December 11, 2019

Sparked by Zammit’s Scoring Prowess, PHS Boys’ Hockey Rolls to Pair of Wins

GOAL ORIENTED: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Zammit goes after the puck in game last season. This past Wednesday, sophomore forward Zammit scored three goals to help PHS defeat Lawrence 12-2 in its season opener. Last Monday, Zammit scored two goals as the Tigers defeated WW/P 9-3 to improve to 2-0. In upcoming action, PHS faces Paul VI at the Skate Zone in Pennsauken on December 13 and then plays Hopewell Valley on December 17 at Mercer County Park.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

John Zammit has taken his game to a higher level this winter as he starts his sophomore season for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

“It is just a bunch of confidence; freshman year, I was a little hesitant at times with the size and weight difference of the older players,” said Zammit.

“I am bigger and more physical, size helps. Puck possession wise, I think my stickhandling has been getting more accurate and I am more consistent.”

Last Wednesday, Zammit displayed some deft stickhandling, scoring three goals as PHS overcame an early 1-0 deficit and defeated Lawrence High 12-2 in its season opener at Mercer County Park.

“We came into the game thinking it is a good game to work on fundamentals coming off last year and getting the team chemistry going,” said Zammit. “Their first goal got us going a little bit, we came out slow.”

Zammit’s first tally gave PHS a 4-1 late in the first period and he started the scoring in the second with another score to stretch the advantage to 6-1.

“I had a nice cycle down low in the corner, it popped out and I saw the top left corner and had to put it in,” said Zammit, reflecting on his first goal.

“The second one was a tough rebound. I had to spin around and get that on my backhand and into the net.”

The win demonstrated how well the Tiger players are bonding with new coach Joe Bensky.

“We are running some new systems, we are definitely getting the hang of it,” said Zammit.

“We have been practicing well together. We are definitely working well together, coaches and teammates, the chemistry between us is good. We are excited.”

Zammit is excited to be on the ice with another newcomer to the program, his older sister, senior Victoria Zammit, who also stars for the PHS girls’ team.

“It is fun playing with her, we used to play a lot when we were younger,” said Zammit, who scored two more goals on Monday as PHS defeated WW/P 9-3.

“We kind of split up as we grew older because she went off with the girls. It is brother/sister, it is a special time.”

For PHS head coach Bensky, the win over Lawrence was a special debut.

“It is a little nerve-wracking and we were waiting for a month,” said Bensky. “We got snowed out on Monday. Coach [Matt] Strober and I were really eager, we are having an amazing time. It is a big sigh of relief to get that first one.”

There were some anxious moments when Lawrence jumped out to a 1-0 lead 30 seconds into the contest.

“Not a lot comes easy, there were nerves and we had a tough turnover there,” said Bensky.

“The puck went the other way and they got a scoring opportunity. The boys were a little nervous and they scored.”

PHS senior star Aidan Trainor got things going in the right direction for the Tigers as he scored two straight goals to give PHS a lead it never relinquished.

“Aidan is a phenomenal hockey player, he plays a big role,” said Bensky. “He is an amazing young man. He is a talented hockey player but he is a great leader. He took the team on his shoulders for sure.”

While Trainor and Zammit each ended up with three goals, several players got into the act offensively with senior Rocco Salvato notching two goals, sophomore John O’Donnell chipping in a goal and three assists, and a pair of freshmen, Cooper Zullo and Ethan Garlock, getting goals in their high school debut.

“We had a lot of other players step up, that is what makes our team so talented,” said Bensky. “We have so much depth; I can roll three lines and not worry about it.”

Bensky believes that Zammit can go on a roll this year. “John had a really nice game,” said Bensky. “I think he is going to be under the radar.”

For Bensky, getting to use his whole roster in the opener was a nice way to start things.

“Everyone got their feet wet and got a feel for high school hockey,” said Bensky, whose team faces Paul VI at the Skate Zone in Pennsauken on December 13 and then plays Hopewell Valley on December 17 at Mercer County Park.

“I remember when I was a freshman how nervous I was. It is a different game. Most of my kids play travel but it is different than high school. They are playing against young men now. I am happy that we were able to get them out there. We had a few first time goals so that was exciting.”

Zammit, for his part, saw the first win as a good step for the Tigers. “This is a great first game,” said Zammit. “We are psyched; it gets our morale up. Being 1-0 is nice.”