December 5, 2018

With Salvato Thriving in Move to Defense, PHS Boys’ Hockey Looking Formidable

ROCK SOLID: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Rocco Salvato, right, goes after the puck in recent action. Junior defenseman Salvato has starred at both ends of the ice as PHS has gotten off to a 3-0 start. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers are slated to play Lawrence High on December 5, WW/P-South on December 7, and Monroe on December 11, with all three contests taking place at the Mercer County Park rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As a freshman in the 2016-17 season, Rocco Salvato quickly established himself as a key scoring threat at forward for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

Last winter, Salvato got switched to defense late in the season to shore up that unit for the playoff push, starring as PHS advanced to the Mercer County Tournament title game and the state Public B semis.

For Salvato, the transition to his new spot on the ice went smoothly. “It was not too much of a problem, I played defense earlier in my career,” said Salvato. “I got used to it more and more as the season progressed. It is a comfortable position for me, I enjoy it.”

Having found a home on defense, Salvato came into this season looking to quarterback the team from the blue line.

“I want to move the puck, get it up ice as fast as possible,” said Salvato. “I want to create some offense from defense and break the puck out as quick as possible.”

Last Wednesday against Nottingham, Salvato created some offense on his own, swooping up the ice for a shorthanded goal in the second period, providing a highlight as the Little Tigers rolled to a 9-2 win over the Northstars.

“It was a turnover on a power play; we were on the penalty kill but then I just went in and shot it,” said Salvato.

Salvato liked the way PHS took care of business against Nottingham as it jumped out to a 6-0 lead midway through the second period and cruised from there.

“We don’t want to take anyone lightly so I am glad we got the job done,” said Salvato. “We felt good after the first couple of goals. We knew we had a pace that fit us.”

With PHS improving to 3-0 with a 5-2 win over Robbinsville last Friday, Salvato feels good about the how the Little Tigers have started their 2018-19 campaign.

“I am liking the track we are on right now, it is beneficial for all of us,” said Salvato. “We wanted to get off to a hot start; it helps us later in the season too because we know our identity.”

After falling just short of championships last winter, Salvato and his teammates are hoping to end this season with some trophies.“We really want to win titles,” said Salvato. “We believe we can and that is the goal for the season.”

PHS head coach Tim Chase sees Salvato’s play along the blue line as vital to the team’s title chances.

“Rocco can control the pace of the game,” said Chase. “He is a very smooth skater and with him on defense, he is the quarterback of a lot of the plays. That is going to be a big part of us going anywhere in the end.”

PHS got the offense going against Nottingham as Alex Leung, Austin Micale, John O’Donnell, Aidan Trainor, Colm Trainor, and John Zammit each chipped in a goal in addition to Salvato.

“It was ‘get a lot of kids who don’t get as much ice time’ so they got a lot of ice today and we kept some of our big guys on the bench for a while,” said Chase. “I think the kids had fun, that was the main point today.”

Chase is confident that his big guys will be up the challenges ahead this winter.

“When we some of the other games, it will be a better idea to see if the other lines are going to keep up with the scoring or not,” said Chase, whose team will play Lawrence High on December 5, WW/P-South on December 7, and Monroe on December 11, with all three contests taking place at the Mercer County Park rink.

In Salvato’s view, PHS should keep getting better and better. “We just need to keep pushing forward, I don’t really think we need to change too much,” said Salvato.

“We flow pretty good on defense and offense. We have got a lot of guys on defense who can play up offense and the offensive players are good are coming back and helping out with the defense.”