The Washington Times - March 1, 2009, 09:57AM

Yesterday’s busy day meant missing the first three quarters of the Hopkins-Princeton game at M&T Bank Stadium.

More than one person informed me upon arrival I hadn’t missed much.

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Indeed, Princeton’s 14-8 victory doesn’t do justice to how lopsided things were.

It was a legitimate surprise, too. The Tigers have as many final four appearances in the last six years as Delaware does, and it finally started sinking in last season that maybe Princeton might not recapture the magic that led them to six titles in a 10-year span.

Or maybe not. Maybe this really does herald Princeton is back as a legitimate top-10 or top-5 team, and if that’s the case, it’s good for the game for one of its recent powers to return to national title discussion.

Besides the re-emergence of Princeton, here’s five more things learned on a blustery day in Baltimore.

1. Jack McBride is pretty good. The Princeton sophomore produced his second four-goal game in as many weeks as the Tigers’ offense showed more pep than in recent years. It was easily the most goals Princeton scored against a Dave Pietramala-coached Hopkins team (previous high: 11), and McBride offers the sort of dynamic offensive presence Princeton has missed pretty much since Ryan Boyle graduated in 2004.

2. If Michael Gvozden and Michael Evans struggle, it’ll be a long day for Hopkins. Gvozden was a great second-half player for Hopkins last year, and Evans missed pretty much the entire preseason with injury, so one off game can’t be too big a concern. But with an offense that is going to take a while to find itself, Hopkins needs Gvozden to play well in the goal and Evans (its best defenseman) to be his usual self. Neither happened yesterday, but it’s also difficult to imagine it occurring many more times this season.

3. Maryland’s goalie rotation will be spiked under sensible conditions. Duke attackman Max Quinzani said the Blue Devils prepared for two goalies – one with long hair (Jason Carter) and one with short hair (Brian Phipps). Well, they only saw one, and that’s because Phipps was simply electric in the first half. Maryland coach Dave Cottle was smart enough to stick with the hot hand, and Carter encouraged him to do so. It was tough to envision the rotation working for one year – let alone two – but Cottle, Carter and Phipps all deserve credit for making it happen and letting common sense prevail when one of the two is playing lights out.

4. Duke isn’t that far away. Not from the dominance of the last few years, mind you; we might not see a team that loaded for some time. But the Blue Devils yielded 11 goals; three were off faceoffs, two were extra-man and one was off a quick restart. Suddenly things don’t look so bad for the Duke defense. It’s tough to say how good goalie Rob Schroeder is, but he has plenty of physical defensemen in front of him. The Blue Devils’ strength is on defense, and they’ll win their share of 9-7 games this season.

5. It was a mixed bag for the event itself. The folks at Inside Lacrosse did a great job hosting a fine kickoff to the year, but the weather conspired against them to some degree to prevent the sort of early-season festival everyone imagines the Face-Off Classic can be.

Then again, it’s lacrosse outdoors in February, and IL sold more than 17,000 tickets – this a day after a comparable crowd saw Syracuse and Virginia play at the Carrier Dome. So that’s obviously pretty good for the sport as well as yesterday’s event.

It will be very curious to see how well-received the Day of Rivals is on April 11 – an event featuring Hopkins-Maryland and Army-Navy. That has a chance, given the games and the spot on the calendar (when it’s warmer, after college basketball is finished) to become a signature event.

Patrick Stevens