Monday, March 9, 2020

An Extraordinary Weekend On Ice

TigerBlog was about to leave the parking lot at Stony Brook yesterday afternoon when he decided to check on the women's hockey final score.

He was at Stony Brook for the women's lacrosse game, and he had been keeping on eye on the women's hockey game, including when the Big Red went up 2-0 in less than three minutes of the first period.

The last he'd seen it was 2-2 after two periods between the Tigers and the Big Red, who were not just the ECAC regular season champs but also the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

Then he looked and saw it was 2-2 heading into overtime.

It's a long ride back from Stony Brook, so he didn't want to stay and watch the game before he started to drive. This would have been the perfect time for radio.

Intead, he did the next best thing. He put the game on ESPN+ on his phone, put his phone in the little storage holder next to him and listened to the audio over his Bluetooth.

It would be until he was on NY 347 that the announcers came back on. He was barely on the Northern State when it ended.

Princeton's Mariah Keopple scored the game-winner with 58 seconds gone in the overtime, setting off a wild celebration that TB couldn't see, since he was driving and it would have been bad to pick up his phone.

Actually, the celebration in force was delayed for a few moments while the officials checked to make sure the goal would stand. The announcers, who did a very good job of being neutral during the short time TB listened, said that the ref did a good job of building the drama by not tipping his hand until he was well on the ice.

The goal stood. Princeton was the ECAC champion.

It was the crowing moment of what was an extraordinary weekend of hockey for Princeton, both men and women. The two teams combined to go 4-0 in playoff games, winning three in overtime.

The result was the first ECAC championship the women have ever won and an incredible series sweep by the men, who matched their season-long ECAC win total by taking out Dartmouth two games to none on the road.

The Princeton women are now 4-1 in the postseason over a nine-day span, and three of those five games have gone to a total of four overtimes. Princeton was only able to advance to the championship weekend round by virtue of a double-overtime win in the deciding Game 3 against Quinnipiac one week ago.

That's quite a run.

Princeton's four wins consisted of two against No. 10 Quinnipiac, a 5-1 over No. 7 Clarkson in the semifinals and then the 3-2 win over Cornell yesterday. Princeton is now 26-6-1 on the season and is now NCAA tournament bound for the fourth time ever and second straight year.

The draw was announced last night, and Princeton will be at Northeastern in the first round.

If Princeton has shown anything with its ECAC win, it's that there is no team in the country it cannot beat. This is a really exciting time for Princeton women's hockey.

As for the men, the Tigers went 4-20-5 during the regular season and 2-16-4 in the ECAC, but every team makes it into the league tournament. Princeton, as TB said several times during the season, looked like it would a tough out, and that's exactly what happened.

Princeton matched its league regular-season win total with two more this weekend, sweeping Dartmouth in the first round in Hanover with a pair of overtime wins. The win keeps the Tigers' season going, as Princeton now heads to Ithaca to take on Cornell in the quarterfinals.

The OT winner Friday night came from Reid Yochim 3:36 into the overtime, after Finn Evans tied the game with 2:45 go.

The Tigers looked to be in control in Game 2, up 4-1 with less than nine minutes to go. Then Dartmouth rallied, cutting it to 4-3 and then finally 4-4 with two seconds to play.

With all the momentum heading into the OT, Dartmouth then drew a power play. Anyone else watching probably had the same thought as TB: If Dartmouth wins this one, they're going to win 6-1 in Game 3.

As it turns out, no one will ever know. Princeton killed off the power play, and then drew one of their own, which Mark Paolini cashed in 10:55 into that overtime. Game, and series, over.

Again, just as with the women, it was an extraordinary weekend for the men.

Make that very, very extraordinary.

Or history making.

Either works perfectly.

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