Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Homecoming On Ice

TigerBlog was pressed into service last night at the women's hockey game against Penn State to do the shot chart.

Tony Piscotta, the man who usually does the shot chart for Princeton men's and women's games, is out of commission for a little while, so TB had to fill in. The shot chart is a big thing in hockey, and the job is to enter every shot in the game on a piece of paper laid out like a hockey rink, with the uniform number of the player who took the shot written in the basic spot on the page where it was taken, with symbols to denote whether it was on goal, saved, wide, blocked, off the pipe or a goal.

There is no similar shot chart in lacrosse, and TB couldn't help but think that there might be value in having one, at least for curiosity sake. They're not done in lacrosse, though they're a staple in hockey.

TB had only done a hockey shot chart once before, and he completely messed it up, mixing up the different team's shots, putting them on the wrong side of the page, all kinds of stuff like that.

Last night was much smoother, though you really have to concentrate so you don't miss anything.

The first shot entered was a goal 2:03 into the game, from Sarah Verbeek on the right side. In other words, No. 10, circled to show it was a goal, written down to the right of the goal, in the circle.

That goal started Princeton on the way to a 4-2 win over the Nittany Lions in a game that was never really in doubt. For Princeton it was yet another very impressive performance in a season that has had a lot of them.

The Tigers, ranked fourth in the country, hadn't played since Jan. 12, meaning it was 17 days between games. Penn State, on the other hand, was playing its fifth game in nine days.

If Princeton was rusty from the layoff, you couldn't tell by watching the beginning of the game last night. Verbeek's goal started it, and then Maggie Connors made it a 2-0 game after six minutes. The lead would grow to 4-0 on goals by Sarah Fillier and Carly Bullock in the second period, and Penn State would get two late ones back in the final 3:34.

Connors, by the way, stretched her streak of consecutive games with at least one goal to seven and added an assist. Fillier also had a pair of assists to go with her goal as the two freshmen continue to be incredible, with a combined 28 goals and 33 assists between just the two of them.

Princeton improved to 14-2-5 with the win. It also extended its program-record unbeaten streak to 19 games.

The Tigers even matched their win total for all of last season, when they went 14-14-4 and reached the ECAC quarterfinals. This year they're currently in first place by two points over Cornell as each team in the league has eight league games to play, and that stretch starts for Princeton with home games this weekend against St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

The game last night was a homecoming for Penn State coach Jeff Kampersal, a 1992 Princeton grad who was an All-Ivy League and All-ECAC selection as a defenseman for the Tigers who played in 107 straight games in his career and who is still ninth all-time in goals scored in a career for a defenseman.

He then went into coaching, spending 21 years as the head coach of the Princeton women's team before leaving for Penn State two years ago.

Remember the other day, when TB asked if there were other former Princeton head coaches who left to coach somewhere else but came back to coach against Princeton in Princeton? He came up with three: Don Cahoon, who brought UMass hockey to Baker Rink, Beth Bozman, who coached Duke field hockey after Princeton, and Steve Dolan, the current track and field head coach at Penn.

To that you can add Kampersal last night (and Bill Tierney on March 26).

Kampersal surely wanted to get away with a win over his former team, but he has to be at least a little happy seeing how good the team is this year. And, even from his perch in the press box, TB could see the affection that the players have for their former coach, as he received hug after hug as he went through the postgame handshake line.

And that was last night's game, which had more than usual amount of sentimentality going for it.

Starting Friday, it's the stretch drive, one that will be all business for a Princeton team that is chasing a league championship and an extended stay in the postseason.

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