Playoff season began in women’s college hockey last weekend, and while there typically aren’t many upsets in the early stages of conference tournaments, this year’s postseason began with a bang as Princeton, the eighth seed in the ECAC playoffs upset regular season conference champion Harvard in a best-of-three playoff series to become the first #8 seed to win their playoff series in the 20 years the ECAC has used the best-of-three format.
The opening game of the series was a tight 2-2 affair through two periods before Princeton’s Shannon Griffin scored twice in the third frame to give the Tigers a 4-2 victory. The following night, Princeton was on the verge of completing the upset, leading 1-0 heading into the third period, but the Crimson evened the scored just over a minute into the third period, and needed just 12 seconds to score in overtime to take game two of the series and force a decisive game three.
Sunday’s game was once again decided in the third period with the two teams tied 1-1 after 40 minutes. Princeton got back-to-back goals from Maggie Connors and Shannon Griffin to take a 3-1 lead, and while Harvard scored with 1:10 left to make things interesting, they could not find the equalizer.
The Tigers advance to next weekend’s ECAC semifinals, held in New Haven, Connecticut, where they will have to face #2 seed Yale, and if they win, they’ll meet the winner of the second semifinal between Quinnipiac and Colgate. Currently sitting at 17th in the Pairwise Rankings, the Tigers will have to keep winning if they hope to extend their season into the NCAA Tournament.
If nothing else, it’s a nice moment for a Princeton program after a rough few years. The Tigers were fresh off a victory in the 2020 ECAC conference tournament and set to play Northeastern in the 2020 NCAA Tournament before the tournament was cancelled the week of due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tigers entire next season would be wiped out as well with the Ivy League’s decision not to participate in sports, and all realistic hopes for competing in a deep ECAC in 2022 effectively vanished when the team lost star player Sarah Fillier to centralization with Team Canada for the Olympics. But with their shocking upset of Harvard, the Tigers have the potential to be this year’s Cinderella story.
As for Harvard, they fell to 9th in the Pairwise with the loss, which means they could become one of the first beneficiaries of the newly-expanded NCAA Tournament field, which will now contain 11 teams this year. One automatic bid outside the top-11 will go to the winner of the College Hockey America tournament. The Crimson will have to hope Northeastern prevails in Hockey East, and Princeton’s luck runs out to stay inside the tournament field.