Last year, Princeton women’s hockey won 20 games, finished atop the Ivy League, and earned a trip to the NCAA quarterfinals. With seven of their top eight scorers returning, the Tigers earned a No. 7 preseason ranking this year, bringing new expectations and added pressure.
“It’s easy to be an underdog because expectations are low, and when you do something, you’re overachieving,” said head coach Cara Morey. “[This year] expectations are higher, and learning how to play with those expectations has been challenging.”
So far, her team has been up to the task: With road wins at Quinnipiac, Yale, and Brown in the week following the January exam break, Princeton improved to 17–4–1 and ranks No. 6 in the national polls. With six ECAC Hockey games remaining, the Tigers are in second place behind Cornell, the nation’s No. 2 team.
Princeton’s only losses have come at the hands of other top-10 teams: Cornell (twice), Ohio State, and Harvard.
“Playing other top-10 teams is exciting and where you want to be,” said captain Sarah Fillier ’22, a Canadian national-team player who led the NCAA in scoring last year. “To be the best in the country, you have to be able to play against the best in the country and prove yourself.”
Each loss brought to light a specific aspect that the team needs to work on, according to forward Maggie Connors ’22. “Obviously it’s tough to lose, but I think that it’s going to help us in the long run,” she said.
As the Tigers have risen in the rankings, national teams have taken a closer look at some of the team’s stars. Carly Bullock ’20 was selected for USA Hockey’s training camp in December; Fillier and defender Claire Thompson ’20 played for Canada in a pair of November exhibitions; and Connors competed with the Canadian National Women’s Development Team in August. Morey said that when individual players have success away from Princeton, the rest of the team shares it.
“If you haven’t had a chance to come out and see some of these women play, you might never see this talent again,” Morey said. “We have some of the top talent in the world right now.”
A version of this story appears in the Feb. 12, 2020, issue.