January 16, 2019

With Hamlett Spearheading the Defensive Unit, PDS Boys’ Hockey Battle-Tested for Stretch Run

CHIPPING AWAY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Chip Hamlett controls the puck in recent action. Senior star defenseman and assistant captain Hamlett has been a stalwart as the Panthers have started 9-7-1. PDS, which topped Bishop Eustace 10-1 last Monday, hosts LaSalle College High (Pa.) on January 16 before playing at Holy Ghost Prep (Pa.) on January 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Over the last month, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team has been tested by a gauntlet of quality foes.

In mid-December, PDS headed up to New England for the Barber Invitational at St Mark’s School (Mass.), where the Panthers lost to Vermont Academy (Vt.) 2-1, defeated Worcester Academy (Mass.) 7-1, and tied Kents Hill (Me.) 1-1.

The team started 2019 by playing at Don Bosco (a 4-1 loss on January 2) and then hosted Albany Academy (a 6-1 loss on January 4) and Vermont Academy (a 2-1 win on January 5) in its annual Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational.

As PDS came into its Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) matchup against visiting Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday, senior defenseman and assistant captain Chip Hamlett believed the squad was battle-tested.

“We played a lot of good competition and I think that prepared us to get back into the swing of things in the league,” said Hamlett.

In the matchup against Hill, the Panthers were under the gun in the early stages of the contest as the Blues generated a number of scoring opportunities.

“We definitely weathered the storm in the first 10 or so minutes,” said Hamlett. “We have been doing that a lot this season. We have been getting off to a slow starts.”

After surviving that early onslaught without surrendering a goal, PDS started getting some puck possession of its own.

“We have picked it up in the middle of the first period and we have kept that going for the rest of the game,” said Hamlett.

The teams were deadlocked in a scoreless stalemate at the end of regulation but after PDS failed to cash in on a power play it yielded a goal to Hill with 57.5 seconds left in the extra session to fall 1-0.

“We had our dynamic guys out there, we just got tired, we couldn’t get anything going,” said Hamlett, reflecting on the overtime power play. “They are hard on the kill and gave us no breathing room.”

While the outcome was disappointing, Hamlett believes the game will help the Panthers in the long run.  “We haven’t been winning as many games as we  would like,” said Hamlett. “I think that adversity is only going to make us stronger.”

With three years of varsity experience under his belt, Hamlett has been looking to play a stronger role this winter.

“We got a younger defensive corps so I feel like being a leader in the back end especially is really important,” said Hamlett.

“I have stepped in the role more especially since [Nic] Petruolo is gone to be that scoring guy on the back end.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli credited Hamlett with stepping up in a big way this season.

“The kid has been awesome all year, he is the rock back there,” said Bertoli. “He is the kid that plays the most minutes for us; he plays in every situation. He is definitely the leader back there and I think kids look to him and we as coaches look to him to carry the play and be the guy we can count on.”

Bertoli liked the way his team carried the play against Hill after its shaky start.

“I thought we got significantly better through the end of the first period, especially in the second period and even for parts of the third,” said Bertoli.

“We were hanging on and probably a little tired in the third. I thought they had a little more of the play in the third. I thought we started that overtime well and then we got that 4-on-3.”

The Panthers got a terrific effort from sophomore goalie David Lee against Hill as he made 26 saves. “David was outstanding; we have had solid play in net both from David and Jeremy [Siegel] all year,” said Bertoli.

“Dave was great. He kept us in the first three-four minutes of the game. He made some huge stops midway through the third period. He looks good, he has grown up a lot since last year, both physically and mentally. I am really happy with where we are, having two guys you can put in any situation and be confident in.”

Bertoli was happy with his squad’s defensive effort collectively as it held the fort.

“We did a good job of clearing the front when pucks came from the perimeter,” said Bertoli.

“We didn’t get outnumbered at the net. We are not a really big team so we have to work to outnumber teams because in situations on 50/50 pucks, we are giving up size, strength, and weight.”

The Panthers, though, need to do a better job at the offensive end. “We have talked about it for a couple of weeks now, we have got to find ways to score goals against better teams,” said Bertoli, whose squad broke through with a big offensive performance last Monday as it topped Bishop Eustace 10-1 to improve to 9-7-1. “There is an emphasis at practice at scoring goals and bearing down and being ready to bury chances. We had plenty of opportunities tonight.”

In Bertoli’s view, PDS has the opportunity to contend for the MAHL title, which will will be decided by a postseason tournament involving the top four teams in the standings.

“As far as the league goes, we are still in a really good spot,” said Bertoli, whose team has two non-league contest coming up as it hosts LaSalle College High (Pa.) on January 16 before playing at Holy Ghost Prep (Pa.) on January 17.

“We get a point out of this and Hill gets two. We are still right in it. At the end of the day, one of our goals is to be in the top four but I would much prefer to play at home so this is still very much in play.”

Hamlett, for his part, believes the Panthers are in a good spot after their effort against Hill.

“I think the positivity is that we went almost 60 minutes against a really good hockey team that has beaten some really good teams this year,” said Hamlett. “That shows we can play with them.”