Harvard (5-4, 1-2 Ivy) is 3-1 at home on the year, with its only loss coming in overtime last weekend to then-No. 16 Cornell, 9-8.
“We take pride in playing on our home field—we don’t let anyone come in and walk all over us,” freshman attackman Greg Cohen said. “We know when we play up to our potential we have the talent to take down any team in the country.”
As has been the case in recent memory, the Tigers (6-2, 2-0)—winners of 10 Ivy League championships and six NCAA championships since 1992—will arrive in Cambridge as one of the country’s top teams.
Princeton’s only losses on the year have been to top-ranked Johns Hopkins and No. 4 Syracuse, and the Tigers are coming off a come-from-behind victory over Penn this Tuesday.
History is on Princeton’s side as well.
The Tigers have won the last 13 matchups against Harvard and come into the contest riding a 24-game road Ivy winning streak.
Harvard will need a solid effort from tri-captain goaltender Jake McKenna, as this is one area where the Crimson has a clear statistical advantage over Princeton. The play of McKenna, who is third in the Ivies in goals against average and save percentage, has kept the Crimson in a number of games this year.
“Jake’s been solid for us all year and he’ll be ready on Saturday. It’s going to be essential that he plays well,” Cohen said.
Princeton goaltender Dave Law ranks fifth in the Ivies in both categories, allowing almost a goal per game more than McKenna.
Despite the reliance on its netminder, the Crimson thrives in offensive shootouts. Harvard is 5-0 on the year when scoring nine goals or more, and 0-4 when scoring eight or less. Even so, tri-captain defender Spencer Stenmark is not concerned if the game is a low scoring affair.
“We do best when we focus on stopping the transition and playing solid defense, so a low scoring game doesn’t really worry me,” Stenmark said.
The Crimson defense will need to keep a close eye on Princeton’s offensive leader—senior attackman Ryan Boyle. The 2003 First Team All-American has registered at least one point in every game in his career, and it was his two goals and two assists this Tuesday that ignited the Tigers’ come-from-behind victory over Penn.
“We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary to prepare for their offense,” Stenmark said. “Boyle is a great player, but we just saw the League’s leading scorer [Brown junior Chazz Woodson] and were able to contain him.”
Both Princeton and Harvard rely on freshmen to shoulder some of the load, especially on the offensive end. Cohen leads the Crimson in scoring and attackman Peter Trombino currently ranks third in that category for the Tigers. The two first-year players are first and second in the Ivy League rookie scoring race, respectively, with Cohen edging Trombino by two points, 21-19.
Cohen, however, is not Harvard’s only option on the attack.
Three players—sophomore Steve Cohen, junior Mike McBride and sophomore Sean Kane—have scored at least 10 goals this year, and freshman midfielder Brian Mahler is coming off a hat trick in the win over Brown.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time,” Greg Cohen said. “I think all of us have. What better way is there to prove ourselves as players and as an offensive unit than by taking it to a talented defense? It should be a great game.”
The contest, scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., will follow the Harvard-Princeton women’s lacrosse match set to begin at 12 p.m.
—Staff writer Kathryn J. Hodel at firstname.lastname@example.org.