NCAA Matchup of the Week: Princeton at Cornell

Our panelists make their calls for this weekend’s top NCAA game

Our matchup this week is our first all-ECAC MotW, and with both these teams on the bubble for the NCAA tournament the result of this game could be very significant. Princeton enters the game on the season’s longest undefeated streak at 16 games. Princeton is 12-2-4 with both its losses coming to Wisconsin, joint seventh in the Pairwise, fourth in KRACH, and seventh in the most recent Ice Garden poll. Cornell is 8-1-5 with its only loss coming to Brown (yes!), joint ninth in the Pairwise, ninth in KRACH, and fifth in the most recent Ice Garden poll.

In their first meeting of the season, the teams played to a 2-2 tie on Nov. 16 at Princeton. Will things be different at Cornell?

Valerie Fox: This is an interesting one for me. Princeton comes in as the hottest team in the nation, having not lost since their opening weekend at Wisconsin, while Cornell is perfect at Lynah Rink on the season, including wins against St. Lawrence and Clarkson. The two teams also tied in their meeting at Hobey Baker Rink earlier this season, and it wouldn’t shock me if it happened again. It’s the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I’m gonna say Princeton, with a dynamic offense led by one of the best one-two punches in the country in Sarah Fillier and Carly Bullock, gets the job done on the road in a 4-3 thriller, but I expect an exciting game with plenty of lead changes.

Gabriella Fundaro: The first matchup of the season between these two teams was a close one, both in terms of the final score as well as overall possession. As has been the case all season, the Tigers were buoyed by strong execution on the power play. They scored both of their goals in a 1:29 span early on in the game, one on a 5-on-3 opportunity and the second on the ensuing 5-on-4 chance. Behind Sarah Fillier, Carly Bullock, Maggie Connors, and Karlie Lund, Princeton doesn’t lack in offensive firepower, something that the Big Red will have to address both at 5-on-5 and while shorthanded. Cornell’s top-four defensive corps of Micah Zandee-Hart, Kendra Nealey, Jaime Bourbonnais, and Willow Slobodzian are generally very good at driving possession, but it’ll be important in this game to limit breakdowns as they attempt to do so.

Cornell’s own power play comes into this game having scored three goals against Penn State earlier this week, but the Big Red’s penalty kill also conceded two goals in that game. If this one becomes a special-teams battle, I think Princeton’s chances only get better. I’ll go with a 4-2 win for the Tigers to continue their unbeaten streak.

William Whyte: The computer models favor Princeton more than the Ice Garden pollsters do, so I went back and took a look at both teams’ records. Princeton have a puzzling tie with Syracuse and a forgiveable tie with Harvard, both of which happened while Sarah Fillier was away at Four Nations. Cornell’s loss to Brown and ties with Mercyhurst came while Jaime Bourbonnais, Kristin O’Neill and Micah Zandee-Hart were at Four Nations too. But looking at the games with a full or nearly full roster, I think we pollsters have been underestimating Princeton. Out of exhibition play, Cornell have scored five goals only once, against Robert Morris; Princeton have done it six times. Cornell have won by more than two goals four times, against Syracuse, Dartmouth, Robert Morris and St. Lawrence; Princeton have done it six times, against Brown, Dartmouth, Colgate (6-0!), Quinnipiac, RPI (getting five goals post Lovisa Selander), and Union. All that before getting starting goalie Steph Neatby back from injury!

Cornell have more senior Canadian national team players and a longer tradition of excellence, but reviewing this has made me a Princeton believer. Princeton 5-3.

Grant Salzano: Great matchup. KRACH has this as a #4 vs. #9, but I get the sense that Princeton is probably not quite that high and Cornell is probably not quite that low. I would argue that this is one of the most even top 10 matchups of the year -- especially when you consider that the Big Red are at home.

Despite Cornell’s baffling near-loss to Penn State last week (they pulled off a miracle tie), they have the more impressive wins of late and, for my money, the better high-end players. Princeton hasn’t played a good opponent in forever, unless you count Merrimack, so I would put my money on Cornell here. Give me the Big Red by a 3-1 score.

Nathan Vaughan: Both these teams have been pretty consistent this season only losing a total of three games, two were Princeton opening their season in Madison while Cornell had a logic defying loss to Brown. They have both also had a large number of ties including to each other earlier in the season. While the Ivy League crown is likely on the line I see another tie coming out of this one.

KRACH: The KRACH calculator gives Princeton a 55.35% chance of winning.

GRaNT: The GRaNT calculator projects Princeton 2.77 - Cornell 2.16, or basically a 3-2 win for Princeton.