Monday, March 26, 2012

An Epic In New Haven

TigerBlog should have known that Saturday was going to be a bit different when he ran into Megan or Maggie or whatever the name of the little girl who was selling Girl Scout cookies outside the bagel place at 7:30.

TB couldn't tell her name, since she spoke only in whispers. He also could barely tell what she was saying when she asked "would you like to buy some cookies," and in fact he's just assuming that's what she said, since she was somewhat shy and inaudible.

So TB said in a loud voice "What'd you say?"

Then, seeing that she was a bit startled, TB said he was only kidding and then coughed up the $4 for Thin Mints.

And then it was off to New Haven, armed with a bacon and egg on a plain for the way up and Thin Mints for the way back.

As he drove, TB though about how many times he'd made this trip, for how many different sports, in how many different decades. He concluded that a defining moment of his life is going to be how much of it he spent driving back and forth to watch Princeton play, always on the same roads, always to the same destinations.

He thought about all the games he went to that are now a blur to him, with fuzzy details of who scored, what the final score was, what the big play was.

As he drove back, he was struck by another interesting thought.

One of the great aspects of his job is that he never knows when he's going to stumble on an all-time great game.

It could happen at any time, without any warning.

Like Saturday, for instance.

TB expected another Princeton-Yale lacrosse game - close, competitive, and then on to the next.

What he got was one of the best games he's ever seen.

Yes, Princeton's 10-9, five-overtime win over Yale was the longest game in the history of either program, ended on Alex Capretta's goal after 18:21 of OT.

Oh, the game lacked the historical significance necessary to put it over the top. There was no NCAA championship at stake, no championship of any kind.

Still, TB has seen hundreds of lacrosse games. Few have been able to match this one for drama.

Princeton led Yale by three with four minutes to go and by two with a minute to go before Greg Mahony tied it with 21 seconds to go.

Then it got exciting.

Keep in mind what was at stake here.

Princeton had won back-to-back games coming into this one and was looking to get to 5-2, 2-0 in the Ivy League. Yale had lost three straight and was looking to get to .500 overall and in the league.

For Princeton, it was especially huge, considering where the team was a year ago and where it hope to be heading this year.

And so whoever scored next was going to have accomplished something huge for its season.

TigerBlog cannot remember too many games that had this kind of back-and-forth "we've got it, no we've lost it, no we've got it back, no we've lost it" momentum swings.

Both teams had great chances in all five OTs.

Both goalies played great.

Both lineups were filled with players who made huge plays - and with players who just missed ending it.

The second-longest game in Princeton history - now, anyway - was the 1999 15-14 win over Syracuse, which ran 73:25 before Josh Sims won it for the Tigers.

That game in Syracuse featured a total of 11 shots in the four OTs.

The game Saturday featured 28 shots in the five OTs.

That's 28 shots in a little more than 18 minutes.

Prorated over a 60-minute game, that would have been 92 shots.

Colgate (apparently) leads Division I with 44.5 shots per game. TB couldn't find another team averaging more than 40.

The overtimes were a track meet, back and forth, shot after shot, any of which could have ended it and each of which added to the drama.

In the end, it was Capretta's shot that finally brought it to a conclusion.

Capretta, by the way, is the possessor of a cannon of a shot who is finally putting all of his potential together and having a strong senior year. Through seven games, Capretta has eight goals and seven assists while playing in the midfield; he had 10 points through his first three years.

If you weren't there, you couldn't possibly sense just how exciting and dramatic it was, and ultimately how draining it was for both teams when it ended.

TB was in the Princeton team room after the game, and the emotions there rivaled those of a championship win.

It wasn't, of course.

Just a huge win in late March.

In a game that reminded TigerBlog why he loves what he does so much.

You never know what the next game has in store.

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