When the Hun School boys’ hockey team found itself tied 3-3 with Academy of New Church (Pa.) after two periods in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game last week, it experienced a sense of déjà vu.
Just five days earlier, Hun had entered the third period of the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game tied 2-2 with Notre Dame. On that evening, Hun responded by dominating the third period on the way to a 4-2 victory and the MCT crown.
The Raiders followed a similar script against ANC in the February 25 contest at the Ice Land Skating Center, outscoring the Lions 3-1 in the third period to earn a 6-4 win and the program’s second straight IHL title.
“It was kind of the same thing as the Notre Dame game; we got a goal right away in the third period,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally, reflecting on the win over ANC.
“They got another goal but then we got a two-goal lead; we were never comfortable before that.”
The Raiders were feeling more than comfortable as they celebrated the crown on their home ice.
“The emotions were very high and positive,” said McNally, a former Princeton University hockey player who is in his third year guiding the Hun program.
“To be a senior in your last game and win a title, not everybody gets to do that. They were up for it. There were a lot of thank you’s and goodbyes.”
Over the last few seasons, the Hun program has certainly been moving up in local hockey circles.
“Last year, we won one title and this year we won two; the program is getting better every year,” said McNally, whose team posted a final record of 20-7.
“The expectations were higher coming into the year. Last year, we hoped to win our league, this year we expected to win our league. The biggest difference was in how we viewed ourselves.”
In the view of McNally, his senior group of Spy Avgoustiniatos, Alec Karanikolas, Alex Bidwell, Devin Cheifetz, Brad Stern, and Natty Bayona, has played a major role in the Raiders’ progress.
“They were pretty instrumental in our progress; a lot of it was due to their dedication and abilities,” said McNally.
“Spy had a good offensive year; he came a long way as a player. Each of the senior forwards [Avgoustiniatos -10 goals, 10 assists; Bidwell -16 goals, 22 assists; Karanikolas -10 goals, 10 assists] reached double figures in goals. Devin was a starter in goal all four years. You knew what you were going to get from him; he had another steady year. He has been there so long you almost take him for granted. Brad doubled his points [3 goals, 21 assists] from last year and made all-league; he was a top defenseman.”
The trio of freshman forwards, Jon Bendorf [36 goals, 30 assists], Blake Brown [28 goals, 32 assists], Evan Barratt [23 goals, 38 assists], along with freshman defenseman Tanner Preston [3 goals, 28 assists], gives Hun the foundation to remain one of the top teams in the area.
“With this group of freshmen, the hopes are high for the future,” said McNally.
“The freshmen forwards were 1-2-3 in scoring. We said last week that we had no more practices left, only playoff games. We said that big players show up in big games and they did that. We had 10 goals in two title games and Barratt had 10 points.”
The team’s big season has turned heads on the Hun campus “Success breeds success,” said McNally.
“Around school, there is a good energy. Against Notre Dame in the county final, we had the biggest crowd of Hun students and staff I have seen at one of our games since I have been here. The buzz is definitely there.”