Category Archives: Features

Kimberly Newell Talks Goaltending

Kimberly Newell fixes her mask

Before the season ended, I caught up with goaltender Kimberly Newell for a feature story. In the interview for the feature, Newell talked a lot about her mental approach and other thoughts on goaltending. I thought Newell provided some great insights and interesting answers, so I’m running a portion of the transcript that deals explicitly with goaltending and her approach.

In it, Newell speaks of her mental improvement, her pregame preparation and the difference in shots she faced this year compared to later years.

Jashvina Shah: I don’t think you’re facing as many shots as you have in seasons past…

Kimberly Newell: “No definitely not (laughs)”

JS: Is it tougher or easier to not face as many shots as you’re used to?

KN: It really depends. There are like a range of different kinds of games that I might face. I think that one thing that has changed is in previous years I can kind of expect that every game I’ll get a lot of shots and they’ll all be relatively dangerous. But this year it depends on the teams that we’re playing, so I think that we’ve really gotten a lot stronger and sometimes we’ll play weaker teams and I won’t get that many shots. That’s a completely different game where, going into that, I need to have a very different mindset where I’m making sure that I’m staying focused for the 60 minutes because I might get a stretch of 10 minutes or so, that’s a long time to go without getting a shot. And I have to make sure that I’m still ready when that next shot [comes].

You can compare that to other games where I’m still getting a decent number of shots but maybe they’re not as dangerous because my team can shut down a lot of the more dangerous plays like the backdoors, maybe they’re clearing the front of the net better, maybe they’re not giving up as many odd-man rushes and things like that. Those games tend to be a little easier for me to play because I don’t need to worry about a lot of those very dangerous situations that I often face against the best teams, which makes my job simple. I just need to make that first save, control the rebound and I can count on my teammates to handle the back.

Then obviously there’s still a few games where we’re facing the top teams in our league and my mindset there is going into this game I’m expecting to get a lot of shots and be very busy, especially in the first period because those teams know they’re good teams and they know how to come out strong in the first few minutes and try and put the pressure on and put teams away. My focus in those games is to really be prepared. As soon as the puck drops, I’m going to be ready because I’m going to be getting all kinds of different situations and my job is to keep my team in the game so that we have a chance to later in the game [to] start to get momentum, especially in the middle of the first and through the second period. I find that once we’re given a little bit of time to adjust to the higher level of play that we actually do really well. I think that over the season, as we’ve kind of discovered this new identity almost of being a good team, we’ve gotten a lot better at not taking that first period to kind of get going against a better team. We’re coming out and we’re ready to go because we know that we can keep up with them, and so we’re not taken off guard as much. I think that kind of summarizes a lot of the different situations and different mindsets I need to have going into all those games that I might be facing.

JS: You were used to one mindset last year … and now you know you have different scenarios … was there an adjustment period for you coming into this season where you realized you’re going to have to have these different mindsets because the team is so different this year?

KN: I think that my previous experience, especially in minor hockey, helped me a lot. When I was still in minor hockey, I was playing at the Burnaby Winter club and we were a very, very good team. We only had one other team in our league that was our big rivals, the Northshore Winter Club. I think that playing on those teams helped me to learn how to play in those games where you’re not getting that many shots, so I have developed various techniques and different methods to keep myself focused. One of the things that I’ll do is during whistle when there’s a break in the play, if I feel myself getting kind of cold or whatever, I’ll always skate out and tap the boards and skate to my net. Or I’ll do a few slides or something like that to make sure that I’m keeping the blood flow and keeping myself warm.

And then after minor hockey I played major midget with the Kootenay Ice. They were the bottom of the league. So I got a lot, a lot of shots. It was really fun but I probably got more shots per game on that team than I did in like my first year here, which is kind of crazy. But I was getting like easily 45 shots. It was a lot and playing on that team really taught me to probably conserve my energy, because you can’t take 50 shots and be going all out the whole time. You have to kind of learn how to manage, basically it’s called crease management. [I learned to] manage my depth so I don’t have to move as far on certain plays where it’s not necessary. You’re cutting out a lot of excessive movement, unnecessary movement and trying to conserve energy that way. But it’s kind of a tricky balance, because sometimes you might get caught off guard if on a certain play you’re reading it as a backdoor or something like that. So you’re kind of backed off a bit, but then the situation changes and now you’re kind of caught off guard a little bit because you’re trying to conserve [energy]. But there’s a bit of a tradeoff between crease management and conserving your energy and your optimal play.

