For the Princeton Tigers, the thought that they would be tied for third in the league with Harvard with two games left is not what they had in mind. Princeton was rolling, and seemed likely for an at-large tournament bid, until last weekends mind-blowing loss to Dartmouth.
The Princeton defense crumbled as the Big Green kept pace throughout, eventually breaking through for a narrow victory in Hanover, N.H.
Regardless of the weather or home field advantage, that is a game that the Tigers should not have lost. The loss puts them at 2-2 in league play, tied with the Harvard Crimson for third place among Ivy contenders.
The Tigers' real hope for a tournament bid relies on a strong performance in the league's postseason tournament. First, however, Princeton must make that tournament. Only the top four teams in the Ivy will take part, meaning that Princeton must beat Harvard to stay afloat.
Harvard is now 6-6 on the year, and have been playing well as of late. They are coming off of two morale boosting victories over Quinnipiac and Penn after tough fought losses to Duke and Cornell. The talent is certainly there, and their recent victories should give them confidence that they can close out games against quality opponents.
Harvard freshman Devin Dwyer leads the team in scoring with 35 points, with Peter Schwartz adding 31 of his own thus far. The balanced Crimson attack will look to take advantage of a shaky Princeton defense. The Tigers have allowed 31 goals in their last three games, showing that the young line of defense still has some growing up to do.
Princeton will lean on All-American Tom Schreiber to initiate the offense Friday night. His ability to create plays off the dodge is important for the Tigers, as he demands as much attention as any player in the country. When he is playing aggressively, the rest of the team has more room to work. The Froccaro brothers (Jeff, senior and Jake, freshman), have had tremendous seasons and will have to come up big for the Tigers down the stretch.
If Justin Murphy can win face-offs for Princeton and they can control the pace of play, it will bode well for the home team. Goalie play will also determine the momentum swings, so Princeton will most likely shoot early and often to get under the Crimson's skin on defense.
The game will be televised nationally on Friday night at 6:00 p.m. on ESPNU. It can also be heard on 103.3 WPRB FM in New Jersey.
Prediction: Harvard plays well, but Princeton pulls one out late. Princeton wins 13-11.