Stepping up in class, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team got off to a rough start last month as it competed in the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, trailing Middlesex School (Mass.) 3-0 after two periods in an opening round contest.
“The biggest thing, like last year, is that they are physically bigger and stronger and older; it takes time for our kids to adjust to that,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, reflecting on his team’s return trip to the annual event.
“We challenged the kids after the second period. We told them they could roll over and get ready for Saturday or they could come out and put their best foot forward.”
Choosing the latter option, the Panthers battled Middlesex to the final whistle, narrowing the gap to 3-2 and 4-3 before surrendering an empty net goal in the waning seconds of the contest to lose 5-3. In action the next day, PDS defeated the Portledge School (N.Y.) 4-2 before topping the Worcester Academy (Mass.) 5-4 in overtime.
The Panthers showed resilience to go with their skill, overcoming deficits to earn those victories on the final day of the competition.
“We dominated the game against Portledge and we also played well against Worcester,” said Bertoli.
“We kept pressing and pressing. We trailed most of both games; they got goals on counters. Against Portledge, it was 2-2 going into the third period. We scored early in the period and then got one midway through the period. To me, the game was never in doubt; it was just a matter of time. We outshot Worcester 35-14. It was very one-sided but we were still down going into the third period.”
In coming through over the weekend and improving its overall record to 6-1-1, the team’s front line players led the way.
“The six top guys, Sean Timmons, Connor Fletcher, Lewie Blackburn, Connor Bitterman, Andrew Clayton, and Will Garrymore were all great,” asserted Bertoli. “They did 90 percent of our scoring and they played in all types of situations.”
But even more heartening, some of the squad’s supporting cast came through some critical situations.
“The role players also did well, guys like Hap Ammidon, Gabe Castagna, and Will Wright,” added Bertoli.
“Hap got the OT goal against Worcester and played well on defense. Gabe got a couple of goals. The weekend in Massachusetts gave us the chance to give other guys opportunities to play and produce. They built confidence in themselves and got a better understanding of what we want them to do. It gave the coaches confidence to see the kids play in lots of situations and perform well. They not only created some offense but they played good defense.”
The goalie trio of freshman Logan Kramsky, sophomore Mark Anarumo, and sophomore Colin Burgess, is giving PDS the chance to win in just about every game.
“Losing Connor [Walker] in net would concern any coach,” said Bertoli, referring to the graduated Walker, who was a three-year starter and one of the top players in the state at his position.
“Having gone through two weeks of tryouts and scrimmages it is good knowing that the kids are confident in any one of them. Logan has stood out, the group is most confident in him. He started the first two games over the weekend and the other two split the last game.”
With PDS starting the 2014 portion of its schedule by playing Notre Dame on January 3 at Lawrenceville and then playing at Don Bosco on January 6, Bertoli is hoping his team can build on the superb effort in New England.
“If we play near the level that we did last weekend with that urgency and competing hard for pucks, finishing every hit, and being ready to be hit on every play, we could do very well,” said Bertoli.
“The January schedule is brutal; we play four or five tough teams right in a row.”