I think a year playing on that team where I got that many shots really helped me to learn how to do that, and so I think I brought some of that here at Princeton too, where obviously first couple years it was a kind of that sort of game. Not as extreme, but it was the same sort of mentality and so coming into this year with a few games a little more like back in minor hockey where I wasn’t getting very many shots, I kind of brought back some of those methods and techniques, dusted them off a little bit and reused them. And so I think that helped me a lot to deal with the different kinds of games that I’ve been facing.

JS: What area of your game do you think has improved the most over your time at Princeton?

KN: Definitely the mental side of the game. I think everyone at this level has mastered all the techniques. Goaltending’s a very technical game and there’s a set number of moves, there’s actually a couple that have been added in recent years that’ve gotten more popular, but the technical side of knowing your angles, knowing your depth and everything, figuring out your style, all the goalies can do that. What really separates goalies at this point is the mental side of the game. I think that my first year I would say that like certain things like having a routine before the game and really preparing myself for the puck drop wasn’t as developed as it is now. I think that I’ve really come to understand myself and how I get ready for games and how I have to be feeling and what I have to be thinking in order to be at peak performance.

Last year, especially this year, I’ve really had a solid routine before games, where everything is designed to prepare a certain thing. Like I’ll juggle before the games to get my hand-eye coordination going. I will visualize shots on the ice at the end of on-ice warmups, I’ll pretend there’s shots and really see the puck going into the glove and go through all the kinds of saves, like high glove, low glove, high blocker, low blocker and just really see the puck hitting me and then going into my glove or off my blocker into the corner, exactly where I want it. I think that having that solid routine has really helped me to control the mental side of the game, because every week’s different. I might be stressed out about school, whatever, or maybe nothing’s going on during the week and I’m super relaxed, but for a game you can’t be too relaxed. [I’ve learned] how to bring myself down if I’m too stressed or learning to bring myself up and get more excited for the game if I’m too relaxed. And so I start every game at the same level which is hopefully the optimal level for me to perform.

JS: Anything else that’s a part of your pregame routine?

KN: Yeah there’s a couple of things. I always tape my stick (laughs). That’s just something to make sure my equipment’s all ready. I’ll check everything, make sure there’s nothing broken or whatever. It’s like a safety thing as well as making sure that when I put my equipment on it’s completely comfortable and natural, feels like second nature when I’m wearing it. And I’ll also juggle a soccer ball with the team. We have like a little soccer juggling group or whatever so we always do that. I find that really helps me to get my legs moving. One of the things that actually, I said that the mental game was one of my biggest improvements, but another thing that I have been working on more physically is being lighter on my feet and more mobile. I find that a lot of times I tend to,

One of the things that actually, I said that the mental game was one of my biggest improvements, but another thing that I have been working on more physically is being lighter on my feet and more mobile. I find that a lot of times I tend to, actually a lot of goalies do this – this is a pretty common mistake is getting down and stuck in your butterfly a lot. It’s very easy to go down early on shots and then get stuck there and not be able to move for rebounds and stuff. And it’s also very energy consuming. That’s one of the focuses where I’m trying to stay on my feet as much as much as possible because you’re faster and more mobile on your feet than on your knees. It’s kind of weird because juggling soccer balls helps me to do that because it helps me with my foot-eye coordination I guess you would call it, but it gets me like on toes and it gets my legs moving. When you’re in your stance, you want to be able to bounce on the balls of your feet. If you can do that, you’ll be able to stand tall in your stance … you can be very mobile and move around quickly in your net. And then after that I do the rest of the warmups with the team and stuff. But I also, in addition to juggling, I also have a little racquetball, actually I don’t know if it’s a racquetball but it’s like a little bouncy ball and this is a pretty common thing that a lot of goalies do, you just bounce it against the wall somewhere and you catch it in your glove hand or your blocker hand and you just work on getting your upper body kind of in the right position, making sure your shoulders are rolled forward and your weight’s forward and your hands are in front of you, you can see it when you catch the puck and stuff. And [I] just working on the motion of catching.

