Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jack Andres got a jolt recently at lunch and it had nothing to do with what he was eating.
“It was a big surprise when coach [Tim Campbell] came up to me at lunch one day at school to tell me that I was going to be a captain,” recalled sophomore forward Andres. “I was surprised but excited at the same time.”
Last week, as PHS hosted Ocean Township at Baker Rink, Andres exerted the leadership that prompted Campbell to make him captain. With PHS trailing 4-0 after two periods of the December 21 contest, Andres scored two goals over the last 15 minutes of the game as the Little Tigers fell 5-2.
“Coach was saying after the second period that we have to play with pride,” said Andres.
“He said that it is possible that we can come back and win the game. We have seen teams come back and get that many goals and we can do it too. I feel like everybody stepped up in the third and we came out and won that period.”
For Andres, coming through in the third period was a matter of him assuming leadership responsibility.
“I was trying to help the team out as much as I can,” said Andres. “I got the captain role a couple of games back and I was trying to fulfill that role and make coach proud and stick up for all my teammates and just play for the team.”
With one high school season under his belt, Andres feels he can do more for the team.
“This year, I have gotten more opportunities to be a better player and to go out and show what I can do,” said Andres.
“I feel like the team needs someone to step up and I went into that role quite nicely.”
PHS head coach Campbell likes the way that Andres has seized opportunity.
“I am very happy with Jack’s physical play,” said Campbell.
“He is a big, strong kid. It is not like he didn’t have physical ability last year but a lot of it this year is confidence. If you have the least bit of talent as a freshman, I am going to put pressure on you. Some people can handle it and some people can’t. He is definitely handling it as a sophomore and I am very pleased with how he is playing.”
Campbell was pleased with how his team didn’t fold against Ocean after digging a 4-0 hole.
“We finished strong, we won the third period,” asserted Campbell, whose team moved to 3-4-1 with the loss and wrapped up a tough 0-2-1 week in its final action before the holiday break.
“We had a lot of ground to make up but everybody in this room has been in games where five goals were scored in the third period. It happened to us against Robbinsville on Monday night and we have done it before. Maybe we weren’t going to be able to do it but at least play for pride and play the way we know we can regardless of the scoreboard, and we did. The goal was to win the third period, and we did. We just came up short on the scoreboard.”
While Campbell had no qualms with his team’s effort, he is looking for his players to produce some sharper hockey.
“All week it has been a mantra trying to play as much as we can all three periods with the short bench,” said Campbell, noting that his team has been without the services of senior star Matt DiTosto due to a hand injury and was also missing Spencer Reynolds for the Ocean game.
“I told them that I am not at all disappointed with the physical effort. They are doing the best they can with the situation we have in terms of personnel. We just need to play smarter hockey. We were out of position all night long in the first two periods.”
In Campbell’s view, his team is still in position to make a good run this season despite its rocky start.
“We are definitely a postseason team, a January/February team,” said Campbell, whose team faces Steinert on December 31 at Mercer County Park.
“Hopefully we will be back at full strength pretty quickly here and be back in the hunt.”
Andres, for his part, believes that PHS can make a strong showing this winter.
“I feel like we just need to work on being aggressive and just keep working and keep at it and never give up,” said Andres. “It is going to be a long season and we are ready for it.”