Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 5
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
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SKY TRAVEL: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey star Skye Samse prepares to fire the puck up the ice in recent action. Senior co-captain Samse, who was moved to defense this season from forward, helped PDS stifle Princeton High last Friday as the Panthers posted a 5-1 win over their crosstown rivals. PDS, now 10-7-1, hosts Westfield High on February 3 and Pennington on February 4 in addition to starting play in the state Prep tournament.

Samse Finds Home in Move to Defense; Helping PDS Boys’ Hockey Top PHS 5-1

Bill Alden

As a captain for the Princeton Day School boys’ ice hockey team, Skye Samse is focused on doing what is best for the squad as a whole.

This season, Samse has made a big personal sacrifice for the good of the team.

“I was in the weight room in the summer and Bert [PDS head coach Scott Bertoli] goes you better start learning to skate backwards this summer because you are playing defense this year,” recalled Samse, a bruising force at forward in his first three seasons for the Panthers.

Despite feeling out of place at first, Samse has found a home on the blue line.

“It has been different; Bert still yells at me to get back and stop going on the rush,” said Samse with a grin.

“I actually like it more. You get to control the game more than you do at forward and you get to hit people.”

Last Friday, Samse exerted control on the ice, chipping in an assist and providing some rugged checking to help PDS top crosstown Princeton High 5-1.

After having been part of a PDS boys’ soccer team that edged PHS in the Mercer County Tournament championship game this past November, Samse was fired up to face the Little Tigers on the ice.

“For the last week, we have been announcing that this game was coming up,” said Samse, referring to the contest that was a rematch of the 2010 MCT hockey title game won by the Panthers.

“We have this fan group at the school called ‘The Zoo’ and they spread the word and we packed our stands. It is always fun to play against your rivals, they are the guys you love to hate.”

With McGraw Rink buzzing from a standing room-only crowd including raucous fan sections from both schools, the Panthers may have played with a little too much emotion in the early stages of the competition.

The game featured plenty of end-to-end action but both teams misfired in the excitement. PDS did take a 1-0 lead on an Alex Nespor goal with 11:43 left in the period.

“We came out a little flat in the first period,” said Samse. “After the first, we realized that we had to control the puck and stop making turnovers.”

Samse’s assist helped turn the tide of the contest as it came with 8.6 seconds left in the second period, resulting in a Garrett Jensen goal that gave PDS a 4-1 lead and answered a power play tally by PHS.

“It was awesome; we were looking to go into intermission with what we had,” said Samse.

“It was a good pass by my defense partner Bump Lisk and then Garret made an awesome tip on my pass. You get a play like that very few times where everything clicks, two passes and a perfect shot.”

In Samse’s view, things are clicking for the Panthers collectively as they have won three games in a row to improve to 10-7-1.

“After the LaSalle game, we realized that we can play with the top teams in the tri-state area,” said Samse, noting that the Panthers battled valiantly in a 4-1 loss to LaSalle.

“That gave us a boost. We realized coming in tonight that we only have four games left in the regular season so we have to make all of them count.”

PDS head coach Bertoli concurs with Samse’s assessment. “It has been a pretty good week going back to Friday; we have played some good hockey and I am proud of that,” said Bertoli.

“Coming off the loss to Academy of New Church we played at LaSalle which is one of the top two or three teams in the tri-state area. We got outplayed considerably in the first two or three periods and then we really hung in there in the third. We took it to them and built a lot of momentum off of that.”

Bertoli acknowledged that it took a while for his team to seize the momentum against PHS.

“It was 1-0 and by no means did we outplay them,” said Bertoli. “We are able to roll three lines; we have a little more depth than they do and you could see that some of their guys were getting tired.”

After PHS fought through its fatigue to narrow the gap to 3-1 with 2:55 left in the second period, PDS came up big with the goal in the waning seconds of the period.

“It was huge for us to score that goal at the end of the second period,” asserted Bertoli.

“The momentum had swung and I am sure they were feeling good about the game at that point. That is a pretty deflating goal to score when they had carried the play for probably four or five minutes.”

While Bertoli was happy about the victory, he knows his team has work to do.

“We won the game and I am happy about that, a win is a win especially against a good team that has been having a lot of success this year,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Westfield High on February 3 and Pennington on February 4 in addition to starting play in the state Prep tournament.

“But they outworked us tonight and that is disappointing. To get outworked at home is a little troublesome.”

Samse, for his part, is ready to lead the way when it comes to working every minute.

“I have been playing on this team for four years and I am definitely going to miss it,” added Samse.

“The way I look at it as a captain, I am going to try to make every single shift and every single game count because I only have a few more left.”

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