On a cold, blustery March afternoon in front of nearly 3,000 boisterous fans at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Princeton Tigers squared off in the 100th meeting in a series that dates back to 1922 and has only been postponed twice - during WW2 and in 2020 due to Covid. The winner would secure the Tots Meistrell Cup, named after Hall of Famer Harland (Tots) Meistrell, who helped restart the lacrosse teams at both schools in the 1920s. Princeton had disbanded its team in 1894 before its resumption in 1920, while Rutgers discontinued its program in 1889, before its 1920 revival.
The Tigers would jump out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Alexander Vardaro and Christian Ronda. The Knights would finally find the back of net nearly ten minutes into the match as senior middie James Ringer scored his first goal of the season off of an assist from Nick Teresky, to pull within a goal, 2-1.
Star Princeton attacker Coulter Mackesy, who would be a claw in the Knights’s armor all afternoon, would score consecutive goals at the 3:27 and 3:03 marks for a 4-1 Tigers advantage. Dante Kulas would add a goal for the Knights to draw closer but the Tigers’s Weston Carpenter scored on a man up situation with 24 seconds left in the quarter to put the Tigers back up three goals, 5-2.
GOAL! Dante Kulas finishes and we have a two-goal game! pic.twitter.com/uzaFz8nYmW— Rutgers Men's LAX (@RUmlax) March 11, 2023
The Knights would score three consecutive goals to tie the match, 5-5. Shane Knobloch netted the first two and Brian Cameron the 3rd off an assist from face off specialist Joe Neuman, who subbed in to replace an ineffective Jonathan DuGenio.
We're tied! Brian Cameron finds the back of the cage and we're tied at 5! pic.twitter.com/fblYmr5ISp— Rutgers Men's LAX (@RUmlax) March 11, 2023
In a game of runs, the Tigers would counter with three consecutive goals of their own, to push their lead back out, 8-5. Mackesy scored one of the goals and assisted on the other two as Rutgers had no answer for him.
The Knights however, as they have done all season, would pick themselves up off the turf and proceed to score the final four goals of the quarter, the first by impact transfer Noah Daniels from Mount Saint Marys. Ross Scott would score his 17th of the season at 4:03, David Sprock notched one at 3:27, and then Dante Kulas would give the Knights their first lead of the game, 9-8, with just 22 seconds remaining until halftime.
The Tigers would strike first, with Vardaro tallying his second goal of the match the 11:23 mark to tie the game once again, 9-9. Kulas and Cameron would each score their second goals of the game to put the Knights back up, 11-9.
GOAL! Dante Kulas takes the turnover and scores to give us back the lead! pic.twitter.com/pz0mDF8rQD— Rutgers Men's LAX (@RUmlax) March 11, 2023
With a little under six minutes remaining, Princeton would score two goals in 19 seconds to pull even again, 11-11. With slightly over a minute remaining in the quarter, Rutgers’s Jack Aimone would tally his 13th goal of the season on a man up situation but Princeton would clawed back, as Alex Slusher scored with twenty seconds remaining and the teams would enter the final frame deadlocked at 12 apiece.
Brian Cameron! We're back in the lead thanks to this goal off the assist from Knobloch! pic.twitter.com/foWxmgUZo4— Rutgers Men's LAX (@RUmlax) March 11, 2023
In a tense, physical battle, the Knights would strike first as Cameron scored his 16th of the season and third of the match, to put the Knights out in front, 13-12. The lead would hold for nearly eight minutes before the Tigers’s Sam English found the back of the net with 4:32 remaining. Both squads would clamp down on defense over a final four minutes that were filled with turnovers and shot clock violations and the teams would head to overtime.
Neuman would win the critical face-off against the Tigers’s Koby Ginder to start the 4:00 overtime period and coach Brecht would call a timeout so Rutgers could set up their offense to try and win the game. Out of the timeout, Rutgers showed patience looking for a shot. As the shot clock wound down, Knobloch drove towards the net, and dished to Kulas, who was able to put one up high past Tigers goalie Michael Gianforcaro. It was star attacker Kulas’s fourth of the match and the Knights prevailed in the heated rivalry, 14-13.
With the win, the Knights improve to 6-1 while the Tigers drop to 2-3.
“This is a big win for our guys and I am very proud of the time they put in, their maturity level, and the focus they had this week. They rose to the occasion and executed when they needed to on offense and defense. That Tops Meistrell Cup means a lot to our alumni and our program here at Rutgers. When you have the 100th all-time meeting between the two schools and to win it at home in that 100th meeting, it is pretty special and something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Head Coach Brian Brecht (courtesy Rutgers Athletics)
- Rutgers has won three consecutive games against Princeton when the Meistrell Cup has been contested in Piscataway.
- As expected, this was a physical game between two teams that do not like each other. A 2:00 targeting penalty was called against Rutgers and a 2:00 cross check against Princeton in the first half.
- Jonathan DuGenio was pulled in the 2nd quarter after losing 9 of 12 face offs. Yale impact transfer Joe Neuman stepped in big time and won 11 of 19, including the critical opening face off in overtime, to help secure a Knights victory.
- This is the 2nd ranked win for Rutgers (previously defeating Loyola, Marland). The only loss is against a ranked Army squad. With the Big Ten looking as competitive as it ever has with four likely top-10 squads come Monday, Rutgers has done a good job navigating a difficult out-of-conference schedule prior to a daunting Big Ten slate that begins in two weeks. The team looks to make its third consecutive NCAA tourney appearance.
The Knights conclude their challenging out of conference schedule against Umass, who will likely be ranked come Monday afternoon. The game takes place Saturday, March 18th at Umass.