Mark Paolini Commits To Princeton

Defenseman Mark Paolini has committed to Princeton, the St. Michael’s Buzzers announced on Wednesday.

Paolini currently plays on the OJHL and has 25 points in 50 games with the Buzzers. The ’98 defenseman is in his first year with Buzzers and spent last season at St. Michael’s College School.

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2016 Fan Awards Ballot

I usually put together end-of-season awards for Princeton hockey (and I still will), but this season I thought it would be nice to get input from the fans as well. So I have a couple of ballots (one for the men’s team and one for them women) with a couple of options for each award. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Ryan Kuffner Named To ECAC All-Rookie Team

Ryan Kuffner

Freshman Ryan Kuffner was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team.

Kuffner finished the season with 20 points, the most on the team. He had five goals and 15 assists as he helped boost Princeton’s offense. It’s the most points by a Princeton freshman since Andrew Calof scored 33 as a freshman in 2010-11.

Kuffner spent the season playing mostly with fellow freshmen Max Veronneau and Alex Riche. Veronneau had 11 goals and six assists this year.

Ryan Ferland Commits To Princeton

Goaltender Ryan Ferland committed to Princeton, he announced via Twitter on March 18.

Ferland served as the goaltender at St. Mark’s School and is a member of the River Rats. The Tigers have just one other goaltending commit in Doug Connor, who’s slated to attend Princeton in 2018-19. Current goaltenders Colton Phinney and Ben Halford will have graduated by then, with Phinney leaving after 2017 and Halford after 2018.

Alumni Update

Andrew Ammon and  Desmond BerginKyle Rankin signed with the Brampton Beast just a few days after Princeton’s season ended, making him the first player turned pro from the class of 2016. Rankin has played in three games with Brampton so far.

Some other Tiger alums have changed teams in the offseason or during the season:

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Andrew Ammon spent most of his time last season in the ECHL with South Carolina, Providence’s affiliate. After spending the first season without a team, Ammon joined the Reading Royals and played in six games. Now Ammon is with the Wheeling Nailers.

Former goaltender Sean Bonar has spent his season with four different teams – the Fort Wayne Komets, Wichita Thunder. Brampton Beast of the ECHL and now the Fayetteville FireAntz of the SPHL. Over 13 games with the FireAntz, Bonar has a .913 save percentage.

Taylor Fedun has spent 47 games with Utica, registering 23 points. In his one NHL game this season, Fedun scored a goal.

Kyle Hagel has played in 61 games with Charlotte, where he has eight points. Marc has spent 40 games with the Iowa Wild and has 12 points.

Former Princeton captain Mike Moore is with Hershey this year, where he has nine points in 41 games. It’s his second season with the Bears.

Another previous captain, Darroll Powe has  played in 43 games for Lehigh Valley this year with 13 points.

Zane Kalemba has spent the season with the Manchester Storm of the EIHL where he has a .890 save percentage over 59 games.

Kevin Westgarth is now a member of the NHL office, The Hockey News reported. He is the Vice President of Business Development and International Affairs.

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Princeton Falls To Minnesota In NCAA Quarterfinals

Princeton comes close to scoring, second periodPrinceton fell to Minnesota 6-2 in the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday. The Tigers finished the season with a 22-9-2 record – the most wins in program history. The NCAA tournament appearance was just the second in program history.

“I told the team after the end of the game that I’m really proud of them,” Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal told reporters after the game. “We had an awesome season, an emotional season, and our kids battled all year long.”

Senior Jaimie McDonell struck first, scoring 29 seconds into the game.

“You dream about it,” McDonell said. “You visualize a goal on the first shift, but to make that a reality was a big start. Unfortunately, we didn’t continue that, but we set the tone and did our best.”

But Princeton’s lead didn’t last long, as Hannah Brandt tied the game four minutes later on the power play. Amanda Kessel followed with a shorthanded goal 1:14 minutes later to give Minnesota the lead for good. Kessel added a power play goal to give Minnesota the 3-1 lead after the first.

Sarah Potomak and Dani Cameranesi scored in the second period. Kessel followed with her third goal to put the Gophers ahead 6-1 after the second.

“Their first two lines are really good,” Kampersal said. “We did come out hard. The first five minutes we always try to focus on winning that opening throw out and getting the puck in deep, and we did that with pressure. We got a goal there.

“If you’ve ever seen that [Saturday Night Live] sketch with Bruce Dickinson and the cowbell sketch, we both put our equipment on the same way, but when they put theirs on, they were scoring goals and having opportunities. We had 27 or 28 shots on goal. We had good ideas on how we wanted to set things up, but when they got their chances, they produced goals.”

Molly Contini scored in the last minute of regulation to cut the Gopher lead to 6-2. Contini finished with two points, while Karen MacDonald, Fiona McKenna and Kelsey Koelzer added assists.

The Gophers dominated possession, outshooting the Tigers 43-27. Goaltender Kimberly Newell topped her record-breaking career with 37 saves in the loss. Minnesota’s Amanda Leveille made 25 saves while Kessell finished with four points. Kelsey Cline, Lee Stecklein, Hannah Brandt and Sarah Potomak each netted two points.

