Archive for November, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving Print Notebook

November 29, 2014

By MIKE ASHMORE
For The Trentonian

NEW YORK – Will the real New York Rangers please stand up?

The defending Eastern Conference champions are 20 games through their 2014-15 season, and remain as perplexing as ever.

Their longest winning streak is three. Earlier this month, head-scratching back-to-back losses against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers were followed by a dominant 5-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over their last three games, a virtual no-show of a performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning was erased by consecutive shutouts against the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.

“We talked about cleaning up our game,” veteran defenseman Dan Boyle told The Trentonian.

“We talked about being stronger defensively and making plays offensively. Being a little more puck-hungry, so to speak. We did that (against Philly) and our power play and penalty kill won us that game.”

The frustration in the Rangers locker room, particularly after the Edmonton game in which the room remained closed for a longer-than-usual time period, had become evident. But they managed to turn that frustration into two points. After a similar letdown against Tampa Bay, a similar pattern followed.

“It was pretty easy to play pissed off, because we played so poorly last game,” Boyle said. “It was important for us to come out strong, but now it’s important for us to back it up. Unfortunately for us this year, there’s been too many good games followed by not so good games.”

The Rangers have an opportunity to tie their longest winning streak of the year when they head to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

***

Cam Talbot earned a much-needed shutout victory in the Rangers win over the Flyers on Wednesday night, making head coach Alain Vigneault’s choice to start him in the nationally televised contest play dividends.

Starter Henrik Lundqvist has played no fewer than 62 games in non-lockout shortened seasons since 2006-07, so his second-year backup, who had struggled earlier in the season, needed this game to re-establish himself as a viable option between the pipes so as not to burn out their number one.

“It’s huge,” center Derek Stepan told The Trentonian. “He’s a big part of our team, and he’s going to be moving forward.”

Added Rick Nash: “He’s a guy that had a great year last year, and it seems like he’s back on track. This was an impressive game.”

***

After a win in their home opener against Cornell on November 7, the Princeton University men’s hockey team has struggled, getting outscored by a combined 21-3 in five straight losses to put them in 11th place in the 12-team ECAC’s standings.

For the women’s team, however, it had been a different story entering last weekend’s game against St. Lawrence and No. 5 Clarkson. The team had rattled off seven straight games without a defeat after their season-opening loss at Penn State, but suffered a setback with a 7-3 loss to the Saints and 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Golden Knights.

“Both teams that we played had contrasting styles,” said head coach Jeff Kampersal. “St. Lawrence is kind of helter-skelter – they’re well-coached – but they’re a high-risk, high-reward team. It’s hard to prepare for them and for a team like Clarkson, who’s kind of meat and potatoes, hard working, strong and tough.

“(Friday), I thought we played well and the score didn’t indicate how the game went…(Saturday), I thought we played well, but took too many penalties. We did a good job of killing them off, but couldn’t figure out how to defend for the 30 seconds after the penalty.”

Things don’t get any easier for the Tigers, either. No. 4 ranked Quinnipiac was slated to play at historic Hobey Baker Rink on Tuesday night, and Princeton will host No. 2 Minnesota for two games on Saturday and Sunday.

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Newell, Like Jewel: Princeton Goaltender Turns In A Gem In Scoreless Tie

November 8, 2014
Junior goaltender Kim Newell stopped all 40 shots she faced in a scoreless tie against RIT on Saturday (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Junior goaltender Kimberly Newell stopped all 40 shots she faced in a scoreless tie against RIT on Saturday (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

The pronunciation guide underneath the name of Princeton’s starting goaltender on Saturday told the tale of how the day unfolded.

“Kimberly Newell (like jewel)”

The Tigers outstanding junior turned in a gem in the second game of a back-to-back home series against the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on Saturday afternoon, helping her team manage a scoreless 0-0 tie despite being outshot 40-28 through 65 minutes of play.

Newell, who was given the night off by head coach Jeff Kampersal on Friday night to help prepare her for a heavy workload during the conference schedule, was tested early and often. She was up to the task.

“It’s definitely good to get a few shots when the game first starts to get into it,” Newell said. “I feel like our team came out strong and met them. Obviously, I felt like they were gunning for us after we came back yesterday to beat them. I’m pretty happy with how we met the challenge.”

After getting down to a 3-0 deficit in the first period, the Tigers — wait for it — roared back with four unanswered goals to take Friday’s contest, 4-3. To some extent — at least on the scoreboard — Saturday’s game was significantly tighter.

“I think that when you play two games against the same team, there’s a sort of rivalry that starts to build up,” Newell said.  “As you could see in the third period, there was a bit of tension between the two teams.  But I think that really helped to bring up the level of the game and get the girls competing much harder.”

Kampersal, whose team now stands at 4-1-1 on the season, was pleased overall with his team’s effort this weekend.

“I’d assume we tightened things up, I’m not exactly sure,” he said.  “We didn’t give up many quality shots, but we gave up shots.  I thought Kimberly played great.  We battled hard, and it was just a hard series.  RIT played hard and played tough, and they were strong on their skates.  Sometimes we just needed to battle a little bit harder, and when we did that, there were periods of eight minutes here and there where we’d really get after it and play hard and then there were periods where we were sitting back and they were taking it to us.  It really was like a slugfest.”

In many ways, really.  RIT made Newell’s night a challenging one, directing plenty of traffic to her crease.

“I don’t find that bothers me,” she said through a wry smile. “If girls are going to start hacking me and stuff, I’ll fight them back and control my space.”

It was a hard-fought three-point weekend for the Tigers who will now host Union on Friday night, and rely heavily on Newell to keep them near the top of the standings.

