March 7, 2018

PHS Boys’ Hockey Falls in Public B Semis As Senior Garlock Relishes 2nd Cinderella Run

NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Max Garlock goes after the puck last Wednesday evening as 11th-seeded PHS battled second-seeded Northern Highlands in the state Public B semifinals at the Mennen Sports Arena. Senior defenseman and team captain Garlock contributed an assist in a losing cause as the Little Tigers fell 6-1. The defeat left PHS with a final record of 18-9-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming into the state Public B tournament, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team didn’t look destined to make a deep run in the competition.

PHS was seeded 11th and entered the state tourney having suffered a disappointing 9-4 defeat to Hun in the final of the Mercer County Tournament.

But with the Little Tigers having advanced to the Public A semis in the 2017 state tourney, Max Garlock and his PHS teammates relished the underdog role.

“We definitely had the motivation,” said senior defenseman and team captain Garlock.

“After what happened last year and what that showed us, we knew we could come out and play with them.”

PHS showed it could play with anybody, upending 6th-seeded Middletown North 4-1 in the Round of 16 and then stunning third-seeded and defending state champion Ridge 4-3 in overtime in the state quarters.

“I don’t think anybody expected it; what is this Cinderella run that Princeton has gone on for a second year in row?” said Garlock.

Facing second-seeded Northern Highlands in the state Public B semifinals at the Mennen Sports Arena last Wednesday, PHS ran into some early trouble, yielding two unanswered goals to trail 2-0 after the first period.

After PHS fell behind 5-0, Garlock helped get the Little Tigers on the board late in the second period, firing a shot from the point that Keith Goldberg tipped past the Northern Highlands goalie. PHS, though, never got closer than that as the Highlanders tacked on a third period goal and prevailed 6-1.

“They were a really good team. We may not have started well, but we came out in the second and the third, but it wasn’t enough to come back,” said Garlock.

Garlock tried to jump start a comeback with his second period assist.

“I saw an open shot, an open lane; I knew we needed shots,” said Garlock. “We were down 5-0. I think at that point, we needed the offensive pressure. I thought I should just shoot it and it went in on a tip.”

While the final result was disappointing, Garlock enjoyed a second stirring state tourney run.

“It is a lot of fun, I love going deep in states, especially upsetting teams and doing stuff that people thought was unimaginable,” said Garlock.

“I really enjoy it and I think this entire team does. Everybody on this team contributed. We played three lines and six defensemen. Down the stretch, everybody played.”

PHS head coach Tim Chase acknowledged that his squad didn’t play its best in the loss to Northern Highlands, the eventual Public B champion.

“It is unfortunate that our guys didn’t have that jump today,” lamented Chase, whose team ended the winter with an 18-9-2 record.

“We were bystanders a little too much in the play and that is not effective. We are a better team when we are forcing the play. The other team played a good game. They got on to the puck a little quicker than we did today.”

The Little Tigers did force some action as the game went on.

“It never got to the point where it looked like were taking control of the game but we were starting to get a little more energy,” said Chase. “We got a few chances on the power play.”

Although PHS didn’t maximize its chances against Northern Highlands, getting to that point of the state tourney was impressive.

“I think we had higher expectations of ourselves to do a little bit better; the effort was there mentally but it just didn’t translate well tonight,” said Chase.

“The goaltending was solid the last few games. Our defensive lapses were much less frequent. Today it was a little different, but give that team credit; they are a big, physical, and fast team.”

Chase, who was in his first season guiding the Little Tigers after succeeding Terence Miller, is hoping that his debut campaign is a harbinger of things to come for the program.

“Terence definitely left me with a pretty good team. They did a good job, they battled,” said Chase.

“We came up north to play some good teams to get ourselves better and I think that helped us in the run here. It is always hard when you don’t have your best game at the end but that’s life. It doesn’t always work out. We have a good team coming back. We will miss the three seniors; we should do pretty well next year.”

Garlock, for his part, is leaving with some great memories of his PHS hockey career.

“It was fun, I loved it,” said Garlock, noting that he played travel hockey with his classmates, Justin Johnson and Luke O’Shea, in addition to competing with them for PHS.

“High school hockey is a great experience, especially with this program and this group of guys. I have been playing with these boys for a long time. I look down the stretch from when I was a freshman; I enjoyed every second of it.”