I feel like doing that and the visualization on the ice, the purpose of that is to go through the motions and basically, because sometimes when you practice you don’t get all kinds of different shots, you get like a small sample shots. Like they’ll often go low blocker or something, but you’re not working high glove. So when you go into a game, you find out that your glove is dropped in your stance without you noticing. And so when the shot goes high glove, you can’t get to it because your glove’s too low. So going through these routines helps you to make sure that your gloves are in the right position so that you can make the high glove save and the low glove save, etc etc. It basically builds up confidence that these saves are, I don’t know how to say this, but like they’re strong. Because sometimes you can see in warmups you now goalies are letting in lots of goals in their high glove actually this is funny a lot of the NHL games that I watch … I don’t remember who it was, but they let in a couple goals high glove and it ended up being a goal high glove during the game that won the game for them. But things like that are really important too.

JS: Any additional preparation that you do to study shooters for games?

KN: Well we watch the video but my view on this is that for goaltending, we’ll divide different attacks up. So there’ll be like the backdoor situation, there’ll be like the point shot with screens or tip situations. There’ll be the odd-man rush situation, there’ll be like a walk off the wall situation, there’ll be behind the net situations. And it’s like yes, certain teams will have certain characteristics. Like I know going in against Dartmouth they have a couple girls who love taking hard shots. They like keeping the puck and they like shooting it. So I know that I can be more aggressive and keep my hands up because I know they like shooting the puck high. Or going in against Clarkson, I know they like to have girls in front of the net and they like to screen me and they like to get point shots and they’re big. But I think at the end of the day, all these situations are the same and it doesn’t really matter like who the players are, I’m going to deal with it the same way I know how. It’s like there’s a 2-on-1 situation, I’m going to play that 2-on-1 situation like okay I know there’s a shot through it and I just need to read that player in the moment and not be thinking oh she’s their best player, she’s probably going to shoot it or something or I know this team likes to move the puck around so I think she’s going to pass it. Because then you start to cheat, and when you start to cheat, if they do something different, you can’t readjust. So it’s just basically knowing how to play situations and then reacting in the moment. I think that’s the best way to approach different teams.”

(Note: The questions asked are paraphrased in the transcript and responses have been very minimally edited.)

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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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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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Kelsey Koelzer Returns From Injury, Sparks Comeback

koelzerPRINCETON, N.J. – When Jeff Kampersal walked into Princeton’s locker room after a 4-3 comeback win over St. Lawrence on Friday night, he told the team a story about Larry Bird.

Kampersal, who grew up a Celtics fan, told the team of watching Larry Bird hit his head on the floor, leave the game and return to lead the Celtics to victory in Game 5 over Indiana.

“That reminded me of Kelsey,” Kampersal said.

Koelzer was skating when she was hit by St. Lawrence’s Hannah Miller. Koelzer dropped to the ice and laid on her stomach for several minutes, not moving.

“I was trying to break the puck in on the power play and I cut across at the blue line and one of their girls decided to step up and take the body instead,” Koelzer said. “So I mean, you know.”

The team doctor came out looked at Koelzer – who, according to Kampersal, had the wind knocked out of her and hurt her rib.

“The doctor was looking at me and I was just trying to convince them to get me back out there,” Koelzer said.

Instead, Koelzer headed to the tunnel. But she came back not long after to play on Princeton’s five-minute major.

And 10 seconds into her shift, with less than a minute left in the period, Koelzer tied the game.

“The power play did a great job of breaking the puck in and retrieving it,” Koelzer said. “All four if their players were basically below the goal line and [Cassidy] Tucker was able to get it to me. I was actually looking for Karlie Lund on the back door but I think it hit one of their girls and went right in the five hole, so it was a pretty good bounce but I’d say it’s definitely a product of hard work.”

Initially, Koelzer was credited with the team’s third goal. Later it was changed to Keiko DeClerck’s tally as she tipped the point, but Koelzer finished the game with two points to help force Game 3.

