Despite Going With a Smaller Roster, Hun Boys’ Hockey Still Features Talent
ACTION JACKSON: Hun School boys’ hockey goalie Jackson Cole dives to make a save in a game last winter. Sophomore Cole will be looking to build on a solid debut season for the Raiders. Hun gets its 2017-18 campaign underway this week by playing at Holy Ghost Prep (Pa.) on November 29 before hosting Princeton High on December 1 and LaSalle College High (Pa.) on December 6 at the Ice Land Skating Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Quality over quantity is going to be the theme for the Hun School boys’ hockey team this winter.
“We have got a barebones team, we will have a core of 13 varsity skaters, three lines of forwards, four defensemen, and a goalie,” said head coach Ian McNally, who guided Hun to an 8-16 record last season and its fourth straight Mercer County Tournament title.
“They are all pretty talented; it is a strong group. I am not concerned about it but it is a smaller team than we have had recently.”
Imposing 6’4, 230-pound junior forward Kyle Mandleur possesses a rare blend of size and talent.
“He has the stature that, regardless of his current output, pro coaches are eventually going to say, ‘I want to get my hands on that guy,’” said McNally, whose team gets its 2017-18 campaign underway this week by playing at Holy Ghost Prep (Pa.) on November 29 before hosting Princeton High on December 1 and LaSalle College High (Pa.) on December 6 at the Ice Land Skating Center.
“I haven’t really seen anybody like that before with his skill set and size. This is a chance for him to lead us. If he has got that pedigree, which people are all kind of betting on, he should absolutely light up New Jersey ice hockey this year.”
Freshman forward Matt Argentina is bringing a lot of skill to the mix.
“We always have one or two players who have to jump in right away and he is the next one,” said McNally, who will also be using senior Nick Aubry, junior Brian Nelson, and junior James McCall at forward. “He is very capable and is highly touted; he will be an instant impact freshman.”
McNally is hoping that sophomore Eddie Evaldi will make a big impact as he moves to defenseman from forward.
“Due to a fact that we have limited resources, he is a guy that we thought might translate to defense,” said McNally.
“He skates really well. He is going to be on the ice a lot and he is going to be passed the puck a lot. We are going to bank on him for offense from the back.”
The rest of the Hun defensive unit will feature sophomore Hayden Watson along with junior transfers Aidan McDowell and Brendan Mrotchek.
“The only returning kid is Hayden, he played as a freshman last year and played every game but in a secondary role,” said McNally.
“He will get to jump into a regular spot. We have a couple of two new players in Aidan and Brendan. We are pretty lucky to have both of them. They are both very good and I think they can carry the load for us.”
The Raiders are depending on sophomore goalie Jackson Cole to carry a bigger load this year.
“Last year, he had some unbelievable efforts and some average efforts,” said McNally, noting that Cole had a big fall playing for a Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) travel team.
“I assume this year that, just naturally, he will be more mature and be able to have more of those unbelievable efforts. That experience last year will be helpful for him this year, now he comes in knowing that he is the guy.”
In McNally’s view, having a tighter roster will help each player keep on his toes.
“We have a group where basically there is no decision to be made, one line goes and then this line goes and then this line goes,” said McNally.
“They need that time to rest otherwise. Sometimes it is better having a smaller bench, everyone knows their role.”
While the squad may not boast a lot of manpower, McNally believes the Raiders can pile up some big numbers.
“We have a fair amount of offensive weapons but we only have four defensemen so I am fully aware that we have to score a bunch of goals this year.” said McNally.
“We are not going to get into a dogfight where we are going to win 2-1 because we don’t have the legs for that. We have to score goals and know that we are going to let up a few and that is fine.”