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Mariah Keopple part of captivating time for Princeton Tigers

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Belonging to an unprecedented era of success for the Princeton Tigers, Mariah Keopple provided a strong presence and consistency. Garnering multiple nods as an ECAC All-Academic, Keopple, raised in Menomonie, Wisconsin, made an immediate impression as a freshman, foreshadowing a brilliant career.

Appearing in all 33 games as a freshman, culminating her career with 126 games played, she led all Tigers in blocked shots with 51. Also compiling a solid plus/minus ranking of +10, Keopple recorded her first point as a Tiger in her NCAA debut. Beginning the season versus the Frozen Four runner-up Wisconsin Badgers, Keopple and Fillier collaborated the assists on a third period goal by Carly Bullock.

Worth noting, the season culminated with an appearance in the NCAA tournament, as Keopple assisted on a second period goal by Fillier versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers. An additional result of such a strong season found Keopple on the 2019 ECAC All-Rookie Team, joined by teammates Maggie Connors and Fillier.

During Keopple’s sophomore year, the postseason provided for a career defining moment, simultaneously propelling the program into the national spotlight. Scoring the goal that clinched the 2020 ECAC postseason championship, the pinnacle marked an historic first for the Tigers. Enjoying a tremendous 26-6-1 season, Princeton defeated Quinnipiac and Clarkson en route to the ECAC Finals.

Facing off versus the top seeded Cornell Big Red, the Tigers valiantly fought back from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime. With a pair of second period goals by Fillier and Bullock, a scoreless third period added to the drama of such an intense final. Merely 58 seconds into overtime, Keopple placed the puck past All-America goaltender Lindsay Browning, with assists credited to Sharon Frankel and Shannon Griffin. Frankel also helped her own cause, winning a team-high 19 faceoffs.

Qualifying for the 2020 NCAA Tournament, scheduled to face off versus the Hockey East champion Northeastern Huskies in the quarterfinals, pandemic concerns shelved the event. Although the tournament remains a highly visceral what if? for all teams involved, the path taken remains one filled with plenty of emotion. With Keopple’s heroics, scoring quite possibly the greatest goal in Tigers history, the majesty of such a milestone remains a seminal moment.

“The goal still means a lot. It was a time our team made history and  I have never been a part of a program so special! It is still amazing to look back at what we accomplished that year and we could have accomplished so much more if COVID did not shorten our time.”

Earlier this season, the Tigers enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a pair of highly notable events. Thanksgiving weekend involved the trek to Nashville, Tennessee, participating in the Smashville Women’s Collegiate Hockey Showcase. Held at the Ford Ice Center Bellevue, one of the facilities of the NHL’s Predators, the Tigers were joined by Ivy League rival, the Cornell Big Red, plus the Northeastern Huskies in a three-team event.

Although the Tigers faced a 4-1 loss to the Huskies in the opener, an inspiring performance defined the Showcase finale. Goals in regulation by Katherine Khramtsov and Sarah Fillier were prologue to an exhilarating seven-round shootout.

After the first three rounds saw neither goaltender allow a goal, the scoring floodgates burst, as the next three rounds saw both sides extend the deadlock. Shootout goals by Solveig Neunzert, Emerson O’Leary and Catherine Kerin added to the excitement. With Tigers backstop Taylor Hyland recording a save in the seventh round, freshman sensation Issy Wunder bulged the twine, providing Princeton with a highly emotional win.

Of note, an essential theme of the Showcase involved growth. Running parallel to the event was the Smashville Girls Hockey Showcase, a highly empowering event destined to encourage. Additionally, the presence of stars from the NCAA is poised to provide an element of inspiration. Of note, Keopple also enjoyed her own share of inspiration. With the presence of family, allowing for an opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving in a highly unique manner, the chance to grace the ice in a burgeoning market provided a most memorable highlight for her senior campaign.

Early in the New Year, the weekend of January 6-7, 2023 commemorated the centennial of Hobey Baker Rink, one of the most historic venues in all of college hockey. With a doubleheader featuring the women’s and men’s teams in action on both days, a significant highlight during Hobey 100 Weekend saw the display of the Hobey Baker Award and Patty Kazmaier Award at the Fan Village, allowing fans to take pictures with both hallowed prizes. Along with the display of the Stanley Cup on January 7, a strong sense of magic enveloped the surroundings.

Garbed in special commemorative jerseys for both games, the word Princeton replacing the player names on the back of said jersey, the Tigers enjoyed back-to-back victories. Defeating the Dartmouth Big Green by a 5-2 final on January 6, highlighted by four goals in less than seven minutes, it was a purely brilliant performance which defined a weekend of celebration and honor. Annie Kuehl led the way with a game-high two goals, while Keopple assisted on the game-winning goal, scored by Sarah Fillier at the 10:51 mark of the first period.

Facing off versus the Harvard Crimson the following day, Hyland recorded 32 saves for the first shutout of her NCAA career. As the Tigers scored thrice in the final frame, Issy Wunder found the back of the net with consecutive goals, while Filler added her name to the scoresheet, putting the exclamation point on a memorable event in Princeton athletics history.

“Those were two of the most enjoyable highlights! About Nashville, my entire family was able to visit and I had never been down there, so it was cool to see the hockey community that is being built down there, especially with women’s hockey!

The 100th anniversary of the Hobey Baker Rink is so special and I am so glad I got to be a part of that as well. Especially being a senior, it was incredible to see the history of the rink. Plus, many alums came back to celebrate the best hockey rink out there!”

Before the sun set on Keopple’s final season with Princeton, Senior Night allowed for one more unforgettable performance. A dramatic 4-3 overtime triumph on February 11 versus the RPI Engineers resulted in her final multi-point effort, along with the last goal, emphasizing the theme of celebration on such a special event.

Finding the back of the at the 7:47 mark of the second period, with assists credited to Kate Monihan and Katherine Khramtsov, Keopple scored on elite goaltender Amanda Rampado, who started all 34 games for RPI. Although a pair of goals by Maddy Papineau resulted in RPI grabbing the lead in the third period, Annie Kuehl tied the game with less than eight minutes remaining. With Kuehl providing the heroics once again in overtime, Keopple and Taylor Hyland logged the assists, providing an element of serendipity.

While the outcome of Senior Night provided a remarkable storybook finish, Keopple’s reflections encompass more than on-ice performance. Just as magical were the friendships made. Beyond the Tigers becoming a second family, representing one of the happiest times in her life, a heartfelt friendship provided Keopple with her greatest reward. With a young fan providing an inspiring presence at Tigers home games, the opportunity to provide him with the puck after her Senior Night goal represented an experience that shall provide a lifetime of memories for fan and player alike.

“Scoring a goal on senior night was the best and emotional! I have had a little Tiger fan named Zach that has been by my side for a couple years now (the one always behind our bench with a tiger paw on) and he wanted a game puck that I scored at home. Being able to give him that puck just really put into perspective for me that I used to be that little kid in the stands looking up to college players. All my years really came full circle there.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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