Cody Triolo and Rob Colton took different journeys but arrived at the same destination last week after the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team played its last game this season at McGraw Rink.
Senior stars Triolo, Colton, and their eight classmates gathered on the ice with the rest of the their teammates and a contingent of friends, family, and coaches as they savored a 5-2 win over Don Bosco and the 19th win of an historic campaign.
There were hugs, laughs, and rounds of photos as the group held the Zamboni machine at bay for their impromptu party.
Triolo, a lacrosse standout who will be playing at Lehigh next year, wasn’t sure that he would ever become a starter on the ice for the Panthers.
“I was never really the most skilled guy on this team, it is just my grind that has gotten me to where I am today,” said Triolo.
“I think most importantly I was just having fun. Once I committed to Lehigh, I just took off all the pressure of scoring points and doing well on the stat sheet for ice hockey so I was able to just focus on having fun. When you focus on having fun, it turns out that you do get on the stat sheet.”
Colton, for his part, wasn’t even at PDS until he was a junior as he played at Robbinsville before transferring.
“Honestly it was the best experience of my life and probably the best decision I have ever made from academics to athletics,” said Colton, in reflecting on his move to PDS.
“It is the best group of guys that I have ever worked with and coach Scott Bertoli is probably the best hockey coach I have ever had. This whole experience here has been nothing but great and I am really going to miss it.”
The Panthers were determined to produce a great effort in their last home game.
“I think the major thing that was going through our heads is that this was our last career game here at this rink which is huge,” said Triolo.
“We build this program back up with our hard effort and we wanted to make sure that we closed the deal. We wanted to get this win the most; to us, this may have meant more than Prep championships. It is closing out all of your hard work. You want to do a nice job putting the finishing touches on things. We just really wanted to come out hard and make sure that we got the win.”
PDS came out hard against Don Bosco, jumping out to a 2-0 lead 10 minutes into the contest with Colton and younger brother, sophomore star Ross Colton, notching the first two goals.
“It is always big to set the tone,” said Colton. “I was really happy that I was able to get that goal and get it started.”
Colton and his younger brother combined for three goals as the Panthers pulled away from Don Bosco. For the older Colton, it has been a pleasure to take the ice with his sibling.
“The last time we played together before last season was when I was eight and he was six,” said Colton.
“For us to be able to play with each other in my last year of hockey here is amazing. We always know where each other are on the ice and it is definitely something special.”
PDS head coach Bertoli saw the matchup with perennial powerhouse Don Bosco as a special step for the Panther program.
“What I am most proud of is the fact that we are able to play a quality opponent like Don Bosco, getting them in here and having them on the schedule,” said Bertoli, whose team won its Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational in December and shared the state Prep title with Morristown-Beard in February.
“I said to the guys, ‘yes I would love to win this game this afternoon but I am proud of you for even creating this opportunity. You guys as seniors have done so much for this program.’ They have brought this thing back to prominence and there is no question of that. It is one of the top two or three programs in the state the last two years.”
Saying goodbye to his senior contingent isn’t easy for Bertoli. “I’ll never have a group like this, both in number and their impact on the program, their attitude, their effort,” said Bertoli, whose group of seniors also includes Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Eddie Meyercord, Andrew Clayton, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis in addition to Triolo and Colton.
“It is no coincidence that this program turned around four years ago when this group came in as freshmen. They are just good hockey players and it has been great to watch them grow and evolve and become the confident young men that they are. To go out in the course of the last two years and put up the record that they have put forth is a testament to them and their commitment to the school and the program.”
While the Class of 2013 will leave a major void, its influence on the program will be felt for years to come.
“You are never going to replace what they have brought to the program yet they are not taking the program with them,” noted Bertoli.
“There are a number of quality kids that are here and interested in coming here that will take this and further it. That’s a credit to these kids that are in that locker room. Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they are very proud kids. They should walk around with their heads up high.”
The Panthers gave one more proud effort last weekend as they took second at the Hill School Tournament, falling 2-1 in double overtime to the hosts in the championship game last Sunday to finish the winter with a 21-3-1 record.
For Triolo, seeing the season end is tough but the benefits of the experience will last a lifetime.
“It is definitely hard to let go but at the same time we are moving on and Panther hockey will always be in our blood and we will take that elsewhere,” said Triolo. “It has built character in us so it will still be with us.”
Colton, for his part, is proud of the high level hockey PDS played all winter long.
“When we marked out the four tournaments we were playing in this year, we wanted to be competitive in every single one,” said Colton, who is looking to continue his hockey career at the college level.
There is no doubt that Triolo, Colton, and their fellow seniors have left an indelible mark on PDS boys’ hockey.