December 4, 2019

PDS Boys’ Hockey Undergoing Youth Movement, Confident of Growing into Something Special

MAC ATTACK: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Drew McConaughy chases down the puck in a game last winter. Junior forward McConaughy figures to be a key offensive threat for the Panthers this season. PDS opens its 2019-20 campaign on December 4 by facing St. Joe’s Prep School (Pa.) at the University of Pennsylvania 1923 Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the graduation of its big three of star forwards — Coby Auslander and Ty Eastman along with standout defenseman Chip Hamlett — there will be new faces in new places this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team.

“We are definitely going to have a young group, we have 12 new players,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, who led the Panthers to a 14-12-1 record last winter.

“It is a group that is buying into what we are doing. The kids are excited, they are eager, and they want to learn.”

PDS opens its 2019-20 campaign on December 4 by facing St. Joe’s Prep School (Pa.) at the University of Pennsylvania 1923 Rink, resulting in a steep learning curve for the young Panthers.

“There is a lot we need to put in place in terms of systems, expectations and how we want them to play,” said Bertoli.

“For the coaching staff, it is figuring out what style of play, what roles the kids are going to play to allow us to be successful with so many new kids.”

A critical key to success for the Panthers will be the play of the team’s top forward line of senior Stephan Gorelenkov, junior Drew McConaughy, and junior Gibson Linnehan.

“They look great; they are bigger, stronger and are a year older, “ said Bertoli, who is also expecting big years at forward from junior David Sherman and sophomore Chris Babecki.

“They are more confident. It is their team and they are going to play a ton of minutes. I think they are ready to shoulder that responsibility. When they have been on the ice in our scrimmages, they have really been dominant. If they can find ways to contribute offensively on a consistent basis that will be immensely helpful, especially against the good competition, the stronger of the boarding schools that we play.”

A pair of newcomers who both star for the Mercer chiefs club program, sophomore Michael Sullo and junior Emery Oliver, figure to make an immediate impact for the Panthers.

“Michael is a pretty dynamic kid at that 15 year old age group,” said Bertoli.

“He will be challenged a little bit as we play these bigger, older teams but he is a kid who always has the puck on his stick. Emery is a hardworking, two-way forward.”

Bertoli is expecting good work from a defensive unit that will feature junior Birch Gorman, senior Chris Cecila, junior Luke Antonacci, and senior Justin Sherman.

“Birch has looked like a different player; he is confident and playing all of the minutes that Chip would have played last year,” said Bertoli.

“He is playing on the first power play, he is big and strong. He is going to be  a horse back there, playing in every situation. Cecila looks great. He is solid and will contribute offensively. Justin will also be back there.  Luke will play defense, that is where he plays with the club level. He finished the year with us playing defense, he is going to be dynamic.”

At goalie, newcomer sophomore goalie Tim Miller should end up being dynamic between the pipes this winter.

“Tim has been great and has been really good in the two scrimmages,” said Bertoli, noting that Miller has also starred for the Mercer Chiefs club program.

“He is athletic and he has been coached the right way. He plays at a high level. When our older kids are shooting pucks at him, he is managing just fine.”

While acknowledging that his young squad may take its lumps dealing with the program’s highly competitive schedule, Bertoli is confident that things will work out fine.

“We are going to be really challenged physically in at least 50 percent of the games, you look at teams like Delbarton, Lawrenceville, Hill, and who we play in the Barber Tournament in New England,” said Bertoli

“Those groups are just going to be bigger, older, and deeper than us. I am pretty confident that we will find ways to manage the game. We have skilled kids. It is just finding ways for those younger kids to utilize those skill sets in situations where they can grow and be confident and not feel they are overwhelmed or physically over matched. It is a little adjustment curve.”