“The main problem was that our shots weren’t really getting through at the beginning of the game, so what I mainly tried to do is change the angle of the shot just to get it through,” Koelzer said. “Once again I think it hit a couple people but just found its way to the back of the net.

“So we had a good net drive and whoever gets awarded with that goal, it was just hard work getting the puck high and go to the net.”

Kimberly Newell Uses Mobility, Mental Preparation To Propel Princeton

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Kimberly Newell didn’t know that she was close to passing 50 wins, a program record. It wasn’t until Feb. 13, the night Princeton posted an overtime win against St. Lawrence, that Newell realized she won her 50th game.

She found out on Twitter.

“I didn’t know that at all. I saw that on Twitter and it was so funny because they said winningest. I was like is that even a word,” Newell said, laughing.

“It was pretty exciting and I shared it with my parents and they sent it to all my family members. I think it’s something that’s really cool and something that’s going to stick around and be in Princeton history for a little bit, but hopefully there’s another goalie that breaks it. That means that Princeton’s doing well.

“I think it is nice to get some acknowledgment especially when you start out your career on not a successful team. So I think it’s been really cool to see the progression throughout the years and how we’ve improved.”

According to Merriam-Webster, “winningest” is a word. And it’s the best one to describe Newell’s final season, where she’s amassed 17 of her 51 wins. The senior has started 24 games for the Tigers this year, helping Princeton to a 21-6-2 record.

“She’s a student of the game,” Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal said at the midseason break. “She’s always trying to learn, she’s always trying to improve, she’s very meticulous in terms of her preparation. If she goes through a game and thinks back [she] maybe takes notes of plays that happened or situations that she did well or could’ve done better. I think she uses that information to improve upon the next time.”

Along with a career high in wins this season, Newell also holds a .943 save percentage – her career best and fifth in the country.

“She takes care of herself, she’s really good in the weight room and [she has] good, powerful explosive movement and that comes from the weight room,” Kampersal said. “She has the ability to make first saves but the ability to get across the crease and make second saves. Her physicality, I should say her athleticism in net, her height and then this year her mental toughness are the key things or the key reasons that she’s been great.”

Mobility is important to Newell, who said she’s worked on being lighter on her feet.

“I find that a lot of times I tend to, actually a lot of goalies do this. [A] a pretty common mistake is getting down and stuck in your butterfly a lot,” Newell said. “It’s very easy to go down early on shots and then get stuck there and not be able to move for rebounds. It’s also very energy consuming. And so that’s one of the focuses, where I’m trying to stay on my feet as much as much as possible because you’re faster and more mobile on your feet than on your knees.”

As the backstop, Newell may be the key to Princeton’s defense and its success. But this season she’s benefitted from an improved Tiger team in front – meaning Newell has faced a career-low in shots this year. She has just 625 saves this year on 663 shots, compared to 816 saves on 882 shots last season.

“In previous years, I could kind of expect that every game I’ll get a lot of shots and they’ll all be relatively dangerous,” Newell said. “But this year it depends on the teams that we’re playing.”

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Newell said there are three types of games this season she has to prepare for – games where she won’t face many shots, games where she faces more shots but not many dangerous ones, and games where she handles a lot of shots.

To adapt to each situation’s challenges, Newell has reached back to her days of youth hockey – where she played on two different clubs.

“I kind of brought back some of those methods and techniques, dusted them off a little bit and reused them,” Newell said. “I think that helped me a lot to deal with the different kinds of games that I’ve been facing.”

One of her experiences came from the Burnaby Winter Club, a winning team where she didn’t face many shots. The lapse between seeing shots taught Newell how to stay focused.

“One of the things that I’ll do is during a whistle when there’s a break in the play, if I feel myself getting kind of cold or whatever, I’ll always skate out and tap the boards and skate to my net,” Newell said. “Or I’ll do a few slides or something like that to make sure that I’m keeping the blood flow and keeping myself warm.”

Newell then played for the Kootenay Ice, a team last in its league. The goaltender said she probably faced around 45 shots per game, so she learned to manage her crease better.

“[I learned to] manage my depth so I don’t have to move as far on certain plays where it’s not necessary,” Newell said. “You’re cutting out a lot of excessive movement, unnecessary movement, and trying to conserve energy that way.

