Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 53
 
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
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EVEN KEEL: Princeton High girls’ ice hockey player Keely Herring looks to make a play in recent action. Freshman Herring has given the Little Tigers a big lift, producing at both forward and on defense. PHS, which headed into the holiday break with a 4-2 record, is next in action when it plays at Lawrenceville School on January 7.

Featuring Scoring Balance and Character, PHS Girls’ Hockey Primed for Big January

Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High girls’ hockey team wasn’t at its sharpest in beating Upland Country Day 7-4 before the holiday break, it did display two qualities that should hold it in good stead the rest of the season.

The Little Tigers showed offensive balance, getting goals from five different players as Keely Herring and Stephanie Miezin scored two each with Elizabeth O’Grady, Katie Carreno, and Maddy Sturm adding one apiece.

But in the view of PHS head coach Jeff Schneider, the team’s performance against Upland exemplified something more important than the ability to put the puck in the net.

“What I saw in the win over Upland was character,” said Schneider, whose team took an early 3-1 lead only to see Upland knot the game at 3-3 in the second period.

“They kept fighting back and we didn’t give up. Everyone was very supportive of one another. After they tied it up, we picked away at them the rest of the game.”

Schneider likes the way his team has picked things up in the early going as PHS has started 4-2.

“I was hoping that we would go into the break at .500 or better,” said Schneider.

“We lost a lot of firepower from last season. Coming into a season, you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know how good the new players are or how the other teams have changed.”

PHS offense has changed for the better with the addition of freshmen Herring and Abby Hunter and the continued improvement of some key veterans.

“We have five players with three goals or more in Stephanie Miezin, Keely Herring, Gabby Vukasin, Maddy Sturm, and Abby Hunter,” said Schneider. “Olivia Ray has seven assists. This team has more balance across two lines.”

The move of Sturm to defense from center has helped shore up PHS’ blue line unit. “Maddy has made the shift back to defense very well,” said Schneider.

“She’s like Brian Leetch [former New York Rangers great]; playing back there gives her a view of the whole ice and she is better able to make a play.”

Schneider has also been getting some good play on defense from senior captain Elizabeth O’Grady and rapidly improving sophomore Neta Nekash.

“Elizabeth O’Grady was the only returner on defense with a lot of experience,” added Schneider.

“Neta Nekash started to come on and she has continued to play well. She is +3 so far this season. Neta’s role is to keep the puck in the offensive zone and get the puck out of the defensive zone.”

The gifted freshman Herring has given Schneider additional flexibility in deploying his players.

“Keely is a swing player for us,” explained Schneider. “When we play her at forward, she puts the puck into the net. When you put her on defense, she can use her good wheels. We put her where we need her.”

The Little Tigers have gotten the leadership they need from their quartet of captains which includes O’Grady, Sturm, Carreno, and Haley Andres.

“The captains are doing a real good job; we are seeing the leadership come to the fore,” asserted Schneider.

“They keep the players upbeat and focusing on playing as a team. Maddy and Katie are always asking questions; they are not resting on their laurels. The other girls see that and it influences them.”

PHS’s work ethic will get tested when the team returns from break as it will be playing at Lawrenceville on January 7, hosting Summit on January 8, and then playing at Morristown-Beard on January 14.

“We have a tough month; we have a lot of games,” said Schneider. “There is no time to get our legs. The key is to see the girls improve individually and improve as a team. We were building toward improvement before the break.”

In Schneider’s view, the last weekend of January could be critical for his team as it looks to finish in the top four of the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) and earn a spot in the championship bracket of the league playoffs.

“We have Shady Side (Pa.) and Holton Arms (Md.) in on Super Bowl weekend,” said Schneider. “Those games could define what our place will be in the WIHLMA. We are looking to be in the top four.”

If the Little Tigers can continue to show balance and character, they should find themselves in a good place as the season unfolds.

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