Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 50
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
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REPEAT OFFENDERS: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey head coach Scott Bertoli, far left, and assistant coach Howie Powers, right, celebrate with their players after the Panthers won its PDS Invitational Tournament. PDS blanked LaSalle 2-0 in the championship game last Sunday. It was the second straight year that PDS has won the tournament.

Darrar’s Heroics Change the Momentum as PDS Boys’ Hockey Wins Invitational

Bill Alden

It was midway through the second period last Sunday and the tide seemed to be turning against the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team as it faced LaSalle in the finals of the PDS Invitational.

With the game knotted in a scoreless tie, LaSalle seemed to be getting the upper hand as it went on a power play.

But PDS star forward Mike Darrar changed the momentum of the contest with one moment of brilliance.

Seeing the puck loose, Darrar swooped in and took possession, racing in on the LaSalle goalie and scoring on a point-blank shot to give PDS the lead.

Darrar assisted on a John Inman goal late in the third period to put the finishing touch on a 2-0 win as PDS won its invitational for the second straight season.

In reflecting on his goal, Darrar said he outsmarted the LaSalle goalie. “When I was going down the side, I just looked up and saw Johnny going down the other side,” recalled Darrar.

“I kept my head up and my feet moving. I knew the goalie was thinking that I was going to pass so I kept it on my forehand and shot it.”

While the PDS offense sputtered at times, the Panthers played superb defense throughout the contest.

“We played very strong in the defensive zone; that helped a lot,” said Darrar. “We had a great team plan for today.”

With the team having won three straight games after a 0-1-1 start, Darrar believes the team is coming together.

“We’re definitely starting to find some bonding on the team,” asserted Darrar. “We have fun out there, we are a pretty together team.”

Darrar has been having a lot of fun since he was teamed with Inman and senior star Clint O’Brien on the team’s top offensive line.

“They put the three top guys together,” said Darrar. “We’ve gotten a lot of goals so far; we have stepped it up a lot.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli certainly liked the way Darrar stepped it up last Sunday.

“Mike played well,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts formidable Bishop Eustace on December 12.

“His goal changed the momentum; it was very uplifting. That second goal which seals the game is him. He’s tired, it’s at the end of the game and he chases the kid down the ice and turns the puck over. It gets on Inman’s stick with a wide open net.”

Bertoli makes no bones about how much he is depending on the Darrar, Inman, and O’Brien line to provide offense.

“I put a lot of pressure on my top three guys to score and they have,” said Bertoli. “When they are out there and they are fresh, they can dominate.”

As important as the top line is to PDS, it is the defensive work of the other lines that may determine how well the team is going to do this season.

“We are going to have a lot of games like this, 1-0, 2-1,” said Bertoli.

“The focus of our practice is the second and third lines. They know they are going to score a lot of goals; they are getting pucks deep and playing a good, sound defensive game. I thought today was probably one of the better defensive efforts I have seen in my two years here.”

PDS has been getting stellar goaltending efforts from juniors Nick Jabs and Kenny Turner. On Saturday, Jabs played well in helping PDS to an 8-3 win over Landon in the tournament’s opening round. In the title game, Turner made 17 saves in earning the shutout.

“Both goalies have played great,” said Bertoli. “Kenny made some big saves when he needed to. For the most part, our guys played well in front of him and didn’t give up too many opportunities.”

The Panthers seem to have found the formula for success and Bertoli is hoping his team will not deviate from the plan.

“It’s all going to depend on whether we are willing to stick with what works,” said Bertoli.

“Tonight, we played good, solid defensive hockey and we relied on those three guys to score. If we get away from that and think we are better than we are, we’ll be right back where we started.”

Winning the invitational should help the PDS players stay on the same page.

“To win your invitational two years in a row is big, beating two pretty good teams, especially the one on Sunday, is a huge lift,” said Bertoli. “It’s a big confidence builder, especially for a young team.”

Darrar, for his part, said the panthers take a lot of pride in again winning the tournament.

“It’s an exciting tournament,” said Darrar. “It’s our home rink and we can see our names on the plaque. It means we are pretty good; it’s a good achievement.”

And it might portend more good achievements to come this winter.

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