“But it’s kind of a tricky balance because sometimes you might get caught off guard if on a certain play you’re reading it as a backdoor or something like that. And so you’re kind of backed off a bit, but then the situation changes and now you’re kind of caught off guard a little bit because you’re trying to conserve. But there’s a bit of a tradeoff between crease management and conserving your energy and your optimal play.”

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While Newell’s techniques haven’t changed, her mental preparation has. During her four years at Princeton, Newell has developed an in-depth, pregame routine designed for optimal performance.

“I think that I’ve really come to understand myself and how I get ready for games and how I have to be feeling and what I have to be thinking in order to be at peak performance,” Newell said.

Before the game, Newell juggles to warm up her hand-eye coordination. She also juggles soccer balls with hear teammates to warm up her feet. Then to adjust her upper-body position, Newell tosses a bouncy ball at a wall and catches it.

And at the end of on-ice warmups, Newell visualizes saves and the puck hitting her glove.

“The purpose of that is to go through the motions. … Sometimes when you practice, you don’t get all kinds of different shots, you get a small sample [of] shots,” Newell said. “They’ll often go low blocker or something. But you’re not working high glove. So when you go into a game, you find out that your glove is dropped in your stance without you noticing. And so when the shot goes high glove, you can’t get to it because your glove’s too low.

“So going through these routines helps you to make sure that your gloves are in the right position so that you can make the high glove save and the low glove save.”

Newell’s on and off-ice preparation has helped Princeton not only to home ice in the ECAC playoffs, but also to an Ivy League title – the program’s first since 2006.

“I thought las year when we lost it, I don’t know why, but I thought that was our one chance and it was gone,” Newell said. “It was really heartbreaking, especially for the seniors that year. But it was hard to imagine that we would have another run at it this year, to be quite honest. I didn’t think we, especially myself, expected to have such a strong team and obviously it’s been great that it’s turned out this way.

The Tigers locked up the Ivy League title with a win at Cornell on Feb. 6.

“I think that not having that expectation almost helped in a way, because you’re just fighting every day to win the next game,” Newell said. “You’re not focusing on those big goals. I think when you’re focusing on the process, it really helps you to reach those goals in the end.”

Freshman Karlie Lund Catalyst For Princeton’s Offense

Karlie Lund

When Princeton hosted Dartmouth in December, there were some fans wearing black shirts with “I ❤ Karlie” written in orange. A couple of them held signs saying “Karlie, I Drew You Another Tiger” and “Karlie Is Good.”

They were members of Karlie Lund’s family, watching her play collegiate hockey for the first time.

Princeton won 4-1. But it was a victory even more special for Lund, whose older sister Abbie, played hockey at Dartmouth for two seasons. Karlie grew up playing hockey because of both her brother, Spencer, and her sister, but Abbie was the reason behind Lund’s decision to play college hockey.

“My sister’s always been a big inspiration to me,” Karlie Lund said. “So it started off with her playing varsity hockey in high school, so then that was my first goal. Then once she made it to the next level and got the opportunity to play at Dartmouth, I knew that I wanted to follow in the same footsteps.Karlie Lund's family-made signs

“She really helped me with the process and just knowing that she did that and she knew that I could do it too, so having her believe in me really helped out.”

Lund is one of the highest-scoring freshman in the country and has helped Princeton average 3.21 goals per game, eighth highest in the country. The Minnesota native has 37 points, third amongst rookies nationally. It’s a big step for Lund, who wasn’t sure she could return to form after breaking her collarbone twice in 2014 while at The Blake School.

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It was the same season Lund was a semifinalist for the Ms. Hockey award, and her second state championship. Lund was a junior at the time and initially returned after breaking her collarbone. But she broke it again the same year and didn’t return until she was a senior.

“It was really hard to come back the first time and then just to break my collarbone again a month after that and during the National Camp tryout,” Lund said. “It was really tough, so trying to overcome that and get back to the way I was playing before all my injuries was really hard for me.”

Lund’s injury didn’t require surgery, but she spent the last summer rehabbing with different shoulder exercises to regain strength. Now, Lund leads the Tigers in points.

Karlie Lund takes a shot

“We knew she was a really good offensive player but she has a way to slow the game down when she has the puck,” Kampersal said at the midseason break.

