December 11, 2019

With Linnehan Stepping Into Lead Role, PDS Boys’ Hockey Gets Off to 2-0 Start

FAST START: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Gibson Linnehan races to goal in recent action. Last Thursday, junior forward Linnehan scored a goal to help PDS defeat Randolph 3-1. The Panthers, now 2-0, host Morristown-Beard on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Moving up to the top line for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team this winter, Gibson Linnehan is ready to shoulder more responsibility.

Teaming with Stefan Gorelenkov and junior Drew McConaughy, junior Linnehan is relishing his new duties.

“We are leading the team every single practice and every single game,” said Linnehan. “It is our job, we are having fun with it.”

The trio has been doing a good job of controlling play. “We keep the puck in the offensive zone the whole game, we get shots to the net,” said Linnehan.

“It is basically keep away from the other team. We are getting shots on the net, we are scoring goals.”

Last Thursday against visiting Randolph, the Panthers got a goal from Alex Nowakoski to jump out to a 1-0 lead on the way to a 3-1 victory.

“The boys were fired up to begin with, we were jacked up right from the start,” said Linnehan.

“The main thing was we just wanted to get pucks on the net. We got that first goal and just kept going,”

In the second period, Linnehan tallied a goal on an assist by Gorelenkov to put PDS up 2-1.

“I got the puck low and I wasn’t expecting much,” recalled Linnehan.

“I brought it up to the middle in the slot and I cut around and saw an opening top shelf and buried it.”

When Panther sophomore goalie Tim Miller left the game late in the second period after a collision in the crease, PDS focused on puck possession in order to hold off Randolph.

“The boys needed to block shots, we couldn’t let the goalie take any shots,” said Linnehan. “We needed to keep it down in their zone. It was the only way to win the game and we got the job done.”

With the Panthers looking a little sloppy in a 6-3 win over St. Joe’s Prep (Pa.) a day earlier in its season opener, Linnehan and his teammates knew that they had to be sharper against Randolph, a perennial public school power.

“We came off a win over St. Joe’s yesterday and this was a great test to see whether we were going to be a good team this year,” said Linnehan. “After today, I think we have a strong season ahead of us.”

In reflecting on his progress this winter, Linnehan is looking to be stronger offensive threat.

“I still have a physical mentality to my game but I am starting to focus more on playmaking,” said Linnehan, who also plays lacrosse. “Getting goals and assists, that is what we have got to do.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli likes the mentality he is seeing from Linnehan this season.

“Gibson has been great, he is so much better this year than he was last year,” said Bertoli.

“He was a solid third line player for us and now he is just a different player. Some of it is the realization that it is his team and he is on that top line, getting power play minutes and playing in situations he hasn’t played in.”

While PDS didn’t play great in its opener, Bertoli was encouraged by his team’s performance against Randolph.

“I wasn’t happy with the way we played last night, it was a little sloppy,” said Bertoli.

“Randolph is a very well coached team, we played better than I thought we could this early in the year. I was real impressed with the way that we played. Being at home and being the home opener, I think that had something to do with it. The young kids are three, four games into it now, including scrimmages.” PDS was particularly impressive in the third period as it played keep away with the puck and added an insurance goal by Nowakoski to aid backup goalie Eric Gellasch

“We completely dominated. They can’t score when the puck is in the offensive zone so that is our focus,” said Bertoli. “You should work the hardest in the offensive zone and be completely committed and determined to play in the offensive zone.”

Bertoli believes that the Panthers displayed their commitment to improvement against Randolph.

“We strive for consistency, we work to get better on a daily basis and we made some strides today,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Morristown-Beard on December 11. “I am proud of the way they played, the result aside. It was the effort level and playing a full team game.”

Linnehan, for his part, sees some good results ahead for PDS. “I feel like we are playing really good hockey right now, we have to keep it going and fix up some minor mistakes,” said Linnehan. “We are going to get there. We were not expecting this start but after today we are really happy.”