January 22, 2020

Samaan Enjoying Return to Ice After Hiatus, Emerging as Scoring Threat for PHS Girls’ Hockey

FRESH START: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Catie Samaan controls the puck last Friday night as PHS hosted Newark East Side at Hobey Baker Rink. Freshman forward Samaan scored two goals in the game to help the Tigers post a 7-2 win and improve to 3-8. PHS hosts Immaculate Heart Academy on January 24 and Princeton Day School on January 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Catie Samaan took a break from hockey three years ago to focus her athletic efforts on soccer and field hockey but decided this winter that it was time to get back on the ice.

Joining the Princeton High girls’ hockey team, freshman forward Samaan has found a home with the squad at Hobey Baker Rink.

“I haven’t played since the sixth grade,” said Samaan. “I just thought it would be a fun experience to have. They have been nothing but nice to me, they have been amazing to me.”

In getting back into the game, Samaan also had a family influence, following in the footsteps of her mother, Princeton University Athletics Director Mollie Marcoux Samaan, the second all-time leading scorer for Tiger women’s hockey, and older sister Maddie, who starred for PHS as a freshman in 2017-18 and is currently competing for the Lawrenceville girls’ squad.

“That is part of the reason why I played this year,” said Samaan. “I had been playing since I was four until sixth grade and it is just awesome to get back on the ice, especially where my family has played.”

A tip from her older sister helped Samaan enjoy a big game last Friday as she scored two goals within a 23-second span in the third period to help PHS pull away to a 7-2 win over Newark East Side at Baker Rink and improve to 3-8. 

“I was just trying to shoot it,” said Samaan, noting that she wanted to score a goal with her sister and mom in attendance last Friday.

“I just look for the open slots in the net like my sister has been telling me to do. I just went for it.”

Other Tigers got into the act as senior Morgan Swanke and sophomore Carly Ruzich picked up goals and sophomore Emma Traylor got an assist with senior star Victoria Zammit leading the way as usual, tallying six points on three goals and three assists.

“It was awesome,” said Samaan. “We work hard in practice so it was great to see everyone getting the puck, instead of some of the main players.”

Having an awesome time this winter, Samaan sees herself continuing to play for the program over the rest of her high school career.

“Absolutely, I will keep doing this until they won’t let me on the ice anymore,” said Samaan.

PHS head coach Christian Herzog is happy to have Samaan on the ice for his squad.

“I like Catie’s style, she is not afraid to play the body a little bit,” said Herzog.

“She is helping us out. She has been good enough to say coach play me wherever is best for the team. She has a team mentality. She was out here playing with a temperature the other day.”

It was a good night for the PHS team against East Side as it jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, allowing Herzog to give shifts to members of his supporting cast.

“This was the first time we had played East Side; I was thinking it was a good fit terms of our team,” said Herzog.

“They worked hard against us and it gave us a chance to use some players who are newer to the game to get a bunch of ice time. They saw the chance to score some goals there. On every shift they would come off and would say coach I was right there.”

In Herzog’s view, PHS is getting better and better the more ice time it gets this winter.

“If you look at the skill acquisition from the beginning of the year from first practice to now you can definitely see that there has been gains in skill,” said Herzog. “We still need a lot of work on the passing.”

The highly skilled Zammit has helped her teammates make gains, going out of her way to get them involved at the offensive end.

“Vicky head mans that,” said Herzog. “She is very good about slowing it down to give everybody a chance to get into the zone and set them up.”

Herzog has gotten the chance to work a goalie rotation this winter with sophomore Jadie Tome serving as the back up for senior Ella Chauder.   “We are lucky to have her come in this year so she can learn under the tutelage of Chauder for one year,” said Herzog, who used both netminders against East Side with Tome making three saves and Chauder getting seven stops.

“Ella has been easy going about it; some senior goaltenders would have a problem with the other player getting a chance. I don’t want to put in a player who is just learning the sport and and just throw her into the fire.”

With PHS hosting Immaculate Heart Academy on January 24 and Princeton Day School on January 28 at Baker Rink, Herzog is hoping for some sharper play from his charges.

“I want to see more focus, we played Immaculate Heart the other day and it was a very close game,” said Herzog. 

“We came back and then we took a poor penalty in the offensive zone and they score to make it 7-5. There have been a few games that have slipped away early and we just couldn’t get back into it.”

Samaan, for her part, sees more victories on the horizon for the Tigers.

“We had a great game with Immaculate Heart the other day where we almost came back from a 4-0 deficit,” said Samaan.

“We have a few big games and some rematches coming up that we are really excited for and think we can win.”