Battling in Loss to Undefeated Manasquan, PHS Boys’ Hockey Steeled for Big MCT Run
CRASH COURSE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Ben Drezner, second from left, crashes the net in a game earlier this winter. Last Thursday, senior forward Drezner scored the lone goal as PHS fell 3-1 to undefeated Manasquan (15-0). The Tigers, now 11-8-3, will start action in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded second and are slated to play a quarterfinal contest on February 6 at the Mercer County Park rink, with the victor advancing to the semis on February 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Ben Drezner and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, facing undefeated Manasquan High last Thursday night was a litmus test with the postseason on the horizon.
“Manasquan is one of the top teams around, they are coming off a good season and they play a lot of good shore teams,” said PHS senior forward Drezner.
“It was a really good matchup for us, especially going right into playoffs. It is good to see where we are at.”
PHS fell behind right off the bat, yielding a goal in the first two minutes of the contest played at Pro Skate but then held the fort the rest of the period as neither team scored. The Tigers fell behind 2-0 in the second period but then made a late run, drawing back-to-back penalties and generating chances early in the third.
“We didn’t get a lot of good zone time on our power plays but we definitely got some chances and bounces,” said Drezner.
“It definitely helped towards the last five minutes of the game; it gave us a good boost.”
With 2:54 left in regulation, Drezner got a good bounce, converting a pass from junior standout Aidan Trainor into a goal as the Tigers cut the Manasquan lead in half.
“I saw Aidan coming down the right side of the ice; he had a good chance and then he got the rebound,” recalled Drezner
“The goalie came out of the net and I just put myself in the slot and the puck came to me. I did the easy part.”
PHS, though, surrendered a goal 20 seconds later to fall 3-1 to move to 11-8-3 while Manasquan improved to 15-0. The Tigers kept pressing in the waning moments of the contest but couldn’t break through with another tally.
“We just couldn’t get the puck on net, we got shots and chances but nothing seemed to bounce our way,” said Drezner.
The Tigers will look to play smart as they start action in the Mercer County Tournament next week, where they are seeded second and slated to play a quarterfinal contest on February 6 at the Mercer County Park rink with the victor advancing to the semis on February 12.
“I think it is keeping our mental game strong, ensuring that we don’t do anything stupid or make bad mistakes that may cost us the game,” said Drezner, who has helped PHS reach the last two MCT finals where they have fallen to the Hun School both years.
“We can’t let other teams get into our heads. If we end up playing Hun, it is definitely a good matchup to play one of these better teams to help us prepare for those games against tougher opponents.”
PHS head coach Tim Chase liked the way his team battled against a tough foe.
“We just wanted a good hockey game before the playoffs start,” said Chase.
“That is a good hockey team. I think offensively that is the best team we have played all year. They are fast and quick, they cycle, and they are physical.”
Tiger freshman goalie Daniel Prokoshin was up to the challenge, making 24 saves on the evening. “He played great early on when we weren’t playing well,” said Chase, whose team was outshot 11-4 in the first period. “He made some huge saves; they jumped all over us at the beginning.”
In reflecting on the defeat, Chase acknowledged that his squad needs to do a better job of jumping on its offensive opportunities.
“We have to find a way to hit nets,” asserted Chase. “We are missing too many nets, we are missing too many good chances.”
Chase was happy to see Drezner cash in his scoring chance.
“Ben always hustles; Aidan made a good, hard play to get that puck out to him,” said Chase.
In Chase’s view, playing hard foes will help steel the Tigers for postseason play.
“It makes you sharper and the pace of the game is quick so when we go into the playoffs we are used to a quick pace,” said Chase.
Looking ahead to the MCT, Chase wants his team to pick up the pace at both ends of the ice.
“We need to play like we did today; keep it fast, keep it simple in our zone, and be a little more aggressive in our defensive zone,” said Chase.
“We have to find a way to get some more goals; we are not scoring enough. I know we are playing good teams and you are not going to score a lot but we are getting good chances and we are not scoring many.”
Drezner, for his part, believes that PHS will find a way to shine under playoff pressure.
“We have the same seasons the past two years; we have made it to the state semis and the MCT finals,” said Drezner.
“We just finally want to get a title. We lost one of our defensemen [Patrick McDonald] to injury; that is a big loss but I think other people are going go step up and play to the best of their abilities and make sure that nothing gets us down.”