November 19, 2010

Engineers Fall to top-seed Princeton, 10-4, in Opening Round of CWPA Eastern Championship

LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Mike Merlone recorded 10 saves, while Jack Ruth, Tim Wenzlau and Tommy Donahue each tallied a pair of scores as No. 15 Princeton University knocked off the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10-4 in the opening game of the 2010 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Eastern Championship at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium.

The victory advances the Tigers to a semifinal match-up at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 20 against the victor of a first round game between No. 20 Brown University and No. 18 United States Naval Academy.  MIT will meet the victim in the Brown-Navy game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday with a spot in the fifth place game on the line.

A key to the game was Princeton's ability to draw and convert on man-up opportunities as the Tigers buried five-of-six advantage chances, including three-of-three in the first period to build a lead by tearing down the Engineers defense.

Trailing 1-0 following a strike by John Preis at the 6:56 mark of the opening period, the Tigers clawed back into the game as Wenzlau rocketed a shot on a man-up opportunity parallel to the cage which deflected off the right arm of MIT netminder Columbus Leonard and between Leonard's body and the right post to knot the game at 1-1.

The tie lasted for 51 seconds until Chris Cottrell broke loose for a natural goal at 5:38.  Princeton continued to pour it on in the period as Donahue (4:36) and Hale (2:20) finished on man-up opportunities to make it a 4-1 game.

MIT pulled to within a pair before the end of the first period thanks to the stealth and speed of Craig Cheney, who stole a ball at mid-tank and sprinted away from the Princeton defenders to bend a ball inside the near post and past Merlone with seven seconds left on the clock to move within 4-2.

However, Donahue took over the game as he fed Ruth on a 6-on-5 at 5:15 and dished a pass off to Tommy Parolin at 3:42 for a natural goal to push the Tigers out to a 6-2 lead midway through the second period.  Mike Helou closed out the period with the Princeton's fifth man-up goal of the first half with 42 seconds left before halftime to stake the Tigers to a 7-2 advantage at the break.

Donahue continued his one man show in the opening minutes of the third period with his third assist of the game exactly three minutes into the third period.

As MIT's defense shifted to defend potential shooters, Donahue deked his defender and whipped a pass to Wenzlau who buried the helper into the back of the cage for Princeton's eighth marker.

Ruth hammered home the ninth score at 3:07 with another even-strength marker before the Engineers were able to draw up a response at 2:10 by Scott Stephens for MIT's only man-up goal of the afternoon.

Leading 9-4 with a period of play, Donahue closed out his two goal-three assist day by adding an insurance tally with 6:08 remaining on the game clock for the 10-4 final.

In cage, Leonard finished with six saves for the Engineers.  Merlone played three quarters before being relieved by Tyler Amina in the fourth period.

The victory sets up an interesting potential semifinal showdown for Southern Division Champion Princeton as the Tigers defeated Navy 9-6 last year at MIT in the 2009 CWPA Eastern Championship title game.  Overall, the Tigers are 1-1 against the Midshipmen this year (7-6 W, 7-6 L OT SD).  The Tigers are 1-0 against Brown this year with a 7-6 victory in overtime.

For MIT, which placed fourth in the Northern Division, the Engineers have not met Navy this year, while going 0-3 against Brown (5-4 L, 10-9 L, 9-6 L).