Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic: No. 12 Princeton to Face No. 8 North Carolina

D HoldingCorrespondent IIIMarch 9, 2012

Photo Courtesy Beverly Schaefer
Photo Courtesy Beverly Schaefer

Saturday, six teams will make the trip to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland for the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic.

During the 11 a.m. time slot, UNC will face Princeton in one of the more intriguing games of the weekend.

It has been a very long week for North Carolina.

With two losses in the last five days, the Tar Heels must get ready for yet another test on Saturday. The Heels lost to Lehigh at home last Saturday, followed up by a shocker on the road at Penn on Tuesday.

Princeton is also coming off of a loss. The Tigers dropped a 10-8 decision to No. 2 Johns Hopkins last Friday night. Princeton is 2-1 thus far, with wins over Hofstra and Manhattan.

Included in this game is a great storyline. Former Princeton captain Jack McBride is now an attackman at UNC, finishing up his eligibility by completing a graduate degree at Chapel Hill. He will be facing his former team for the first time, going up against his classmates of just one year ago.

Carolina began the year 4-0 with wins over Penn State, Mercer, Detroit Mercy and Navy. They averaged 15 goals in the victories, but have been held under 10 goals in their past three bouts.

Led by Marcus Holman and Joey Sankey, the star-studded UNC offense looked like a "dream team" of talent coming into 2012. With Davey Emala transferring from Georgetown to complement the addition of McBride, an already high-powered offense got better.

Unfortunately, the Heels lost star Nicky Galasso to an injury, but it seemed the offense had enough depth to compensate.

The Tar Heels will be hoping that goalie Steven Rastivo can get on a roll. The junior has a 53 percent save rate thus far, and will be tested often by a trigger-happy Princeton team.

Princeton has shown a lot of promise thus far. With a convincing victory over Hofstra in their opener, they have since beaten Manhattan and lost to Johns Hopkins. The loss was a tightly-played matchup, with a shotless second quarter coming back to haunt the Tigers.

The Tigers defense has been stellar thus far. With senior All-American Chad Wiedmaier leading the way, long-poles Rob Castelo, Jonathan Meyers and John Cunningham have been very impressive.

With solid play coming from their short-stick defenders, they have been tough to score on with Tyler Fiorito between the pipes.

Offensively, Princeton runs through sophomore stud Tom Schreiber. His ability to play a hybrid midfield/attack position gives him the ability to get the matchups he likes. He can shoot from anywhere and must be double-teamed by the opposition quickly.

Junior Jeff Froccaro has been a great addition to the attack line. The converted midfielder will also be called upon for key faceoffs, as instability has plagued Princeton thus far at the X.

Tucker Shanley has opened up his arsenal and has a seemingly new found sense of confidence. He has been able to get by short-stick defenders from up top and shoot well from both sides of the field.

If North Carolina can find a way to stop Schreiber, Princeton is vulnerable on their offensive end. This is easier said than done. Seemingly shut out by Hopkins standout Tucker Durkin last weekend, Schreiber still had a goal and two assists in the close loss to the Blue Jays. 

North Carolina will not have an easy time scoring on Saturday, something they need to improve after their losses this week.

This game should be a full four-quarter battle between two well-coached teams. It could be a low-scoring affair if UNC plays good defense but struggles to score.

You can hear my call of the game on 103.3 WPRB in New Jersey, or WPRB.com.