For the Hun School boys’ hockey team, its trip last week to the Purple Puck Tournament in Washington, D.C. could put it on the road to big things later this winter.
Hun ended up taking second in the tourney that was hosted by Gonzaga College High (D.C) and included several skilled private school teams.
“It was a great event, they do it up,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally, reflecting on his team’s first visit to the event.
“You weren’t playing games between public skates like in other tournaments. This was done very well; they had a great announcer, music playing, and good crowds. Getting on the road together is great. We went to Pittsburgh last year and that was a notable bonding trip for the team.”
Coming into the Purple Puck tourney, McNally was apprehensive about his team’s prospects.
“Nobody knew what to expect,” said McNally. “We had a few players who couldn’t come because of their club tournaments so we were playing with two lines and some spare parts. We played really well, kids stepped up.”
Showing resilience, Hun exceeded expectations, topping Bullis (Md.) 10-2 and DeMatha (Md.) 4-1 while losing 5-3 to Gonzaga in round-robin play. The Raiders then edged St. Joseph’s (Pa.) 3-2 in the semifinal before falling to host Gonzaga 6-0 in the championship game.
In advancing to the finals, Hun was sparked by the one-two scoring punch of freshman Jon Bendorf and senior Alex Bidwell.
“It was Bendorf’s show all of a sudden,” said McNally, noting that freshman standout Evan Barratt and junior Bobby Wurster weren’t available to the team due to club team commitments.
“He scored nine goals in five games; he was very much the catalyst for us. He went to another level I hadn’t seen from him so that was great. Bidwell was on the all-tournament team last year even though we didn’t make it out of the round robin. He is a tournament player. He put up a ton of points. The power play was clicking very well.”
Senior goalie Devin Cheifetz made a ton of big stops for the Raiders, highlighted by a 44-save performance in the semifinal win that was decided by a shootout after the teams played to a 2-2 tie through regulation.
“The semis was the best Devin has played all year,” asserted McNally. “The game was two 25-minute halves. We were up 2-0; we were playing pretty strong. They were desperate and in the last 10 minutes tied it at 2-2. They were 0-for-4 in the shootout and we scored two with Bendorf and Blake Brown each getting one.”
Hun also got good play from freshman Tanner Preston and classmate Brown over the weekend.
“Preston jumped out, he hadn’t scored all year, he had some hard luck,” said McNally.
“He scored in back-to-back games. On the first one, he was pumped; he had that relieved feeling. In the next game, he scored on a power play. He was very strong. Blake was in on a lot of the Bendorf and Bidwell goals. We needed a spark in the first game. We got off the bus and we started slowly. He got the team started with his energy and everybody carried on from there.”
In the title game, the Raiders ran out of energy. “It was our fifth game and we were playing with a short bench,” noted McNally.
“It was 2-0 early and it was a pretty good game. When they scored to go ahead 3-0, that took the wind out of our sails. We ran out of gas at that point.”
In McNally’s view, the main point of the weekend, however, was to sharpen Hun for the challenges to come.
“We got what we came for, we had wins over DeMatha and St Joe’s; they are good teams, as good as we are,” said McNally, whose team is now 7-4 and hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on January 8, Haverford School (Pa.) on January 10, and Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on January 14.
“We were able to win regardless of who was playing. Even though we lost 6-0 in final, the guys were feeling pretty good about themselves. Getting on the road and doing that will carry us into February when we are in IHL (Independence Hockey League), prep, and county tournaments.”