Yale and Princeton were defeated by Cornell and Penn, respectively, last weekend, and are sitting atop the league standings at the moment. With four teams clearly talented enough to win the conference, the Ivy League is already heating up, with must win games in the fold.
Come Sunday, however, the league could look much different.
Cornell and Penn will fight for the undisputed top spot on Saturday in Ithaca, meaning the loser will leave 1-1 in the conference.
In tonight's game, Princeton and Yale will go head-to-head to see who can keep pace. The winner of this game will also be 1-1 in the league, and in decent position as well.
For Princeton and Yale, tonight is as close to a must-win as you're going to see this early in the season. For the loser, a 0-2 record in Ivy League play would be devastating, especially with either Cornell or Penn at 2-0 after this weekend.
Keeping pace is extremely important in the league this year. All four teams (Cornell, Penn, Yale and Princeton) are talented enough to be considered "tournament teams," but in reality, the selection committee is not going to send four Ivy League teams to the dance.
Princeton defeated Yale in regular season action last year, with Alex Capretta's goal winning it for the Tigers in five overtimes. As revenge, Yale ended up winning the conference tournament that was held on Princeton's campus later in the year. Both teams were actually considered league champions, with the Tigers winning the regular season crown as Yale took home the tourney title.
Friday night's game will feature two lethal offenses, which should prove to make this exciting down the stretch.
Yale is led by junior attacker Brandon Mangan, who has recorded 24 points thus far in 2013. He has scored big goals against the Tigers before, including a game winner at Princeton his freshman year. He will most likely be guarded by Princeton defender Nick Fernandez, who has made a successful transition from short stick midfield to close defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Princeton offense has a lot of scoring options.
All-American midfielder Tom Schreiber leads the Tigers in points with 24, while sophomore attacker Mike MacDonald has 23 already as well. Brothers Jake and Jeff Froccaro both have 15 points this season, making the Tiger offense even harder to predict and guard.
Freshman goalie Matt O'Conner has played well for the Tigers this year, saving just over 50 percent of the shots he has seen. Yale goalie Eric Natale has saved 57 percent of the shots he has faced, anchoring a Yale defense that has played pretty well this year.
This game will undoubtedly be a good one.
With a playoff-like atmosphere and a lot on the line, both offenses should entertain the national TV audience tonight.
Look for sophomore face-off man Justin Murphy to continue his success for Princeton tonight. If he can, which will be tough against a talented Yale face-off department, Princeton will be able to run and gun. If Yale dominates the face-offs, it will be a long night for Princeton.
Dictating the pace of play will be crucial as these teams try to avoid a less-than-stellar start to league play.