Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 8
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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BORDER WAR: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey senior captain Brooks Herr, left, sends the puck up the ice in recent action. Last Monday, defenseman Herr chipped in an assist as third-seeded PDS topped No. 9 Princeton High 3-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game.

Senior Captain Herr Ends Career on High Note, Helping PDS Boys’ Hockey to 1st MCT Crown

Bill Alden

Princeton Day school boys’ hockey senior captain Brooks Herr was restless Sunday evening on the eve of the Mercer County Tournament championship game.

With PDS having fallen in the MCT title game the last two years, Herr was hoping history wouldn’t repeat itself when the third-seeded Panthers faced ninth-seeded Princeton High in this year’s championship game.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” recalled star defenseman Herr. “I was so anxious.”

Herr turned his nerves into plenty of energy once he hit the ice at Mercer County Park, helping to spearhead a stifling defensive effort as PDS blanked PHS 3-0.

Afterward, Herr looked like New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton after the Super Bowl, refusing to let the MCT championship trophy out of his grasp during the post-game celebration.

“This is a great way to go out as a senior; it is a great way to end a season,” asserted a grinning Herr.

“We hadn’t won it. We had been there three times and it was really good to finally get a ‘W’ and skate off with a nice big trophy.”

The burly Herr was proud of the team’s defensive effort which saw the Panthers kill off a number of penalties, particularly in the second period when it was a one-goal game.

“We said before the game, we have got to play defense,” said Herr, who also picked up an assist on the evening.

“We have got to limit their options and even with 12 or 15 minutes of penalties, we still managed to minimize their chances and opportunities. We didn’t let down in the third period.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli was proud of the way his team didn’t let up as it won the program’s first-ever MCT title.

“Our kids played well defensively,” said Bertoli, whose team ended the season with a 10-13-2 record.

“At the end of the day, man for man, we are deeper and more talented. It’s going to show itself if our kids play hard. The thing you need to do is to take away odd man situations and power plays. We took away the odd man situations but we didn’t take away the power plays. Fortunately, we were able to kill penalties and keep ourselves out of trouble.”

While PDS may have had the edge in talent, Bertoli was relieved that his team broke through after falling to Notre Dame and Hopewell Valley in the last two MCT title games.

“This is a wonderful way to finish our season off,” said Bertoli, whose team outshot PHS 39-19 on the evening with Taran Auslander, Alex Nespor and Peter Blackburn scoring the PDS goals.

“We played two very good teams in Hopewell and Notre Dame last year and we weren’t fortunate enough to win. Tonight, we played a Princeton High team that was hot and riding a lot of momentum and we knew it was going to be a challenge.”

In Betroli’s view, overcoming that challenge could lay the foundation for some good things ahead for PDS whose lineup includes such young stars as freshman Nespor, the tournament MVP, along with freshmen Auslander, Conrad Denise, Cody Triolo and Bump Lisk, and juniors Blackburn and Skye Samse.

“The MCT is something they asked me to do three years ago; the school hadn’t done it in a long time,” said Bertoli.

“I told them if this is something you want to do and you aspire to be MCT champs, I’ll support it. We still haven’t won that Prep championship; that is the ultimate goal. I think we are building toward that direction now. We have a good group of young kids. If we can find the right combination of leadership, talent, and experience, I look for bright things next year.”

Bertoli was happy to see his group of seniors finally experience a championship.

“I have been with Brooks and Theo [Casey] for four years; Ed [Riley] and Cameron [Billingsby] came on in their sophomore year,” said Bertoli.

“It was nice; they have played in a couple prep championships and we didn’t fare so well. We lost twice where we headed into the third period, either tied or ahead. It’s a good group of kids; they worked hard and they earned it. We struggled a lot this year; there were a lot of tough moments.”

Herr, for his part, won’t forget the final moment of his high school career. “It is great to go off as a champion; everybody played their role,” said Herr.

“The scorers scored and the role players played defense. It is a storybook ending.”

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