It was a victory that exemplified a special January for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.
Trailing a bruising Cranford squad 3-2 heading into the third period at Warinanco Park, PHS rallied for a 4-3 victory to give it five straight wins in 2013.
While PHS head coach Tim Campbell was thrilled with the win, he realized that his club expended a lot of physical and mental energy in the process.
“When you play a team that big and fast and beat them, you use adrenaline,” said Campbell, reflecting on a win which saw senior star Matt DiTosto score the winning goal and chip in two assists with junior Spencer Reynolds scoring two goals. “Once you come off that high, it is tough.”
Last Wednesday against rival WW/P-S at Mercer County Park, the Little Tigers seemed to be riding that high in the early going. Outshooting the Pirates by a wide margin, PHS jumped out to a 2-0 lead 25 minutes into the contest.
But running out of gas, the Little Tigers faltered down the stretch. WW/P-S scored late in the second period and then scored off the opening face-off in the third period to knot the game at 2-2. PHS generated some good opportunities down the stretch but it was WW/P-S who cashed in and scored with 2:12 remaining in regulation to pull out a 3-2 victory.
In reflecting on the defeat, Campbell rued his team’s failure to make the most of its chances.
“We just didn’t finish tonight; I don’t how many shots we had in the third period,” said Campbell, who got goals from Connor McCormick and Reynolds in the defeat to the Pirates.
“We had so many opportunities and we just didn’t bury the puck. If we had buried two or three of those, it is a completely different temperature of the game.”
Campbell also acknowledged that his players were dragging in the wake of their recent surge which saw the Little Tigers improve from 3-4-1 to 8-4-1
“At the end of the day, we are just exhausted,” said Campbell. “We have had a long month emotionally, to do what we have been doing to right the ship. We hadn’t lost all month. We came back from the break and we have won every single game against some opponents when you budget out the season, you don’t necessarily count on.”
While the return of captain and star forward DiTosto from a hand injury which sidelined him for much of December has helped the team’s mindset collectively, Campbell acknowledged that the Little Tigers have little margin for error.
“Having guys back has helped but it is also having confidence,” said Campbell.
“Success breeds success and that type of mentality. In all honesty, how long can you keep this going. It is such a short bench with a few guys who are on the ice but they are not healthy. When we are exhausted like this and we have opportunities to finish, you have got to figure out a way to capitalize on it and finish on scoring opportunities.”
In Campbell’s view, DiTosto generated a slew of those chances against WW/P-S as he picked up an assist and displayed his playmaking skill all night long.
“Matt DiTosto played a hell of a game,” asserted Campbell. “I don’t know how many scoring opportunities he single-handedly created on his own with his effort.”
The Little Tigers are also getting good effort from such emerging stars as Reynolds together with sophomores Connor McCormick and John Reid.
“Spencer Reynolds is playing a really good, tough physical game right now,” said Campbell. “Connor McCormick backchecked well. John Reid played well in the neutral zone.”
With PHS starting February by topping Paul VI 8-3 last Friday as Jack Andres scored three goals and DiTosto added two, Campbell is confident his squad can build on its January surge.
“We have been playing well,” said Campbell, whose team plays Hamilton on February 6 and then faces Notre Dame on February 11 with both games slated to take place at Mercer County Park.
“We have got some positive things going. We just need to tie it all together after this game.”