“It’s a very hard skill and not many players have it, but she slows the game down when she has it, which is a good thing. She makes good decisions with the puck and she’s a player that makes the players that she plays with better just because she’s so creative and gives up the puck.”

Lund, who recorded her first career hat trick on Feb. 5 at Colgate, is also tied for the team lead in goals with 15 – a surprising statistic. Kampersal said the team was surprised Lund – who assisted at The Blake School – was shooting the puck more this year.

“I think I can usually find people on the ice, I’m usually able to get the puck on people’s sticks when they’re open,” Lund said. “One of my best strengths would be like my passing ability and just being able to set my teammates up to get goals.”

Lund’s linemates, Cassidy Tucker and Morgan Sly, are also some of the team’s top scorers. Sly has 19 points and Tucker has 13, while Lund has a team-high 21 assists. Lund may be second in the country in assists per game amongst rookies, but she’s first in freshmen goals per game.

“College hockey so far is a lot more physical than it was in my high school team, so just getting used to everyone being a lot stronger and being able to hit you around more has been a tough adjustment for me so far,” Lund said.

The forward, who’s 5-foot-10, is still learning how to take advantage of her frame in the collegiate level. It’s one of the areas she’s trying to improve.

“I really want to improve my overall speed on the ice,” Lund said. “If I can improve like my first three steps and get like quick starts, then that’ll be really useful to try and get around D more easily.”

While Lund still has room to grow, she’s a long way from playing street hockey in Minnesota.

“My first memories are probably from just playing street hockey in my neighborhood with my brother and sister and then a couple of neighbors,” Lund said.

“We would go out there and just play in the street and that was a lot of fun.”

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Improved Defense Key To Princeton’s Success

Kelsey Koelzer

When Princeton defeated Union in their last regular-season game on Saturday, the Tigers also hoisted their Ivy League trophy – an award they won for the first time since 2006. While Princeton’s improved offense helped the Tigers to an Ivy League title, the nation’s sixth-best defense was also key in bringing the trophy back to Baker.

Led by associate head coach Cara Morey, the defense allows 1.62 goals per game this year – nearly a goal less than the average of 2.35 goals per game last season.

“The defense has played well and they try to keep it pretty simple,” Morey said. “Most nights they just try to make the easy plays. … We’ve had great defensive forwards, we’ve had full team buy-in to believe in team defense.”

The Tigers have dressed the same six defenders – Stephanie Sucharda, Molly Strabley, Kelsey Koelzer, Kimiko Marinacci, Emily Achterkirch and Karen MacDonald. Princeton spent most of the season rolling five defenders – Sucharda, Strabley, Koelzer, Marinacci, and Achterkirch.

With two freshmen on the blue line and a forward converted to defense, three out of five blue liners lacked experience.

“Their biggest strength is basically their heart and effort and willingness to learn and play for each other,” Morey said. “The weakness was going to be experience, because it’s a pretty young D core. … [We had a] really young raw [defense], that would probably be the biggest challenge I was worried about.”

But Morey said the team knew Sucharda, one of the team’s rookies, would immediately be an impact player. The freshman has played in every game and has 14 points – seventh in the country amongst rookie blueliners.

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“She’s very good and she’s been able to step in right away and handle it,” Morey said. “She’s a really good puck-moving D, she sees the ice really well, she jumps into spaces, she makes passes that other people aren’t seeing. She can actually set up a forechecker the way she wants to and then make the pass by her, so she’s a special player that way.”

While Princeton knew Sucharda would adjust, the team wasn’t sure abut the other freshman defender, Marinacci. But she has also become a part of Princeton’s defensive core and has played in every game.

“We knew she had good feet, she has her head up all time [and] has good vision,” Morey said. “But she’s been a really pleasant surprise because she’s been able to transition fairly smoothly as a freshman. We kind of threw her to the fire and just let her kind of figure it out right away and she’s done really well.”

Another big piece of Princeton’s defense is Kelsey Koelzer, a junior who converted from forward to the blue line last season. Koelzer has a career high 30 points, which is the third most in the country amongst defenders. Her 0.55 goals per game also ranks first amongst defenders.

