006 with a 5–0 win over Cornell.
“It really is a dream come true,” said McDonnell, a forward. “This is one of our goals. It’s a good starting spot. I’m just so proud of this team.”
The Tigers had come up painfully short last year. Princeton was one point away from the title, but lost the Ivy finale by one goal.
“Being that close made a lot of people realize we’re a good team, we’re not content with middle of the pack, and we should expect more of ourselves,” McDonnell said. “Everyone came back with expectations that we’re going to win Ivies.”
The Tigers started 2–1 in Ivy play and later put together a 12-game winning streak that included five Ivy games. They finished the regular season 21–6–2 (the team’s best winning percentage in more than 30 years) and earned the No. 3 seed for the ECAC playoffs. Postseason results were not available for this issue.
Nine Princeton players have scored at least 10 points, led by freshman Karlie Lund and junior Kelsey Koelzer, one of the nation’s top players. The defense in front of goalie Kimberly Newell ’16 has been impressive as well. Princeton allows 0.8 fewer goals per game than it did a year ago.
McDonnell said that the Tigers’ improvement comes down to “the little things,” and head coach Jeff Kampersal ’92 agrees. Conditioning, he said, has paid off on the second nights of Princeton’s back-to-back Friday and Saturday games: The Tigers were 10–3 on Saturdays.
Kampersal sees similarities between this year’s team and the 2006 Ivy champs, who earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. “We have depth,” he said. “We get a lot of secondary scoring and a lot of kids chipping in and making good defensive plays. Our penalty killers aren’t our so-called ‘best’ players. Everyone fulfills their roles.”
The champion Tigers also drew inspiration from a midseason visit with Denna Laing ’14, the former team captain who is rehabbing in Boston after suffering a spinal injury in the Outdoor Women’s Classic on Dec. 31, 2015. “She was a vehicle to our success,” Kampersal said. “She established good culture. She was so excited we showed up.”
It took years to build the title team, and the Tigers aren’t satisfied yet. Winning the Ivy League is a goal, McDonnell said, “but it’s not the goal. It’s a steppingstone for where we want to be at the end of the season.”