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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

MEG'S LAW: Princeton Day School junior forward Meg Kerwin advances the puck in early season action. Kerwin and Heidi Morse have scored a team-high 12 points for the 4-3 Panthers, who host Pingry on January 7.
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PDS Girls' Hockey Shows Balance As it Looks Forward to 2004 Play

By Bill Alden

After dropping its first two games at the Canterbury Tournament in Connecticut two weekends ago, the Princeton Day School girls' hockey team could've gone through the motions in its consolation game against Simsbury.

Instead, the Panthers produced an inspired effort, scoring early and often as they buried Simsbury 10-3 to improve to 4-3 on the season.

First-year head coach John Cook believed that the win in the finale gave the team a lift that should spark the team when it resumes play after the holiday break. "They played very hard in those first two games, they generated a lot of scoring opportunities but just couldn't get it in the net," said Cook, whose club had fallen 6-2 to Hill and 4-1 to Kingswood earlier in the tournament.

"The puck bounced our way against Simsbury and you could see the girls' confidence growing. They got a couple of goals and they were all over them."

In addition to getting a jolt of confidence, Cook sees the trip as a bonding experience that boosted team camaraderie. "It was excellent fun," said Cook. "It's a nice group, a very cohesive unit. It builds team character to go into another team's building like that."

The team's unity is reflected in its balanced attack as five players have between eight and 12 points so far this season. Senior defender Heidi Morse and junior forward Meg Kerwin top the Panthers scoring sheet with 12 points apiece.

Senior forwards Carly Berger and Betsy Welsh have chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively, while senior defender Hilary Cook has added eight.

In Cook's view, Morse has been the team's most lethal two-way player in the early going. "Heidi has 12 points in seven games as a defenseman, she really carries the puck up the ice," explained Cook. "She's so strong on defense. She will take the other team¹s best scorer and shut her down."

Cook is happy with how his forwards have been playing lately. "I'd say in the last few games, they have been really moving the puck to each other really well," said Cook, referring to the one-two punch of Kerwin and Berger. "Betsy has been getting on the score sheet as well."

Defender Cook, the coach's daughter, has also been making a key contribution. "Hilary's skating has been good," added Cook, who also praised the efforts of goalie Kristina Costa, forwards Jessie Cellars, Laurie Cartwright, Kristen Modzelewski, and freshman defender Katie Briody. 'She has been really good for us on the power play."

As Cook looks ahead to the rest of the season which resumes when PDS hosts Pingry on January 7, he will be focusing on the basics. "We're not finishing as well as we should," said Cook, a star hockey player for Princeton University in the 1960s who is the program's all-time goal scoring leader with 67. "We've left people open in front of the net."

The rookie coach is enjoying the process of helping his players reach their potential. "I love it," he asserted as he reflected on his first seven games at the helm.

"It is a challenge. People don't always get things the first time so you have to be patient. The girls are working so hard in practice. They skate so hard in our stop and start drills that their tongues are hanging out. We need to knock off some of the stronger teams."

With the team's combination of work ethic and balanced attack, the Panthers should bring in 2004 with some big wins.

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