“Kelsey’s pretty easy to coach because she just plays on instinct and generally she makes the right decisions based on instinct. She’s also extremely skilled, fast, strong and when she goes she’s kind of in her own game,” Morey said.

For Koelzer,  learning the defensive side was the toughest challenge, and Morey has worked with the junior to improve several areas.

“Teaching her how to play rushes mostly and how to play good one-on-ones, so when she has that opportunity she can strip the kid and go the other way,” Morey said. “Her down low play, she’s a big kid and she battles so that part hasn’t had to be an issue. Sometimes decision making and when to play the rush and when to step up is basically it.

“She’s pretty easy to coach because it’s kind of like under coaching, you kind of let a player like that figure it out on her own.”

As a whole, Morey has worked with the defense on breakouts and “fronting” – keeping players in front of opponents.

“[We’re working on] gaining the net instead of just throwing it across to their partner, really trying to get the net, use it for protection,” Morey said of the team’s breakouts.

While Princeton was able to clinch home ice in the closing weeks of the regular season, the Tigers didn’t have strong defensive performances. Princeton is trying to tighten its blue line in time for the ECAC playoffs.

“I’ve noticed it throughout the season that the one time we get into trouble is if [the opposing team has] had possession for longer than a few seconds, we start to get really antsy in our D zone and then before you know it everybody’s just trying to pack it in on top of our goaltender,” Morey said.

“So I think from here on out it’s good down low play and poise in the D zone and knowing that we can still defend even though they’re in there for a while and we don’t have to hit the panic button.”

But as a last line of defense, the Tigers have Kimberly Newell – the winningest goaltender in program history. Her .943 save percentage is fifth in the country.

“Your goaltender can usually make up for a lot of your D’s mistakes,” Morey said. “And Kimberly and Alysia DaSilva have really done that for us this year.”

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Kelsey Koelzer Continues To Produce For Princeton

Kelsey Koelzer

PRINCETON, N.J. – In the early seconds of overtime, Princeton controlled the puck. The Tigers brought it into St. Lawrence’s zone, where Jaimie McDonell fought for the puck along the boards. She sent it up to Kimiko Marinacci, who lasered it to Kelsey Koelzer for the one-timer.

Koelzer’s shot was all Princeton needed to defeat St. Lawrence 4-3 in overtime on Saturday afternoon.

“I think it was great speed through the neutral zone, great work by the forwards to get the puck in deep and I think that was the key,” Koelzer said. “And then moving the puck right up to Kimiko on the point and then she noticed that my girl had gone back to the net front so she fed it right across and I was able to get a nice one-time shot on it.”

It wasn’t Koelzer’s first overtime goal, as the defender had skated coast-to-coast to defeat Harvard back in November. She’s second in the nation with her two overtime goals and is the country’s second highest-scoring defender. Koelzer’s 15 goals are the most in the nation.

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The forward-turned-defender has been a big part of Princeton’s defense, but also a big part of its attack.

Koelzer spent her freshman as a forward, where she finished with 10 points over 31 games. Last year the Pennsylvania native swapped to defender, where she posted 26 points over 31 games.

“The toughest adjustmenet was just kind of keep a good head on your shoulders and know that you now have a different responsibility,” Koelzer said. “[It was] how to balance the defensive play with joining the rushes and the offensive production that I’ve been able to have. I think that was one of the hardest things for me.”

Now Koelzer is a part of one the nation’s best defenses. The Tigers allow just 1.56 goals, sixth best in the country.

“She still has things to learn on defense, but she’s becoming a great defender and knowing when to turn it on offensively,” Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal said in January. “At this point like team’s haven’t really had an answer for her. So she attacks them like on that second wave of attack which is hard to defense.”

Koelzer’s overtime goal against Harvard was an example of her forward speed at work, as she weaved in and out of players to get the game-winning goal. Koelzer now has 29 points this season, which is a new career high. The junior is also on a four-game scoring streak and has eight points (6g, 2a) over that stretch.

This year Princeton’s offense has jumped a little and averages 3.19 goals per game – seventh in the country. But the Tigers still don’t score as much as Boston College, which has the best offense. The Eagles have the highest-scoring defender in the nation in Megan Keller, who has 40 points.

