BALTIMORE-The score did not fully tell the tale as Johns Hopkins took down Princeton, 14-9. While Princeton clawed their way back in the second half, Hopkins dominated this one out of the gate. Controlling a 10-1 lead at the half, Hopkins looked like they were playing a message game, and the message was clear, “We are the champs, come and take that from us…if you can.”
Hopkins looked like their athletic teams from the ‘80’s. “You watched two teams that weren’t afraid to get up and down today,” Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala said after the game, referencing how his team is so often characterized as stagnant and sounding quite perturbed.
The Blue Jays, and too a lesser extent the Tigers, stretched the field, pushed in transition, and shot the lights out. They used quick ball work and took advantage of match-ups when the opportunity was there. This was not stall-ball Hopkins. The 14 goals they tallied surely emphasized that.
“You can’t take away from what Hopkins did out there,” Princeton head coach Bill Tierney said after the game. “They picked us apart in the first half…You’ve got to prepare your kids, which Dave did and I didn’t.”
As if it were a bad omen for the Tigers, Hopkins scored just ten seconds in, off a broken play and a bad substitution by Princeton, when Paul Rabil found Michael Kimmel for the quick goal. While Princeton had very few answers for Hopkins today, they had no answer for Rabil. He looked like a man playing amongst boys at times. He was a formidable short-stick defender. He was presence on the wings during faceoffs. He ran right through double teams and slides, and when he had pressure on him, he was still often able to get off a pass or a shot. His assist to Kimmel was his first of what would be four on the day, part of a seven point performance in all.
Play settled for the next five minutes or so, and then the floodgates truly opened. Stephen Peyser drove across the box and ripped a nasty shot on the run. Then Rabil scored his first of three. Somehow finding himself matched up against a shorty during an inversion, Rabil charged around the cage and beat Princeton goalie Alex Hewit.
Somewhat ironically, of the four starting goalies who played at M&T Bank Stadium today, Hewit, the most acclaimed and seasoned keeper, had by far the worst day, or at least worst half. After the first goal snuck in, he seemed rattled. His play was uncharacteristic to say the least. He did not seem grounded in the fundamentals that have made him such a rock, and he could not track the ball well. Of course, the Hopkins shooters did not help him any, as they fired shots from all different angles, all different locations, both on the run and stationary.
“I don’t think I started off real well,” Hewit said after the game. “Obviously you’re going to lose confidence when you go down 10-1.”
Unlike his slow start last season, Kevin Huntley was a sniper today, scoring five goals and one assist today. Getting the ball at the top of the box, Huntley worked on his man to get space, then skipped a bouncer past Hewit, finding the twine for the first time. Before the first quarter ran out, Huntley scored again, this time when Rabil scooped a loose ball, pushed up field, and threaded a pass to Huntley off the post for the finish.
“It’s easy to score when the defense is rushing out and they’re not settled,” Huntley said of his offensive prowess. By keeping the Tigers on their toes, it made Blue Jay shooters’ jobs that much easier.
The second quarter was just an encore of domination by Hopkins. Huntley scored his third in a row, second from Rabil, when the Blue Jays worked the ball around on a man-up.
Not lost in all of the offensive fireworks was freshman goalie Michael Gvozden’s play in net. While he did not face many shots, the ones he did see he handled fairly easily. Princeton had a few good scoring chances on the inside, but Gvozden stuffed them all. He confidently hit outlet passes, and he did not get lulled to sleep while Princeton hardly saw the ball.
“The bigger the gap we have, the more confidence we get,” Gvozden said of his play and his defense’s. “We were playing loose and confident. “
After a big stuff on the crease by Gvozden, he hit defensive middy Andrew Miller in the clear. Miller carried down, and when no one slid, he stuck the shot. Then Rabil showed just how strong he is. Carrying across the box, Rabil unleashed a 13-yarder on the run low that Hewit actually got a piece of, but the shot had enough on it that it still snuck into the goal.
Princeton finally showed something on offense during a 1:00 illegal body check penalty served by Matt Drenan after he absolutely lit up Tommy Davis of Princeton. During the man-up, the Tigers worked the ball around, eventually having Mark Kolver feed Bob Schneider up top, who uncorked a shot that Gvozden got a piece of, but it went in anyway. Schneider was by far the best shooter for Princeton today, converting two of the three shots he had on cage. The problem was, Princeton could not get him the ball and a good look often enough. His goal broke a 23 minute, 12 second scoring drought for Princeton.
