High-Scoring PHS Boys' Ice Hockey Aims to Turn up Defensive Effort
By Bill Alden
While the Princeton High boys' ice hockey team sparkled in the first month of the season, head coach Paul Merrow knows the tough part of the season is on the horizon.
"I'm very happy [with our record] but I told them December is over with, it's in the books, " said Merrow after the Little Tigers dismantled Hamilton 11-1 last Monday at Mercer County Park to improve to 6-2-1 overall and 6-1 in Colonial Valley Conference play.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're 1-0 right now. We have to take it month by month. We had a good December but we can't play it over. We're going to have a tough January, playing teams like Notre Dame, Hopewell Valley, and Ewing."
The Little Tigers took a while to get started in their win over Hamilton on Monday but they did find a rhythm late in the game. "I saw a lot of rust out there," said Merrow with a knowing grin.
"A lot of our guys hadn't played since our last game which was December 20. It was very sloppy the first two periods but I think the rust was knocked off a bit in the third period."
The Little Tigers' first line of senior Matt Leuck and freshmen John Ryan and Peter Teifer showed little rust as it put together another productive performance in the win over the Hornets. Teifer scored three goals while Leuck chipped in two scores and Ryan had a goal and two assists.
Other standouts for PHS in the win over the Hornets included Peter Miller and Nick Brener with two goals apiece and Sam Finnell who had a goal and an assist. Freshman goaltender Jason Barber recorded nine saves in holding the Hornets to their one goal.
"The first line has been a bright spot," said Merrow. "Matt, J.R., and Peter Teifer work real well together. Defensively we're still working with them. They're a very offensive-minded line."
In Merrow's view, the team needs to collectively concentrate on defense if it is to put together a solid January.
"As a team, I'm not worried about scoring goals, we're going to get five or six goals a game," maintained Merrow, whose club faces Fairlawn on January 7 at Baker Rink and then plays Ewing on January 12 at Ice Land.
"What I noticed in the game tapes I've gone over is that we've given up a lot of odd-man rushes. They've killed us. So at our practices this week it's going to be all working on defensive zone coverage and forechecking."
If the Little Tigers can shore up their defense, they figure to put a lot of wins in the books this winter.