“Kelsey’s really been phenomenal for two years. Last year she had to me I guess statistically one of the best seasons of any defensemen that we’ve ever had here at Princeton,” Kampersal said. “But also when you put her in the national picture, she was second overall in D scoring going against kids who’ve played on teams that score five goals per game and we had only had two.”

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Looking For Adventure, Kimiko Marinacci Summits Mount Kilimanjaro

In the summer of 2013, Kimiko Marinacci wanted to go on an adventure. Her sister had traveled with a group to India and Ghana. After looking at available programs, Marinacci decided a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro would be exciting.

“I read that with climate change and everything, within the next five to 10 years there would be no snow at the summit so I thought that it would be really cool to see that while I still could,” Marinacci said.

“[I wanted] to go out on an adventure and that’s what I found as my adventure.”

She asked her parents, bought some hiking boots, broke them in and set out on her climb.

“It’s not really a technical climb, it’s mostly just hiking so there’s not really any gear involved, so basically just a lot of walking. Breaking in your boots is really important,” Marinacci said.

“If you’re in decently, OK shape then it’s really not too much of an exerting climb.”

Marinnaci climbed with a group of 12 students from various states and from Europe, along with local porters and cooks.

“Each day we’d climb between four to seven hours so we had a lot of time to get to know the people,” Marinacci said.

“One of our porters, he’d summited the mountain over 100 times. And then another one, it was his first time. So it was really exciting to hear these people’s stories and live this experience with them.”

With the altitude at roughly 19,000 feet, Marinacci needed to take pills to adjust to the elevation. There were still problems, though.

“Headaches and nausea and loss of appetite was a big one because you had to make sure you ate enough to have energy for the climbs each day,” Marinacci said.

“[It was] the fatigue paired with headaches and it was definitely a tough climb. But it was really worth it in the end.”

The climb took six days for the group to complete. They approached the mountain for five days and left at midnight on the sixth to reach the summit.

“We left our camp at midnight and we climbed all through the night until about 8:30 a.m. when we reached the summit so that you can see the sunrise,” Marinacci said.

She completed her summit push with Daniel, one of the porters summoning the mountain for the first time.

“That was a really tough part of the climb, but I walked it with Daniel and together he talked me through it and we were going through this for the first time together. He really helped me through it and that was probably one of the most memorable things for me.”

The view, Marinucci said, was breathtaking.

“It was just amazing. You can see in every direction as far as anything, and it was just a beautiful day.”

It took the group two days to climb back down.

That was Mariucci’s last adventure, but she hopes to go another one.

“Whether that be going back to Tanzania or go back somewhere else in the world, that’s definitely something that I want to do in the future,” Marinacci said.

Getting To Know the Freshmen Tigers: Keiko DeClerck

Keiko DeClerckKeiko DeClerck spent last season with the USA Hockey Girls Development U19 team, and spent the season before that with Little Ceasers. The forward was named MVP of her high school team when she played for them in 2012-13, and also attended national camps in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

Eye on the Tigers caught up with DeClerck to see what the freshman had to say:

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Why did you choose Princeton University?

I wanted to go somewhere where I could get the best education while also having the chance to play college hockey. Princeton was the perfect match.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to the season. We have been practicing for weeks, and I can’t wait to finally begin games.

When did you get into hockey? What’s your earliest memory?

I started playing hockey when I was five years old. I remember my first goal.

What NHL team did you grow up rooting for and why?

I have always rooted for the San Jose Sharks because they are from where I grew up. I watched as many Sharks games as I could.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen when playing hockey?

The strangest thing I’ve probably ever seen while on the ice was a dad opening the door and taking his kid out of the game because the referee gave his son a penalty.

Who’s the most influential person in your hockey career?

Logan Couture has been my favorite player since he joined the Sharks.

What’s the most exciting experience you’ve ever had?

The most exciting experience I’ve ever had was probably paragliding in Mexico.

What do you plan on majoring in/what are your academic interests?

I am undecided about my major, but have always enjoyed math.

What do you hope your legacy at Princeton University will be?

I hope [my] legacy at Princeton will be someone who passionate and gives 100 percent at everything I do.

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