Last winter, a stellar group of nine seniors sparked the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey to a memorable campaign as the Panthers went 21-3-1 and shared the state Prep championship.
While PDS will miss its Class of 2013, those players have left a legacy that should benefit the program this winter.
“They did some terrific things for the program,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, referring to last year’s seniors.
“The most important thing was that they created a culture of winning. It is up to juniors and seniors to continue that and take ownership. The seniors last year were not only great on the ice, they were good in the dressing room. They were good chemistry guys and exemplary student athletes.”
Bertoli believes that his quartet of current senior leaders, captain Sean Timmons and alternate captains Andrew Clayton, John Egner, and Connor Bitterman can keep that culture of winning intact.
“They are good kids, they have been varsity players for the last three years so they have experienced a lot of success,” said Bertoli, whose team was slated to start the season with a home game against St. Augustine Academy on December 3 and then hosting its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 6-7.
“I think we were something like 39-8-1 over the last two years. They were a big part of it and they know what it takes to be successful.”
Battle-tested forward Timmons should be a big gun for the Panthers this winter.
“Timmons has scored and produced for us over the last three years,” said Bertoli.
“He has played in every situation; he has gotten stronger. I really like the way his game is developing. I fully expect him to lead the way for us.”
Bitterman and sophomore Kyle Weller are also developing into offensive threats.
“Bitterman is always the fastest player on the ice; he is the most improved player in the program over the last three years,” said Bertoli, who will also be using Egner, senior Lewie Blackburn, sophomore Connor Fletcher, junior Mason Ward, freshman Keith Asplundh, sophomore Harrison Latham, senior Gabe Castagna, senior Hap Ammidon, and junior Will Wright at forward.
“He is understanding how to utilize his speed. His skills have developed and improved. Weller is extremely talented. He is healthy this year and has grown three-four inches. I look for him to do very well.”
On defense, Bertoli is expecting seniors Clayton and C.J. Young to do very well.
“Andrew Clayton got lost in the shuffle at times last year but when he played, he was outstanding at decision-making and distributing the puck,” said Bertoli.
“C.J. Young is a year round Tier 1 hockey player; he handles the puck well. They are going to log a lot of minutes and be out there in every situation.”
Junior Will Garrymore and sophomore Chris Hemlinger will see a lot of time as well along the blue line.
“Garrymore was in the mix at times last year, he understands our system and is a skilled player,” said Bertoli, whose defensive unit will also include freshman Gianluca Travia and senior Nelson Garrymore.
“He will be relied on in the power play and penalty kill. Chris Hemlinger was the seventh guy last year, now he is fourth. He has played a high level of travel hockey; he has a big body and he has been waiting for his opportunity and now it is here.”
At goalie, three players, sophomores Mark Anarumo and Colin Burgess together with freshman Logan Kramsky will get opportunities.
“Between the three of them, there is a lot of talent,” said Bertoli. “The three of them will compete and we are very confident with any one of them in there. It is a little early to tell who will be the starter. We have a scrimmage and some practices before the opener so we will see.”
The Panthers will be seeing some tough competition as it will participate in the newly-formed Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) along with Lawrenceville and Hill School (Pa.), Portledge School (N.Y.), LaSalle College High (Pa.), and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.).
“These are schools that we didn’t play four years ago but have played the last two or three years and have had success,” said Bertoli.
“They are the schools that we want to compete with and be at the same level. We know that some are boarding schools and have post-grads and that gives them an inherent advantage. I want the kids to compete on a higher level and be challenged. As athletes and hockey players, you gain so much more from that.”
While it may take a while for this year’s squad to reach a high level, Bertoli is confident the program will maintain its winning tradition. “We need to establish who this team is and what our identity is going to be,” said Bertoli.
“Last year, we had 17 returning players and we knew who we were. We have guys taking bigger roles and more responsibility. It will take time to evolve and find out who we are and what allows us to be the most effective. We have enough talent to be successful from the start. We are going to be different; we are not going to put up four or five goals in the first period. These are proud kids, they take a lot of pride in the program and the success we have had in recent years. They want to continue that.”