January 8, 2020

Sparked by Stellar Play from Defenseman Gorman, PDS Boys’ Hockey Makes Progress by Tying Hoosac

BIG MAN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Birch Gorman brings the puck up the ice in a game last season. Last Sunday, junior defenseman Gorman scored a goal to help PDS skate to a 3-3 tie with the Hoosac School (N.Y.) in the consolation game of its Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational. The Panthers, now 3-5-1, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 8 before hosting Delbarton on January 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having gone 0-3 at the Barber Tournament in New England to end December and then falling 8-0 to the Albany Academy (N.Y.) on Saturday to open its Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team went back to basics as it faced the Hoosac School (N.Y.) in a consolation contest.

“Today we just focused on the simple things, just getting pucks deep and getting pucks on net,” said PDS junior defenseman Birch Gorman, reflecting on the Sunday matchup.

After Hoosac jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 6:15 left in the first period, PDS got a puck in the back of the net less than four minutes later as senior David Sherman converted a feed from sophomore Michael Sullo for a power play goal.

“The first goal took the wind out of our sails a little bit but then Sullo passed it to David and he had a top shelf snipe, it was so nice,” said Gorman.

“That one really motivated us. Once we started scoring, the boys were all buzzing and it was such a good atmosphere.”

In the second period, Gorman got into the act, coming up with a power play tally of his own as PDS went ahead 2-1.

“We had a pretty long power play,” recalled Gorman, who was assisted on the goal by classmate Drew McConaughy. “I just got it and fired a one-time snapper in the left side of the net. It was a good goal.”

The Panthers led 3-2 after two periods but Hoosac scored a goal with 2:00 left in regulation to pull out a 3-3 tie. While Gorman would have liked to see PDS hold on for a win, he was was pleased with the team’s performance overall.

“This is definitely the best hockey we have played in a while,” said Gorman.

“I think this coming week, playing Hill and Delbarton, they are two very tough teams so this is a good motivator. All of us are just ready to work here.”

Notwithstanding yielding the late goal, PDS produced some good work at the defensive end.

“We have six solid defensemen; all of us are doing well and the forwards are really starting to back check now which is good,” said Gorman.

“Our goalie [Tim Miller] held us in there pretty well. He made some really good saves. I think we are finally just starting to jell as a team.”

As one of the most experienced players on the team, Gorman is looking to play a bigger role in helping the Panthers jell.

“In my first two years, I was more of a middle of a pack player,” said Gorman.

“We graduated some of our older guys and I have been trying to work on my game. I, along with some of my other older teammates, are really leading the group. I have evolved into more of a leader.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli was cautiously optimistic that his squad would come up with a good game in the wake of its four-game losing streak.

“Hoosac is a good group that took Lawrenceville to overtime last night,” said Bertoli.

“I was a little concerned about our psyche and our mindset. Our confidence was probably a little shaken. We scored three goals in the previous four games and have been shut out three times.”

The first period tally by Sherman helped break the ice for the Panthers. “It was encouraging to see us score early,” said Bertoli. “The power play has been our bread and butter for years here and we have struggled there. We made some adjustments and we put some guys in different spots. We tried to get Sullo the puck more because he is our most dynamic offensive guy.”

Bertoli credited Gorman with providing some dynamic play along the blue line.

“Birch is pressing when we are not scoring; he tries to do too much,” said Bertoli.

“He extends himself, he gets tired. When he simplifies it, he is unbelievable. In the defensive zone, he has shut down a lot of kids on the attack. He is an older presence back there.”

In Bertoli’s view, the Panthers did a lot of good things against Hoosac even though they didn’t have a win to show for their efforts.

“I was proud of the guys; truthfully I don’t care about the result other than for them to feel good about themselves,” said Bertoli.

“Giving up that goal late hurts but I am more impressed with the way we played. At the end of the day, I just want us to play good hockey. I wanted us to improve from yesterday and everyday we look to make adjustments and improvements. I feel like we got better as a team and we took a huge step forward today.”

With PDS playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 8 before hosting Delbarton on January 9, Bertoli is looking for his team to keep taking steps forward.

“We haven’t beaten Hill in 12 games but we played them very tight most of the time, more often than not those games are going to OT,” said Bertoli.

“From a statewide perspective, Delbarton, to me, is the gold standard of New Jersey hockey. That is a game I look forward to; I highlight it on my calendar every year. I respect the way they play and the success they have had. It is a great challenge for our guys. I am excited.”

Gorman, for his part, is excited by the challenges presented by the formidable foes.

“They are two really good teams; we just need to do the fundamental, basic stuff,” said Gorman.

“It is literally something as simple as chipping the puck out of the offensive zone. We just have to play defense first and score when the chances come.”