Women’s Hockey Coach Jeff Kampersal Returns To Alma Mater For Penn State-Princeton Matchup
For a quarter of a century, Penn State women’s hockey head coach Jeff Kampersal called Princeton University home, both as a player and as a coach.
He’ll take a business trip down memory lane Tuesday, stepping onto familiar enemy territory at his alma mater for the first time as an opposing coach when his Nittany Lions face off against Princeton. Kampersal played for the Tigers’ men’s hockey team from 1989-1992 and coached the women’s team for 21 seasons.
“To be honest, I try not to think about it, not because of, you know, the cliché, ‘Focus on the next one,’” Kampersal said. “I had been at Princeton for 25 years, so I have a lot of fond memories of players there and the people there, and there are still two groups there that I was involved with, so I didn’t enjoy playing against them last year at Pegula, and I know personally I’m not going to enjoy playing against them at Princeton.”
As much as the coach in Kampersal wants to approach the matchup like any other, he knows his return to his alma mater will be met with nostalgia. It’s impossible to avoid when you return to a campus you once walked every day.
“I really haven’t thought too much about it. I know I will on the bus ride to that game,” he said. “A lot of memories will come back into play, but again I’m trying to move forward from it.”
And there’s no shortage of memories from both on and off the ice. Kampersal fostered close relationships with his players, which have continued long after they left the ice.
“PWH (Princeton Women’s Hockey) forever” is a slogan for the team, and Kampersal said it’s not taken lightly. He’s been to weddings and social functions with his former Princeton players and said he continues to keep in touch with them.
“I know I’m a part of that, and then also a part of the men’s side as well, and then seeing that program go through ups and downs, but winning a title…mostly just the people, the players, that’s what I remember the most,” Kampersal said.
Kampersal began a historic tenure at Princeton in his playing days, playing a program record 107 consecutive games, a feat he shares with Mervin Kopeck. He captained the Tigers as a senior and was awarded the 1941 Championship Trophy, which honors the Princeton player who best represents the winning spirit of Tigers’ the 1941 championship team.
After playing for the ECHL’s Richmond Renegades and the AHL’s Capital District Islanders, Kampersal returned to Baker Arena as the Princeton women’s hockey coach in 1996.
In the 21 years that followed, he led the program to two Ivy League title-winning seasons, during both of which his team reached the NCAA Tournament. He was named ECAC Hockey Coach of the Year three times and Ivy League Coach of the Year twice.
Princeton’s longtime hockey legend was born and raised at Baker Arena. But he’s not looking forward to his return as a visitor.
“It’s an amazing facility, it’s a hundred years old… just kind of like a relic,” Kampersal said. “But as a visitor it’s not very pleasant.”
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