As the tournament picture becomes more clear, many teams find themselves in must-win mode down the home stretch of the regular season. Princeton is one of those teams.
Princeton has lost three games by a total of three goals (one-goal losses in each), and the Tigers now find themselves trying to keep up with the mighty Cornell Big Red within their league. The Ivy League is one of the toughest conferences in the nation this year, with Penn, Yale, Princeton and Cornell all mathematically eligible for a tournament berth at this point.
The winner of the regular-season title within the Ivy League gets to host the conference postseason tournament. The winner of the postseason tournament gets the automatic berth, so it's all about getting a good seed to be in a position to make a run.
Although Dartmouth is just 2-8 on the year, Princeton must not overlook the Big Green in anticipation of Harvard and Cornell in the coming weeks. Any slip-up would be devastating for the Tigers, who are still in search of a signature win in 2013.
The Tigers' lead man is midfielder Tom Schreiber. He is looking to eclipse the 60-point mark this year, a milestone he barely missed in 2012. He has 41 points so far, but will be leaned upon heavily to provide firepower for his team.
Ranked No. 9 in the polls this week, Princeton must hope that conference leaders hold on, preserving more at-large bids for teams that may not win their leagues. If Cornell wins out and wins the conference tournament, Princeton will most likely get an at-large bid. If anyone but Princeton or Cornell wins the automatic bid, Princeton will be left out of the bracket.
It is a game of cat and mouse at this point in the season, and Princeton must stay hungry as it heads toward the end of the season. Look for Princeton goalie Matt O'Conner to have a big day in goal and for sophomore Justin Murphy to get back on the winning end at the face-off X. It might be a long day for Dartmouth, but Princeton must win, and should win big.