Thursday, October 25, 2018

Welcome To Crossover Season

Welcome to the early days of crossover season.

There are two of these each year, the fall/winter one, which is a bit daunting, and its evil cousin the winter/spring one, which takes daunting to another level.

These are the toughest times for those who work in college athletics in any capacity. There are teams playing for championships and other teams starting out their seasons, and they all have needs from everybody, such as athletic trainers, the equipment staff, the event staff, marketing and even communications.

Each year it seems that the seasons overlap a bit earlier. Of course it's great when you have successful teams, even though that makes the crossover last a little longer.

TigerBlog recently did a fall podcast with Chris Sailer, the women's lacrosse coach, which you can listen to HERE. During the podcast, Chris talked about how fall lacrosse has changed for her program in her time here, which was very interesting, but she also mentioned how her team is getting ready for its opener, which will be Feb. 16 at home against Temple.

At that point TB mentioned that the season used to start on March 1, and Chris said that it actually used to start on March 15 at one point.

In addition to home women's lacrosse that day (the men open their season Feb. 16 but at Monmouth), the men's basketball team will be home against Dartmouth, after hosting Harvard the night before. That will be Princeton's third of six Ivy League weekends in basketball.

That should give you a sense of what the crossover is like.

It's not as long or with as many teams in the fall/winter, though it certainly gets busy enough. It started last weekend, when the women's hockey team opened its season with a strong showing at No. 2 Wisconsin, falling 4-3 and 3-0 to a team playing its fifth and sixth games.

The women's hockey team is home this weekend, playing if you can believe it, the first ECAC weekend of the year with games tomorrow against Yale (6) and Saturday against Brown (3).

In true crossover fashion, your weekend of home events includes those two games, Week 7 of the football season (Princeton vs. Cornell at 1 Saturday) and Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships (Saturday, with the women at 11 and the men at noon).

The men's hockey team opens its season tomorrow night as well, traveling to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions and former Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky. The men's hockey team is entering its own crossover season, and it has nothing to do with the time of year.

Princeton has crossed over from being an underdog to a favorite, and the Tigers now have to deal with heightened expectations. Ron Fogarty, like Gadowsky did when it was his time a decade ago, has done a remarkable job in putting Princeton men's hockey on the national landscape.

In a very short time, Fogarty has taken a team that was 12th out of 12 in the ECAC and turned it into the league champion. If you recall last year, Princeton tore through the ECAC playoffs, defeating the top three seeds along the way to the title and NCAA tournament berth.

Princeton has now won three ECAC men's hockey championships - in 1998, 2008 and 2018. There isn't a player on the team now who is content to let a bunch of kids who are just learning to skate now grow up and keep the streak alive in 2028.

No, Princeton has tasted success, and it has the team now to build on that. And TigerBlog isn't the only one who has noticed.

Princeton was picked 12th in the league two years ago. Last year it was seventh, TB believes, when the Tigers were a fun upstart who could possibly scare a team or two but wasn't really considered a real threat.

This year? Princeton is preseason No. 2 in the ECAC. There isn't a national poll that doesn't include the Tigers. There are those who have projected a Frozen Four appearance.

The reason for the optimism starts with four players - the three who figure to be in the NHL at this time a year from now (Max Veronneau, Josh Teves, Ryan Kuffner) and the goalie who was the MVP of the ECAC tournament as a freshman (Ryan Ferland). Those four are not the only pieces in place of course.

And so the big question now is how will Princeton handle such prosperity and expectations? Every team Princeton plays knows it's playing an NCAA team from last year. Everyone will want a shot at the Tigers.

That is, however, a fun position to be in for a team. At least it's better than being an afterthought.

Baker Rink has always been a fun place to watch a game. This year, it'll be even more so. The home opener is against Union and RPI on Nov. 9 and 10, after a trip to Harvard and Dartmouth next weekend.

It's crossover season already.

For Princeton men's hockey, that'll be the case even after fall sports are done.

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