Van Beusekom playing for love of sport

Senior PU women’s goalie ready for second half of season

By: Justin Feil
   Megan Van Beusekom has already established her place in the Princeton University women’s ice hockey team record books.
   The Tigers’ senior goaltender set the mark for the highest single-season save percentage, .924, last season. To this day, she ranks first among Princeton goalies in career save percentage, .917 and second in goals-against average, 2.38.
   This season, Van Beusekom is just above her career average in save percentage at .918 while allowing a career-best 1.87 goals against average. But just try to convince her that those numbers are important.
   "I don’t pay attention to them," said Van Beusekom, who hails from Loretto, Minn. "I don’t care about numbers. I just play for fun, for the love of the game."
   Of course, Van Beusekom is concerned about a few numbers — wins and losses. The Tigers return from a 19-day layoff to host Harvard 7 p.m. Friday at Baker Rink.
   Princeton, is 11-5 overall, and at 4-3 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference sits in a sixth-place tie with Yale with eight points. Just two points ahead of them, in a third-place tie with St. Lawrence, is the Crimson, 13-1-1 overall and 5-1 in the ECAC.
   "It’s going to be a fun, good game," Van Beusekom said. "I like good shooters. I like making big saves on them. And I kind of like beating them too."
   The four-year starter has to think back a while to come up with the last time she and the Tigers had that feeling. It was Jan. 11, 2002, midway through her sophomore season, her first of back-to-back first-team, All-Ivy years. She stopped 20 shots in a 4-3 overtime win.
   Princeton lost the final game of the regular season to the Crimson as well as the first two of the ECAC playoffs despite Van Beusekom’s 81 total saves to end that sophomore season, the first of back-to-back first-team, All-Ivy campaigns for her. With last year’s season-sweep by Harvard, it’s been five games since Princeton won a battle of the Big Three schools.
   This season’s first matchup features two of the better defensive teams, with Van Beusekom and Harvard’s Ali Boe being the top backstops in the ECAC. Boe ranks ahead of Van Beusekom in goals against average and is tops in save percentage. Harvard has the top scoring defense; Princeton is second. Harvard also has the top scoring offense, while the Tigers are fourth in the ECAC. But Van Beusekom feels no extra pressure.
   "Harvard’s always had a pretty good team," said Van Beusekom, who watched from the bench as a freshman when Princeton won the teams’ second meeting of the season. "It doesn’t matter about the goalie. They’re good. I don’t think their goalie is that good."
   For one, Boe is a freshman, and hasn’t had quite the college experience of Van Beusekom. Those previous three season, she notes, count for something.
   "Experience helps me a lot," Van Beusekom said. "No matter how good you are, you need experience. Our goalie coach has helped and Jeff (Kampersal, the PU head coach) has been awesome.
   "I played a majority of the games my freshman year. I played at a high level in high school so it wasn’t too bad (a transition). I had to get used to it."
   Van Beusekom was a part of five state championship teams with the Minnesota Thoroughbreds and was also twice on runner-up teams. Despite growing up playing such sports as soccer, softball, swimming and competing in track and field, ice hockey has been the main focus, and will remain so even after this year.
   "I love playing hockey," she said. "I plan on continuing to play hockey in a league in Canada, and I’ll try for the Olympics in 2006. And if I don’t make it then, I guess I’ll go on with regular life."
   She says it with the same lack of enthusiasm she has for the statistics that seal her place in the Princeton history books. In her final year at Old Nassau, she’s most concerned with chasing that elusive ECAC crown.
   "It’s time to get the (stuff) done that we haven’t," she said bluntly. "It’s time to get a championship. We have real good team bonding. I think that’s been great. It’s been the best atmosphere. And we have some talented freshmen.
   "We’ve been practicing during the exam period. We had some team practices and we’re ready to go. Having (Harvard) is good motivation to work hard in practice."
   Having the Crimson at home is even better. The second-half schedule looks favorable for the Tigers. After hosting Harvard on Friday, ECAC’s fifth-place Brown visits 4 p.m. Saturday. Princeton goes on the road for two games and then has a nine-game home stretch.
   "We haven’t played too many difficult teams yet," Van Beusekom said. "The last half of the season, we’ll be able to prove ourselves. There haven’t been many Ivy games yet, so we’ll play the tougher games.
   "We definitely want to get home ice advantage. The better we do, the better we’ll do."
   The better Megan Van Beusekom does, the lower those numbers she loves to ignore go, and the higher the Tigers can finish. Which is all she really cares about anyway.