Defenseman McDowell Savoring Final Campaign As Hun Boys’ Hockey Aiming for 6th MCT Crown
AIDING AND ABETTING: Hun School boys’ hockey player Aidan McDowell goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Senior defenseman McDowell’s production on the blue line has helped Hun go 12-8-1. In upcoming action, Hun will be starting play in the Mercer County Tournament as it goes after its sixth straight county crown. The Raiders are seeded first 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 Aidan McDowell, the Senior Night celebration for the Hun School boys’ hockey team last week had special meaning even though he transferred into the program.
“Coming into Senior Night for us, it was a great moment for me and my family,” said Hun senior defenseman McDowell. “Just going through four years; coming here last year (from Manalapan) and having fun with the boys.”
Hosting Notre Dame in the January 29 contest at the Ice Land Skating Center, Hun had a lot of fun in the early going, jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
McDowell assisted on the Raiders’ second goal, threading a pass to junior star Eddie Evaldi, who banged it home with 11:38 left in the second period.
“I just saw Evaldi streaking down the far side and it was just, feed him the puck and let him go,” said McDowell.
The Irish responded with two unanswered goals midway through the second period and the teams were deadlocked 2-2 heading into the third. Hun took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Brian Nelson but yielded a tally late in the game as the contest ended in a 3-3 tie.
“We just tried to get pucks in, get in on the forecheck, and try to rattle them,” said McDowell.
“When Brian scored the goal, I thought maybe we could get another one after that. It just didn’t work that way.”
While McDowell was disappointed that Hun didn’t pull out the win, he believed that the team gained some valuable lessons going forward.
“We just have to be positive on the bench, we just need to keep playing our game and getting on the forecheck,” said McDowell.
Hun head coach Ian McNally saw playing Notre Dame as a positive experience for the program.
“I love to play everybody local,” said McNally. “People are more into it, the kids are into it. They know each other and the families know each other so you usually get a spirited game.”
The Raiders got off to a spirited start against the iris as they carried the play for the first half of the contest.
“We had the puck a lot and we had offensive chances,” said McNally. “As a result, everyone goes on offense. When it is the four guys up there and then all of a sudden, it is coming the other way and you let teams have momentum and you let them get back in.”
McNally was not surprised to see Nelson come through with the third period goal.
“Brian leads us in goals and assists and it is not one big game against a bad team, it is every game,” said McNally of Nelson who scored a goal as Hun defeated Gloucester Catholic 4-2 last Friday to improve to 12-8-1, giving him 42 points this season on 19 goals and 23 assists.
“He is certainly getting it done. A lot of the goals are the same, he gets in the high slot where he can walk in, pick his spot and snap his shot.”
McDowell has also been getting it done for the Raiders this winter, tallying 24 points on 10 goals and 14 assists.
“Aidan night in, night out is one of the better players on both teams,” said McNally.
“When we played Seton Hall Prep a couple of weeks ago, we were already without one guy [Matt] Argentina and the game was 1-1. Aidan got hurt and we lost 7-2; it was very obvious how valuable he is. He does everything. He can skate, he has an NHL shot, he can pass, and he has the speed to catch up if there is a little mess up.”
Reflecting on the tie with Notre Dame, McNally acknowledged that his squad messed up at the defensive end.
“We just played a great game against Holy Ghost (a 2-1 win on January 25) where guys were desperate to not get scored on,” said McNally.
“Today we kind of looked around and said someone else will stop him. In the end, we got a couple of bounces that didn’t go.”
With Hun starting play in the Mercer County Tournament this week as it goes after its sixth straight county crown, McNally believes the tie with Notre Dame will give his club extra motivation heading into the tourney.
“This is good for us because last year, it was Princeton High we lost to in a scrimmage and then tied in the regular season and it produced some incentive,” said McNally, whose team is seeded first in the MCT and is 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.
“Since we don’t go in the CVC standings, there isn’t the same incentive to have specific teams that you want to make up a game against. Last year, it was Princeton and now we want to get a chance against Notre Dame to prove to each other that we can do better than than.”
In McNally’s view, Hun needs to play together to raise the level of its game.
“When everybody feels like they are a part of it, we play really well; the lines roll, there is no penalties, everybody is into it,” said McNally, whose team defeated PHS 9-4 in the MCT final last winter.
“Everyone has scoring chances. If we can get to that point, with three lines going, they all contribute and we do really well.”
McDowell, for his part, is confident that Hun can come through with another county crown
“It is going to be exciting with the legacy that we have created and just to carry that out,” said McDowell. “We just have to have fun out there, not gripping the stick too hard, and end it on a great note for the boys.”