Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 48
 
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
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PRESSURE DEFENSE: Princeton High boys’ ice hockey defenseman Dean DiTosto puts on the pressure in a game last season. Junior co-captain DiTosto will be the backbone of the Little Tiger defense as the squad looks to make the state tournament for the first time since the 2006-07 season. PHS starts the season by playing WW/P-S on December 3 at Mercer County Park.

Sparked by Group of Battle-Tested Juniors, PHS Boys’ Hockey Primed to Make States

Bill Alden

On the one hand, the Princeton High boys’ ice hockey team made plenty of progress last season.

PHS posted a 7-10-2 record last winter, a marked improvement on the 4-17 mark posted in 2007-08.

Yet, while the improvement was heartening, the Little Tigers were heartbroken to narrowly miss out on qualifying for the state Public tournament.

PHS blew late leads in its two ties last year and would have had the .500 record needed on the qualifying date if those games were in the win column.

With the 2009-10 regular season starting with a game against WW/P-S on December 3 at Mercer County Park, PHS head coach Tim Campbell believes that the memory of those ties will help motivate his players this winter.

“Making the states is definitely one of our key goals,” said Campbell, who is in his third season guiding the program. “Last year left a bitter taste in our mouths.”

Campbell is confident that his strong core of juniors will help the Little Tigers taste plenty of success this season.

“The junior class has a huge amount of talent,” asserted Campbell, whose junior group features forwards Fraser Graham, Michael Irving, and Peter Twining together with defensemen Dean DiTosto and Griffin Peck.

“We have relied on them for the last three years. Guys like Dean, Fraser, Peter, and Griffin have had so much responsibility.”

Co-captain DiTosto will have plenty of responsibility as Campbell looks to him to lead the team’s blueliners.

“Dean has been the backbone of our defense the last three years,” said Campbell, who will also be using David Wright, Coleman Preziosi, and Griffin Peck on defense. “We have a short bench and Dean will play with everybody. Griffin is going to be a key player; he had a good summer.”

Graham, the team’s other co-captain, figures to be a key catalyst on offense. “Fraser has been leading our offense,” said Campbell. “He is very fast and very smart.”

The team’s first line should include Twining and sophomore Will Greenberg along with Graham.

“Greenberg is a very hard worker,” added Campbell. “Twining has played a lot of hockey; he has gotten bigger.”

PHS should also get some big contributions at forward from sophomore Kirby Peck and Irving.

“Kirby Peck is a big leader; he likes to take the body,” said Campbell, whose crew of forwards will include freshmen Matt DiTosto, Gabe McGregor, Jasper Morgan, James Kaltman, and Michael Dunlap. “Irving has the work ethic; no one works harder than Michael.”

If the Little Tigers are going to make the state tournament, they will need to get some good work from promising sophomore goalie Josh Berger, who was the starter last year from day one.

“I rely on my freshmen a lot and, as a goalie, Josh definitely stepped into a big role last year,” said Campbell.

“He played a lot of hockey in the off season; he is quicker and more experienced. He knows when to go to work.”

In Campbell’s view, his players are stepping up collectively. “We are not going to be the most talented team but no one is going to outwork us,” vowed Campbell.

“We have a lot of leaders on the team; if I could give a captain’s ‘C’ to the whole team, I would.”

Campbell is hoping that leadership will translate into a quick start. “The divisions have been changed and the schedule is full of opportunities for wins in league and non-league games,” said Campbell.

“I am hoping we can build a lot of momentum in the beginning so we don’t have to worry about every single game around cutoff time. The key is to play 45 minutes a game. We can’t wait until midway through the second period to get it going.”

The Little Tigers can build some early momentum if they can overcome the challenge posed in the season opener by WW/P-S.

“We tied them last year,” noted Campbell. “It is a rivalry game; our guys are excited about it.”

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