The tough road to the Ivy League tournament continues this week as the Bulldogs return home to take on the Princeton Tigers (4-2, 1-0 Ivy) at Reese Stadium on Saturday. The Elis (2-3, 0-1 Ivy) have dropped their last three games, including their first loss to Lehigh since 1918, but the team still has reason to be optimistic. In its most recent game, Yale fell by a single goal to a tough Cornell team that is currently ranked No. 4 in the country. Although it was another defeat, the Bulldogs showed a fighting mentality that had been missing in their previous losses to Lehigh and Holy Cross.
“Princeton is a tough team,” captain Michael Pratt ’12 said. “But we just have to learn from our mistakes and keep playing with the same effort and intensity that we had [against Cornell], and I think we’ll be fine.”
Last weekend it was the Elis’ defense that kept the team in the game against Cornell, and the Bulldogs will need a similar defensive effort against the Tigers. Yale held the Big Red’s top-ranked scoring offense to its lowest output of the season and held one of the most prolific attack units in the country to two goals. Princeton’s offense is averaging 11 goals per game and is ranked 16th in the country, four spots behind Yale.
The Tigers’ strength, however, lies in their defense. Princeton is sixth in the nation in scoring defense, with a 7.33 goals against average. Last weekend the Tigers smothered the Penn offense, allowing only four goals to earn an 11-4 victory in their Ivy League opener.
The Elis’ attacking trio of Matt Gibson ’12, Brandon Mangan ’14 and Conrad Oberbeck ’15 lead Yale’s offense in scoring and are averaging over six goals per game between them. They have accounted for over half of the team’s goals thus far this season and will bear the brunt of the scoring burden against the Tigers. Oberbeck has been particularly efficient; the freshman has scored on 54.5 percent of his shot attempts this year.
The Bulldogs will also try to take advantage of their effective faceoff play. Yale’s faceoff unit of Cole Yeager ’13 and Dylan Levings ’14 have won 58 percent of their draws this season, including 11 of 17 last weekend at Cornell. Princeton’s junior midfielder Bobby Lucas has had success at the faceoff xas well this year. Lucas has won 54.7 percent of his contests, and this weekend’s matchup will be an opportunity to see if Levings and Yeager can continue their dominance against elite competition.
Only the top four teams in the Ivy League make the conference’s postseason tournament, so a loss this weekend will give the Elis a lot of ground to make up going forward. A win should give the Elis a huge momentum boost going into next week’s game against Penn. This three-week stretch against the Big Red, Tigers and Quakers represents the gauntlet of the six-game Ivy League schedule. After next week, the Bulldogs will have to wait until April 28, their season finale against Harvard, to face another Ivy League contender.
Tomorrow’s game is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. at Reese Stadium.