December 4, 2019

Bensky Seeking to Maintain Winning Tradition In Taking Helm of PHS Boys’ Hockey Program

READY TO ROCK: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Rocco Salvato controls the puck in action last winter. Senior star Salvato is looking to have a big final campaign for PHS. The Tigers, who will be guided by new head coach Joe Bensky, are scheduled to face Lawrence High on December 4 at Mercer County Park in their first game of the 2019-20 season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Joe Bensky has spent a lot of time around Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) hockey.

He starred for the WW/P-North boys’ hockey team from 2009-12 and later served as an assistant coach for the WW/P coop squad in the 2017-18 season.

Now Bensky is taking on a big role with another CVC program as he is taking the helm of the Princeton High boys’ hockey program, succeeding Tim Chase as the head coach of the team.

When Bensky, who played club hockey at East Stroudsburg University and The College of New Jersey and works as school counselor at Ewing High, found out that he got the PHS job, he was elated.

“I was really, really excited, I knew they were a pretty talented group,” said Bensky, who is taking over a team that went 14-10-3 last winter, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament final and the quarterfinals of the state Public B tourney.

“I heard a lot of good things about the group, that they were nice and they were dedicated. I am realizing how lucky I am. You hear stories but you don’t know what the boys are like until you start working with them.”

As Bensky has gotten on the ice with his new squad, he is relishing working with the PHS players.

“It is a learning curve for myself and my assistant coach [Matt Strober] and the players because we are trying to get to know everyone,” said Bensky, who will make his debut behind the bench when PHS faces Lawrence High on December 4 at Mercer County Park.

“We have become closer and closer each and every practice. I think we are getting better every day. We are getting to know each other more. I am really enjoying it, I know my assistant coach and I are having a great time.”

PHS should be one of the better offensive teams in the CVC this winter as it returns plenty of firepower.

“We have a lot of quality forwards, we definitely have a depth at forward which is going to be a huge benefit in the CVC,” said Bensky, whose options at that position include senior Aidan Trainor, junior Colm Trainor, sophomore John O’Donnell, senior Rocco Salvato, and sophomore John Zammit, among others.

“The plan is to be able to run three lines.We are trying to make sure our top three lines are equal.”

The team’s top scoring threat, Aidan Trainor, is setting a positive tone.

“It is not a secret how good he is, what impresses me is how approachable he is as a 17-year-old young man,” added Bensky.

“The kids really like him and look up to him. He doesn’t have a cocky attitude, he is a great young man.”

The team’s defensive unit is battle-tested and should be impressive, featuring senior Ryan McCormick, senior Stephen Avis, junior Patrick McDonald, and junior Austin Micale.

At goalie, sophomore Daniel Prokoshin is primed for a big winter. “He is getting better each and every practice,” said Bensky.

“He also plays travel hockey and his team made the playoffs. He got a lot of ice time and played a lot of games. He is going to be ready for the high school season and for those big moments.”

Looking ahead to his debut campaign with the PHS program, Bensky believes the squad can have plenty of big moments if the players just take care of business and play within themselves.

“The expectations are high, I don’t want them to put too much pressure on themselves,” said Bensky.

“They are really talented players. They have to do their own part, whether it is blocking a shot, putting a puck on the net, or getting the puck out of the defensive zone. I think it is going to add up and their talents will take over.”