But Schneider’s goal seemed but an apparition. Huntley went right back to work. Working to get inside, Huntley used the mess of men in front of the cage as a screen and fired in a goal from about 10 yards out. Just like the quarter prior, Hopkins snuck one more in during the last 30 seconds. After a nice job getting the ball on the ground, Hopkins D pushed up field. Andrew Miller carried over and into the box, hitting Stephen Boyle for the textbook fast break finish. When the bloodbath was over, Hopkins enjoyed a 10-1 halftime lead.
In some ways this game was a tale of two halves. While Hopkins was ferociously dominant in the first half, Princeton actually played the better second half. The problem for the Tigers was that they had too big of a hole to climb out of.
In the second half, Princeton’s offense took better shots and handled the ball more carefully. Their defense had more answers for the Blue Jays as well.
“I think it was just pure playing out of embarrassment,” Coach Tierney said of his team’s play in the second half. He told them “we can either be known as a team that loses 20 to two, or we can be known as a team that didn’t play a good first half,” he said.
Though the one question the Tigers could not answer was Rabil, who got his hat trick when he shook his defender and rocketed another shot before the slide could come.
This half Princeton was able to counter Hopkins goals though. Brendan Reilly, while being covered fairly well by Conor Cassidy, was able to roll off and get a shot on the run, beating Gvozden. While Gvozden had a good game overall, he did not look as sharp the second half as he did the first. The entire Hopkins team didn’t look as sharp for that matter.
“I don’t think we played well with a lead,” Pietramala said. “I think this team needs to learn those valuable lessons…We didn’t play like we did when we were trying to gain a lead.”
Hopkins cashed in again on a transition opportunity, this time when Huntley hit Boyle sitting on the crease behind the defense, for the quick fake and finish. But Princeton would go on a three-goal run, out scoring Hopkins 7-2 in the last 18 minutes.
On a nice backdoor-type cut, Pete Striebel carried high while Davis cut underneath him. Finding the alley, Striebel hit Davis for the catch and shoot. Then Bob Schneider hit the net again off another man-up assist from Kolver. Then Kolver got himself a goal, driving from behind the cage and getting off a shot that Gvozden got a piece of but still went in.
Hopkins would add another off the ensuing faceoff as Rabil grabbed the loose ball, pushed ahead, and hit Michael Doneger sitting on the crease for another fake and finish. The teams would trade goals then, as Davis scored his second when the Blue Jays’ defense sunk, focusing on Rich Sgalardi working behind. Sgalardi tossed a feed topside to a wide-open Davis who blasted a shot before the slide could come out to him. But Huntley scored his fifth and final goal of the day as Boyle threw a feed from X to Huntley sitting 10-yards out, who just caught and shot with time and room.
Princeton strung together another three-goal run, but it was far too little too late. Greg Seamon (Towson coach Tony Seamon’s son) scored a man-up goal off some pretty passing. Moving the ball around, Davis hit Seamon perfectly in stride on a cut for the finish. Then Alex Haynie scored off an assist from the highly touted freshman Jack McBride. Finally, with four seconds on the clock, McBride scored his second goal of the season, with a fortuitous bounce. McBride tried to feed inside, but the ball skipped off a defender and took an awkward, off-speed flight that Gvozden could not read, eventually ending up in the net. When the final whistle blew, Hopkins walked away with the 14-9 victory.
Far from the defense-heavy, overtime thriller of last year’s Princeton-Hopkins game, this game seemed over about five minutes after it started. While Hopkins surely let up some in the second half due to their commanding lead, credit is due to Princeton for not quitting and battling back, effectively outplaying the champs at the end. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the first half showed just why Hopkins gets to call themselves defending NCAA champions and the favorite to take it again this season.
While Hopkins Coach Dave Pietramala was happy with his team’s win and impressive first half, he sited several things they need to work on, most notably playing with a lead and not relenting. All in all though, he thought the game was a large step forward for Hopkins, particularly the first half.
“Princeton is a wonderful team and to jump out on them was fantastic,” Pietramala said after the game. “I thought that was as well as we played since we started practice.”
Princeton will go on to play Virginia at home Saturday, 3/8. The game at Princeton Stadium will be televised on ESPN. Hopkins has a busy week ahead, playing UMBC at home on Tuesday, then traveling to Hofstra for a match-up with former assistant coach Seth Tierney’s team Saturday.
|Paul Rabil||(3, 4)|
|Kevin Huntley||(5, 1)|
|Steven Boyle||(2, 1)|
|Andrew Miller||(1, 1)|
|Stephen Peyser||(1, 0)|
|Michael Kimmel||(1, 0)|
|Michael Doneger||(1, 0)|
|Michael Gvozden||11 (0.550)|