January 15, 2020

With Young Players Showing Progress, PDS Boys’ Hockey Edges Delbarton 2-1

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Tim Miller guards the crease in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore goalie Miller made 24 saves to help PDS edge Delbarton 2-1. PDS, which fell 1-0 to the Portledge School (N.Y.) last Monday to move 4-7-1, hosts Don Bosco on January 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Trailing powerful Delbarton 1-0 heading into the third period last Thursday, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team was due for some breaks to go its way.

“We needed to find a way to score and get a lucky bounce,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, whose team had gone 0-5-1 in its last six games coming into Thursday with each of those games having been against boarding schools

“In seven straight games we have given up a goal on a shot where Timmy [Miller] is screened or it gets redirected. One of these days we have to score a goal like that for ourselves and put bodies in front of the net.”

After squandering a power play opportunity early in the third, PDS rebounded to get a goal from freshman Oliver Hall on an assist by sophomore Michael Sullo to tie the game at 1-1 with 3:17 left in regulation.

“We started to generate some offensive chances down low; they are a younger group this year and are just not as structured in terms of their team game as they have been in the past,” said Bertoli.

“That line of Sullo, [Chris] Babecki, and Hall has done a lot of our 5-on-5 scoring. They just cycled the puck and made a play from behind the net to the front of the net. Oliver banged it in so we went from pressing, pressing to sitting back.”

Building on the momentum from that goal, PDS pulled out a dramatic 2-1 victory as Sullo notched the game winner with three seconds left in the third.

“For the last shift of the game I just felt like if we had an opportunity to win the game it is probably going to come from Sullo so we put him out there with Drew [McConaughy] and Gibby [Gibson Linnehan],” said Bertoli.

“It was kind of a mistake on their end with a 10 seconds left, their kid probably should have dumped the puck but he was thinking let’s try and make one play. David [Sherman] stepped up at the blue line and turned the puck over and flipped it to Sullo who was just flying down the offside wing. He went on a one-on-one and used the goalie as a screen and just ripped it high glove side.”

The PDS goalie, sophomore Miller, came up big for the Panthers, making 24 saves.

“Timmy played solid and made some good saves,” said Bertoli. “The shots were pretty equal and he made the saves he needed to make. He was really good, that is what we need from him if we are going to have any success against good teams.”

Having success against Delbarton was a big lift for PDS. “Outside of league play as far as recruiting and our presence in New Jersey, it is probably the biggest game on our schedule,” said Bertoli.

“I have the utmost respect for Delbarton and their program. They have won state championships in nine of my 12 years coaching at PDS. For me it is a huge game, regardless of whether they are a young team or not. They are a gold standard of high school hockey in New Jersey so it was a big win.”

In Bertoli’s view, his youthful group is gaining maturity. “Our young kids are starting to make some strides, we are seeing some improvement,” said Bertoli, whose team fell 1-0 to the Portledge School (N.Y.) last Monday to move to 4-7-1 and hosts Don Bosco on January 15.

“They are playing more minutes and playing more meaningful minutes. They are starting to contribute so that is exciting. We do have a young group and we can’t rely on the same six or eight kids all of the time. It is good.”