“Even in the third period we played hard until the final whistle blew,” Kampersal said. “So I’m just really proud of our group, lad by Jaimie. [She’s] just a heart and soul player and was indicative of our kids playing hard all year long.”

Stephanie Sucharda Is A Freshman Force For Princeton’s Blue Line

Stephanie Sucharda

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.”

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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.”

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Princeton Travels To Minnesota For NCAA Quarterfinals

Princeton comes close to scoring, second periodPrinceton will travel to Minnesota for the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday, its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2006. This will be the Tigers’ 11th meeting with the Gophers and the first this season.

After falling to St. Lawrence in the ECAC Quarterfinals, the Tigers earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as the sixth seed.

“We’re first of all grateful for the opportunity and we’re excited,” Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal said. “So for me personally, it happened 10 years ago so there’s a little familiarity of how it works.”

The Gophers and Tigers have played the last two years, with Minnesota sweeping the series at Baker 2-1 and 5-2. In the season before that, the Gophers won 6-0 and 9-1 at Minnesota.

“The fact that we’ve played Minnesota the last two years helps as well,” Kampersal said. “So two years ago we didn’t fare well out there but we got the experience of playing in front of 2500 people, [a] packed house and we’re looking forward to that again.”

The Gophers have two of the nation’s top scorers in Dani Cameranesi, who has 67 points, and Hannah Brandt, who has 59. The Gophers average 4.73 goals per game, second in the country. Amanda Kessel, who has 242 points over 124 games, also returned to the Gophers late this season.

“They have a really deep and talented experienced roster,” Princeton captain Cristin Shanahan said. “They’ve won two national championships in the time that I’ve been here in my past four years.”

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The Gophers earned the third seed after a 32-4-1 season which ended in a WCHA championship loss. Of Minnesota’s four losses, three were against Wisconsin.

“They got Kessel back late in the semester here so it solidifies an already packed lineup. They’re just really strong,” Kampersal said. “I’ve had the good fortune of coaching those kids for just two weeks or a week at a time with USA Hockey and they can really play.

“They’re well coached so just basically the speed and the skill of it. They don’t make many mistakes like mishandling the puck. The power play is 43.1 percent, so it’s pretty potent so we have to stay out of the box. That’ll give us the best chance to win.”

In practice this week, the Tigers have worked on staying up to game speed after not playing last weekend. The coaching staff kept the practices engaging and focused on angling.

“We’ve done a couple of drills like that because some of their players are very crafty with their sticks and can pull a puck around you so just making sure that that’s on point,” Shanahan said. “A lot of the focus on the defensive end has been on rushes because they do counterattack so quickly and we’re trying to do the same too.”

This has been a successful year for the Tigers, who have a program-record 22 wins. Princeton also strung together a 12-game winning streak in the middle of the season and captured the Ivy League title.

“I think it’s been an adjustment because in past years we haven’t really been used to being one of the top teams and it’s hard to go into a game not being an underdog,” junior Molly Strabley said. “And when you have to play like you should win and you’re going to win, that’s a big adjustment. I think we’ve been getting used to that throughout the year.”

The Tigers have improved offensively this year, scoring 3.12 goals per game. At the lead of the offense is Minnesota native Karlie Lund, who has 39 points. Kelsey Koelzer is one of the best defenders in the country and has 32 points.

“They’re a good group. They have a lot of similarities as the ’06 team that won the last time,” Kampersal said. “They just really like to compete and based on just the feeling of practice, it didn’t feel like heading into St. Lawrence that the season was close to being over. In years past sometimes you can sense that. But this group has dealt with a lot. … They have a lot of heart and competitiveness and it’s a good group. They want to play until the very last day of the season.”

The Gophers have the nation’s best power play but the Tigers have the third-best penalty kill. Princeton has killed off 92 percent of opponent power plays.

The Gophers allow 1.24 goals per game, while Princeton allows 1.72 goals per game. Both backstops have played well this year, with Minnesota’s Amanda Leveille and Princeton’s Kimberly Newell each holding a .941 save percentage.

“I think more than anything it’s a lot of fun because it’s nice to finally kind of have a reward for the past four years,” Shanahan said. “Our seniors, our first year we got absolutely nothing out of it. We didn’t even make playoffs. Now we get this awesome opportunity to go play, to maybe be the first Princeton women’s team to win a tournament game.

“It’s s much fun and it’s awesome. We can’t wait to keep it going.”

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The Waiting Game

Cristin Shanahan and Elizabeth Otten

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.

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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.”

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Andrew Calof Signs Extension With Skellefteå AIK

Andrew Calof 18Princeton hockey alumnus Andrew Calof signed an extension with Skellefteå AIK, the club announced on Tuesday.

Calof has played with the SHL team since joining the team in 2014-15, the season after he graduated. While at Princeton, Calof reached the century-point mark. He finished his four-year career with 123 points.

Calof has 34 points with Skellefteå AIK this year and had 35 last season.