“She’s great,” Kampersal said.  “When she’s on, she’s big and strong and has a presence in net.  There’s a lot of confidence with her in there.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Princeton Women’s Hockey Continues Hot Start With Dramatic 4-3 Overtime Win

November 7, 2014
Alysia DaSilva made 11 saves in her college debut after entering the game in relief of Ashley Holt, and helped the Tigers come back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat RIT, 4-3.  (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Alysia DaSilva made 11 saves in her college debut after entering the game in relief of Ashley Holt, and helped the Tigers come back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat RIT, 4-3. (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

PRINCETON — It’s been a little while since people have truly taken notice of the Princeton women’s hockey team. But early indications are that this season could be different.

In the opening tilt of a two-game series at historic Hobey Baker Rink against the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the Tigers got down to a 3-0 deficit after the first 20 minutes, but came all the way back to fight for a 4-3 win in overtime.

RIT outshot Princeton, 12-7, in the first period, and senior goaltender Ashley Holt allowed three goals before giving way to Alysia DaSilva to start the second.

“The mood (on the bench in the first) should have been a lot better than it was,” said head coach Jeff Kampersal.  “We were prepared, but we just weren’t focused.  So we just slugged our way through 20 minutes, and they got an earful between periods, and then they started to play the way they were capable of playing.”

And what, exactly, did that earful entail?

“That I can’t watch that first 20 minutes ever again, because I’ll have a heart attack,” he said.  “We didn’t have a forecheck in the first period, so once we had a little more toughness and faster skating, we established a forecheck and were able to get shots on goal.  We had barely maybe one quality chance in the first period, which isn’t enough, obviously.  They just competed harder and won battles, so that was basically the message.  We adjusted our power plays a little bit to figure out the areas they weren’t covering, and that helped on that last goal there.”

According to Kampersal, pulling Holt wasn’t so much a reflection on her play, but an effort to spark the team.  Between a newfound commitment to upping their battle level and needing to play hard for a cold goaltender between the pipes in her college debut, it worked.

“I don’t think we played well in front of A-Holt, and it’s a bummer because she deserved to get in there; Kimberly (Newell) needed a rest, and we just didn’t play well in front of her,” Kampersal said.  “It was just a change of pace for the second period.  DaSilva is a freshman, and she deserves some time as well, but primarily it was just as a change of pace.”

DaSilva, clad in a plain white mask, turned in an extraordinary effort.  She wasn’t tested often, but came up big when she was, including a huge save after a bad turnover in the defensive zone with under a minute to play and the game tied, 3-3.

“I didn’t really have the full (first) intermission to prepare for (my debut), so I just had to kind of get into it right from the start,” DaSilva said.  “We wanted that big comeback, and it happened.”

Princeton, who again faces RIT at 3 PM tomorrow, has improved to 4-1 on the season and is starting to factor into the national picture.

“We just want to be consistent,” Kampersal said.  “If we make mistakes and we’re playing hard, I have no issue.  But if we’re  kind of half-assing it and lazy and making mistakes, then I have a big issue.  We’re just trying to be a good, consistent team.  And this year, more than others, we’re capitalizing on chances, which had been an issue for us over the years.  But we’re finding a way to get it done.”

Although Newell will likely get the net on Saturday afternoon, it’s fair to say DaSilva wouldn’t change a thing about her first game at Baker.

“Not at all,” she said with a big smile.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com — Look for more in print on Wednesday

Liberty Hockey Invitational Gets Off To Interesting Start

November 1, 2014
Colton Phinney was officially credited with 45 saves in an outstanding performance in the first round of the Liberty Hockey Invitational (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Colton Phinney was officially credited with 45 saves in an outstanding performance in the first round of the Liberty Hockey Invitational (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

NEWARK — If you weren’t there — and based on the attendance, this applies to just about everyone — it would be somewhat easy to look at Princeton’s 2-2 tie against Yale (in which they lost in a shootout to determine who advanced to the finals on Sunday) and wonder if this team really did get better.  They allowed 47 shots on goal in 65 minutes, and were only able to generate two goals on a team that defeated them in all three meetings last year.

But, here’s the thing.  If you watched, you saw improvement.  Lots of it.  Special teams, as a whole, looked a lot better.  That letdown that always seemed to happen after they gave up one goal?  It didn’t happen.  For sophomore goaltender Colton Phinney, who was brilliant at times in making 45 saves, the change was very apparent.

“I think we’re definitely buying in more,” Phinney told The Trentonian.  “Everybody wants to be here, everybody wants to play.  And we’re making plays, we’re not kind of just dumping it in.  We’re playing more offensive and kind of just going, and it’s working better…I think (it’s a systems thing) for sure; systems and the coaching.  Everybody’s energetic, everybody wants to be here.  It adds to it.”

New head coach Ron Fogarty, who replaced the affable Bob Prier, was pleased with what he saw in his debut as the team’s bench boss.

“I loved it,” he said.  “I loved the ‘bend, don’t break’ in the second period.  Yale came at us extremely well, and we knew that.  There’s not a lot of familiarity with our systems for our guys, and I’m extremely proud of them.”

However, they’ll be relegated to the consolation game at 1 PM on Sunday against Merrimack after a shootout defeat.  It’s safe to say that teams in the ECAC don’t practice the skills competition too often.  Well, sort of…

“It’s not technically shootouts, but we do ‘Reverse Donkey,’ which is if you score, you’re out,” he explained.  “If you don’t score, you keep going.  It’s a little different, but I guess it’s still kind of like a shootout.”

***

In the first game, UConn got past Merrimack in the shootout, and will play Yale in the championship game.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com