John Egner understands that he is not one of the headliners on a talented Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team.
“I am not the biggest guy out there so my role is to use my speed to my advantage and really work the corners with tight turns and really be quick,” said junior forward Egner. “That is something I try to work on; I just try to play my game.”
Last Friday as the Panthers found themselves locked in a 1-1 tie with Rye Country Day (N.Y.) in the opening round of the Harry Rulon-Mller ’51 Invitational at PDS, Egner’s hustle paid dividends as he notched the tie-breaking goal early in the second period.
“Cody [Triolo] made a great play in the neutral zone; he made a nice move on the defender which caused a 4-on 1 with team trailing in,” said Egner, recalling his goal which helped spark PDS to a 3-1 victory
“Cody crashed the net and took out the defender. Lewie [Blackburn] came in and crashed the net and the puck popped right out to me. It was an easy one. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had the rest of the line out there with me.”
A day later, Egner found the back of the net again as PDS topped Shady Side Academy (Pa.) 6-2 to win its 12th title at the invitational which was renamed this year in honor of Rulon-Miller, the tournament director and a former player and coach at the school and its longtime Ice Hockey Coordinator.
“It is really important,” asserted Egner, reflecting on the meaning of the tournament to the PDS players. “It is at our home rink and we want to win this one for Harry; he has been here through the years.”
Egner likes the way linemates Triolo and Blackburn have been there for him this season as the Panthers have gotten off to a 5-0 start.
“We have definitely been coming together in practices and the games we have had so far,” said Egner.
“We are working well in the corners and cycling well, which is good. We aren’t the big goal scorers on the team but we definitely work in the corners and when you do that you make chances. It is nice when that happens.”
For PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, it was nice to see the trio of Egner, Triolo, and Blackburn generate the key goal.
“That line has been our best line to date for what I am asking them to do; they go out and cycle and they create offense,” said Bertoli.
“Those guys aren’t goal scorers. Blackburn can find the back of the net if he finds opportunities. Cody and Johnny are relentless on the puck. They are fast, they protect the puck. They are very effective. They go out on a power play, they control, they create offense. So to see that line get rewarded it is very fitting.”
Bertoli was happy to see Conrad Denise get rewarded with two goals in the win over Rye.
“Conrad played a good game; I would argue that he is another kid who is not a natural goal scorer,” said Bertoli.
“He is not like the Coltons [Ross and Rob]; he is not like [Sean] Timmons. He doesn’t get pucks on his stick and find the back of the net. There is definitely some indecision going on when he shoots pucks. He doesn’t have the confidence that those guys do. So for him to get two goals tonight is great.”
The Panthers kept up their great play in the championship game against Shady Side as they jumped out to a 5-1 lead and cruised to victory.
“When our team is skating and competing, we just sustain so much pressure in the offensive zone that we really give them no time to breathe and decompress,” said Bertoli, who got two goals from Ross Colton in that win with Rob Colton, Kyle Weller, and Connor Bitterman also finding the back of the net in addition to Egner. “We just kept coming and coming.”
PDS came into the weekend with some extra motivation, looking to come through for Rulon-Miller as it sought to win its second straight title at the annual invitational which is in its 43rd year.
“It is a proud program; we have done well the last few years,” said Bertoli, whose team will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Bishop Eustace on December 13 before heading to Massachusetts this weekend for the Barber Tournament at the Middlesex School.
“I think it is important to the guys in this locker room. It is important to me and my coaching staff that we represent the school and represent Harry now that the tournament is named after him the right way. I never saw Harry play but I know the type of gentleman he is and I know what PDS hockey means to him. It is important to me that these kids come out and played and battled, not only for themselves but for their teammates and for the coaching staff, the school, and Harry. That means a lot to us, it means a lot to Harry.”
In Egner’s view, PDS has what it takes to win some more crowns this winter. “I definitely think this team can do special things,” said Egner.
“We have got a great group of guys; we are all best friends. Everyone works hard together at practices. We stay focused. We always have a good time. I think if we continue to do what coach is telling us to do and we continue to work hard every game, we can really go places with this team.”