Tim Campbell certainly liked seeing his Princeton High boys’ hockey team open the 2012-13 season with victories over Hightstown and Hamilton.
“Starting with two wins is always key,” said PHS head coach Campbell, whose team topped the Rams 9-5 on November 30 before beating the Hornets 7-1 last Wednesday.
“Everyone is apprehensive because they don’t know what to expect. We all have scrimmages but when it counts, you can get the butterflies out.”
But it was PHS’s resolve in a 6-0 loss to Notre Dame last Thursday that really impressed Campbell.
With the Little Tigers missing senior Matt DiTosto, who is sidelined and likely out for 5-6 weeks with a hand injury, PHS was undermanned in the battle between rivals who met last winter in the Mercer County Tournament title game.
“We talked in the locker room before the game about facing adversity and that when you have gaps in your lineup, you have to make that up with discipline and smart hockey,” said Campbell.
“I thought pound for pound, we skated with them. We peppered their goalie in the first period and he came up huge. We skated seven guys for 45 minutes; there is no way to expect them to keep up the whole way with a team like Notre Dame that is using 20 guys. I was happier with the way we played in the loss than I was in the win over Hamilton. We played hard and showed tenacity.”
Campbell is looking to see his team continue that tenacious play as it wraps up the 2012 portion of its schedule.
“We have a few big games before the break, our mindset is to be as successful as we can,” said Campbell, whose team plays Robbinsville on December 13 at Mercer County Park, hosts Scotch Plains on December 14 at Baker Rink, and then faces WW/P-N on December 17 at Mercer County Park. “The things we set as goals have little to do with wins or losses.”
Junior goalie Robert Quinn has shown the right mindset as he follows four-year starter Josh Berger.
“Robert is playing well; he is a second-year hockey player between the pipes going against some good varsity players,” said Campbell. “He has played well; he has kept us in games.”
The trio of sophomore Jack Andres, junior Pat McCormick, and junior Harrison Naylor have also been playing well for PHS.
“Jack Andres has come up big; you look at him and you forget that he is a sophomore,” said Campbell of Andres, who had a hat trick in the win over Hamilton.
“He is 6’3, and 200-pounds. He is smart and he loves the game. He will do anything I tell him; he is coachable. Pat McCormick is playing 42-45 minutes a game. He is so good and so smart with the puck. Harrison Naylor has also been very good.”
Campbell sees some good things on the horizon for the Little Tigers. “We have had a number of players step into high pressure situations,” said Campbell.
“The guys know what it’s like to go deep into the playoffs and they want to be part of that. We are getting good junior leadership. They won the MCT as freshmen and they think that is what high school hockey is about.”