Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 10
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEADING EDGE: Princeton High boys’ hockey standout Dean DiTosto skates up the ice in a game earlier this season. The leadership of senior co-captains DiTosto and Fraser Graham helped the Little Tigers finish the winter with an 18-5 record and the Mercer County Tournament title. The superb season represented a major reversal of fortune for a PHS squad that went 4-17 in DiTosto’s freshman year.

PHS Boys’ Hockey Falls in State Tourney; But Senior Stars Leave Legacy of Winning

Bill Alden

Playing in its first state tournament since the 2006-7 season, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team showed a flair for drama.

Trailing 11th-seeded Bernards 3-0 in the Public B tournament opener on February 28, No. 6 PHS rallied to a 4-3 win in overtime.

Three days later, the Little Tigers looked to produce another rally as they found themselves trailing No. 11 Middletown South 3-1 early in the third period.

PHS scored a goal down the stretch but it wasn’t enough as Middletown South pulled away to a 5-2 victory.

In assessing the season-ending defeat that left the Little Tigers with a final record of 18-5, PHS head coach Tim Campbell acknowledged that his club ran into a buzzsaw.

“They are the fastest and most physical team we have played in four years; they came out banging,” said Campbell, who got goals from Kirby Peck and Peter Twining in the loss.

“It took us a while to adjust; we spread things out and played some disciplined hockey. We were a little overwhelmed by them at first but we put up a good fight. Against a team like that, if you have a breakdown, they are going to score a goal.”

For Campbell, it was a tough break to say goodbye to his stalwart group of seniors, which includes Fraser Graham, Dean DiTosto, Griffin Peck, Peter Twining, Michael Irving, and Owen Diver.

“You never like to lose but the toughest thing was saying goodbye to this group and knowing it was their final chapter,” said Campbell.

“There is no way of explaining what they have meant. You have to live through it; we have developed unbelievable bonds. They are like sons.”

That group has gone through a lot, going from Colonial Valley Conference doormats as freshmen to the Mercer County Tournament championship game last winter and then taking the county title this year.

“When we were 4-17, I knew we could do this,” said Campbell. “I knew it was in the cards that we could be this good. They just needed to be confident; it was great to see it happen.”

Campbell credits co-captains Graham and DiTosto with helping the team develop confidence.

“They are obviously very talented; they have brought us on-ice success, scoring goals in Fraser’s case and stopping goals in Dean’s case,” said Campbell of skilled forward Graham and rugged defenseman DiTosto.

“But as Kirby Peck said after the game, they showed us what it meant to be a champion. They set the example. I can write down plays on the board until I am blue in the face but you need someone to go out and do it.”

The tone set by Graham and DiTosto helped fuel the team’s superb play in county competition the last two winters.

“It is always special to win the county but to go to a title game two years in a row is a great achievement,” asserted Campbell.

“Some coaches never get to a final once. It is so difficult to get back to a title game two years in a row; it shows tenacity and mental discipline. We went through six tough teams in those tournaments.”

In Campbell’s view, the success this year should lead to more championship runs in the future.

“We ended last year on a high note and we carried that over into this year,” said Campbell, who will be welcoming back key players such as goalie Josh Berger, Will Greenberg, Kirby Peck, Matt DiTosto, Mike Wasson, and Patrick McCormick.

“I can’t wait until next year. We had some talented freshmen this year and we have some more coming in next year. When you eat, breathe, and sleep hockey; next year started the day after the last game.”

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