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M. hockey readies for critical pair of conference battles

Friday 7:30 p.m. Cornell. Saturday 7:00 p.m. Colgate. That was Nov. 21 and 22 in upstate New York.

This weekend, same teams, same times, but a different place, and, hopefully for the men's hockey team, a different result.

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Two months ago, Princeton (10-5-4 overall, 4-5-3 Eastern College Athletic Conference) lost both games, a national ranking and its No. 2 league spot. This weekend, the Tigers must prevent the same debacle or face dropping into the ECAC cellar.

'Better prepared'

"When we played earlier in the season, we hadn't gelled yet," senior right wing Casson Masters said. "We're better prepared, we've seen their strengths and we've got things to counteract them."

But are the Tigers really ready?

"I don't think a lot is different," head coach Don Cahoon said. "Cornell is a great defensive team and Colgate one of the best in transition play."

Maybe not much has changed with these three teams since Nov. – except their positions in the league. While Princeton was second in the league back in Nov., the Tigers have since fallen to seventh, and Colgate and Cornell now hold the second and fourth spots in the league respectively. If the Tigers want to pick up some points this weekend, they need to do a few key things differently.

First, Princeton must break through Cornell's tight defense. The Tigers played well in the first meeting and only lost 3-2, but suffered a 13-shot deficit. Princeton needs to generate offense through all three periods tonight.

Red light

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Second, the Tigers must stop Colgate's powerful transition game. Last time the Red Raiders tore Princeton up for eight goals in the first two periods, the most the Tigers have given up all season, and Princeton never recovered.

"Colgate is going to be a chore for us," Cahoon said. "We need to be very disciplined on the defensive end."

Also, the productive Orange Line, the team's most prolific line, did not pick up a single point in that game. If Colgate has found a way to contain the normally dominant trio again the Tigers will be in trouble again.

Finally, the Tigers must overcome their injuries and distractions. Junior defenseman Mike Acosta is out for at least this weekend, and senior blueliner Steve Sherriffs has not practiced this week, but will play.

Balance

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"The forwards have to help out more on defense," Masters said. "I'm sure coach has something to balance that."

The other factor that Princeton must deal with is Bicker distractions. Cahoon stressed focus through a process he called "disruptive to any team sport."

This weekend should bring a feeling of déjà v to the Tigers, but they just hope they don't feel the same way after Saturday night.

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