Vol. LXII, No. 10
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
DOWN AND OUT: Princeton Day School boys hockey senior star Clint OBrien, right, and assistant coach Howie Powers, middle, show their disappointment after PDS fell 4-2 to Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game last Friday. OBrien scored one of the PDS goals in the game as he made the final appearance of his Panther hockey career. PDS finished the season with a 13-7-3 record.
There were 15 minutes left in Clint OBriens hockey career and the Princeton Day School senior forward was poised to end things with a bang.
With seventh-seeded PDS leading No. 4 Hopewell Valley 2-1 after two periods last Friday in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game, OBrien liked where the Panthers stood.
We were confident that we were the better team, said OBrien. We thought we would come out with a win.
But showing the effects of playing without key forwards Mike Darrar and Max Popkin and competing in its third game in five days, PDS wilted down the stretch.
HoVal scored with 9:47 left in regulation to knot the game at 2-2 and then added another tally three minutes to take the lead. The Bulldogs scored an empty net goal with 1:04 to seal the deal as they skated to a 4-2 win and the MCT title.
Afterward, OBrien admitted that PDS was surprised by how things went in the third period.
Its not what we expected, said OBrien. Give HoVal credit; they deserved it. We kind of fell apart.
Early in the evening, it looked like PDS had what it took to deserve the title. After giving up a goal 1:18 into the game, the first score against the Panthers in the MCT, OBrien answered back with a blast to the upper corner of the net to knot the game at 1-1.
In the second period, PDS took the lead on a Spenser Gabin tally and looked to goalie Nick Jabs to keep up the magic that had seen him surrender only one goal in 11 periods of the MCT.
We had a good first period, recalled OBrien. They scored a quick goal and we didnt think anything of it. We took the lead.
But the Panthers lack of manpower took its toll down the stretch. We had been playing shorthanded the whole tournament, we lost arguably our best offensive player in Mike, said OBrien.
All year we have been playing two lines so we have been used to playing shorthanded. But the last three games have been particularly shorthanded.
While the final result was painful, OBrien thought PDS showed character in making it as far they did.
We came through a lot of adversity, I was definitely proud of the team the whole week, said OBrien. Its not what we wanted but we had a good run.
PDS head coach Scott Bertoli pointed to HoVals third goal as the moment that essentially ended the Panthers MCT run.
The game turned around on that shot, said Bertoli, whose team finished the season with a 13-7-3 record.
Its a long shot that I bet Nick wants back. I think it probably got redirected. We never really recovered from that.
Bertoli noted that fatigue was clearly an issue in that third period. There was no doubt that we were tired, said Bertoli. Its been a long week and we werent able to muster up much at the end there.
The second-year coach liked the energy PDS showed out of the gate. I thought we carried the play for the most part in the first period, said Bertoli.
That was a good shot by OBrien. Spencers goal was a nice play. At this level, there are turnovers all over the ice. Its whether you capitalize on them and we did on that goal.
Bertoli tipped his hat to HoVal for capitalizing on its chances in taking the crown.
I was impressed with them, they can make plays, said Bertoli of the Bulldogs, who were guided by former Princeton High coach Paul Merrow.
Its the first team we played in the tournament that had a couple of kids who could make plays. They can create and score off the rush.
For PDS, playing in the MCT after a hiatus of several years was a positive experience.
It was fun; I was happy with the way we played, asserted Bertoli, whose team blanked Pennington (3-0), Notre Dame (2-0), and Hun (1-0) on the way to the MCT title game.
Being shorthanded, I knew that scoring goals was going to be an issue. We didnt get the shutout tonight. It was close and it came down to the end. We have no regrets about entering the tournament. We expected to win; obviously you should expect to win every time you suit up.
In Bertolis view, PDS exceeded expectations this winter. We didnt have high expectations coming into the year, said Bertoli.
We lost nine kids from last year. We had seven seniors but only three had varsity hockey experience. We put a lot of pressure on OBrien, [John] Inman, and Darrar, when he was healthy, to score. For the most part, those guys did a good job. When they were healthy, they dominated.
OBrien, for his part, thought the team did a good job all season. It was a good season, asserted OBrien, who plans to play football and baseball in college.
If you look at our roster from last year, we lost four of our five leading scorers. We had no idea what to expect this year. We made it to the Prep finals and the county finals. We won our PDS Invitational. To put it in perspective, it was a better year than we could have hoped for.
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