In the first of two ECAC semifinals, top-seed Clarkson defeated Princeton, 4-0, on the back of two goals and four points from sophomore Loren Gabel.
After 20 minutes, neither team had found the back of the net, despite a 13-6 edge in shots for the Golden Knights. Though they didn’t score, their strong play continued into the second period, and it didn’t take long for Clarkson to strike.
Less than three minutes into the second period, Ella Shelton found the back of the net for the eventual game-winning goal. Shelton took a feed from Gabel, walked down the left wing and fired a shot short side low past Steph Neatby.
“I think it really boosted our energy,” said Shelton of her goal after the win. “I took the pass from Gabel, saw a little spot, took the shot and it went in.”
Gabel picked up her 17th of the season on a net drive down the right wing only 58 seconds into the second period. Her initial shot was saved by Neatby, but Gabel was able to poke the rebound through the five-hole.
“I think it was really important, it definitely boosted our confidence,” Gabel said of jumping out to a 2-0 lead early in the third to put some distance between them and Princeton. The Tigers did outshoot Clarkson 12-11 in the third period, but the Golden Knights picked up the only goals.
Cayley Mercer scored her 26th goal of the season, which leads the nation, on a wrist-shot from the hashmarks 11:49 into the third to add to the Clarkson lead.
“That was kind of my signature move; I cut into the middle and then shot back the other way, and was able to beat her over the shoulder,” said Mercer.
Gabel’s second of the game came with 4:46 left in the game off a shot from the left half wall to ice the win for Clarkson, sending them to the program’s fourth ECAC championship game.
“Today, I don’t think was necessarily our best game and Clarkson was definitely a part of that,” said Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal. “When you’re playing the third-best team in the country, you don’t have to be perfect, but you can’t give them opportunities, and we gave them a little too much.”
“I thought we played a pretty complete game tonight; we kept things simple, we played smart, we had really good energy throughout the entire night,” said Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers. “When we play like that, good things happen.”
“I couldn’t be more excited to have one more crack at it, and with the girls on this team, I just have so much confidence in our potential and ability to hoist that trophy tomorrow,” said Mercer, a senior co-captain for Clarkson, which has won three regular-season titles and a national championship, but never the ECAC tournament.
The Golden Knights will take on the winner of St. Lawrence and Cornell in the ECAC championship game tomorrow at 2 p.m.