January 29, 2020

With Evaldi Starring at Both Ends of the Ice, Hun Boys’ Hockey Battling Through Injuries

ALL OVER THE ICE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Eddie Evaldi brings the puck up the ice last Wednesday as Hun hosted the Portledge School (N.Y.). Playing both defenseman and center, junior star Evaldi scored two goals in the game but it wasn’t enough as Portledge prevailed 5-3. The Raiders, who defeated Notre Dame 11-3 last Monday to improve to 6-8-2, host St. Joe’s Prep (Pa.) on January 29 and St. Augustine on January 31 before playing at Gloucester Catholic on February 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Eddie Evaldi’s long-sleeve compression T-shirt was sweat-soaked and he was short of breath standing in the lobby of Ice Land Skating Center after the Hun School boys’ hockey team hosted the Portledge School (N.Y.) last Wednesday.

The junior star had reason to be fatigued as he took shifts on both offense and defense and was all over the ice as Hun battled valiantly in falling 5-3 to Portledge.

The versatile Evaldi has been relishing his double duty. “My role is basically just do whatever the coach [Ian McNally] wants me to do; I am out there a lot,” said Evaldi.

“For the first part of the game I was centering the two lines and I was playing some shifts at defense. In the second part of the game I went back to the defense. It is like that every single game; I love it.”

In the Portledge game, Evaldi got the Raiders on the board after they fell behind 1-0 in the first period.

“They actually made a bad line change and I was able to catch up on that,” said Evaldi, reflecting on the tally that came with 2:22 left in the first period. “I beat him wide and then just put it far side.”

In the waning seconds of the first period, Evaldi was the beneficiary of some good fortune, scoring a second goal after an intended pass ended up bouncing past the Portledge goalie to give Hun a 2-1 lead.

“Elian Estulin made a pass up to me, I pulled it wide and waited to give him the pass,” said Evaldi.

“I saucered it and actually went off someone else’s stick and hit post and in. It was the luckiest goal I have ever scored.”

With the game tied 3-3 heading into the third period, Hun was a bit unlucky as it created some chances, only to see Portledge tack on a pair of later goals to pull out the 5-3 win.

“They were definitely hemming us in, but actually I thought we had a pretty good third period,” said Evaldi.

“We generated our own chances. I just think that they had the extra jump and unfortunately we weren’t able to match that.”

Noting that the defeat eliminated the Raiders from making the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) playoffs, Evaldi was proud of how Hun battled to the final buzzer, particularly since key players such as Nicholas Dimatos, Will Banford, and Riley Frost are sidelined due to injury.

“It is disappointing but I think we played really, really well,” said Evaldi.

“We gave it our all, there is nothing more we can do. We have so many guys out with injury. We did the best with what we had. There is a lot to take away. To be able perform the way that we are without them just makes you think that if we did have them, we would be in the MAHL playoffs.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally is certainly pleased with the way Evaldi is performing in shouldering so much of the load for the Raiders.

“Eddie is the wild card; he looks over at the bench and we say either defense, center, or get off,” said McNally.

“He plays two-thirds of the game; it is remarkable that he can do it. We are so short right now, with limited options to make it work. Eddie is basically playing two positions for the whole game. He is staying out for two center shifts or he goes back to defense. I haven’t seen anyone before who can physically do that; he is a sparkplug.”

Noting that his core of junior Elliott Lareau, junior Charles Lavoie, senior Alexis Landry, senior Felix Turcotte, and Evaldi has been consistently productive, McNally acknowledged that the bounces didn’t go their way against Portledge.

“They have always been able to find a way; we didn’t have the the puck luck tonight,” lamented McNally.

“The pass was six inches off, the rebound went to your backhand instead of your forehand. Usually they string together goals out of nowhere. Tonight it was scramble, scramble, mishit.”

The play of senior goalie Jackson Cole, who made 35 saves against Portledge, along with the scrambling at the offensive end, has kept Hun competitive as it has dealt with the rash of injuries.

“We haven’t not been in a game, which is remarkable for that group and that they are able to pull together all the time,” said McNally, who also got a goal from freshman Mark Gall in the loss to Portledge.

“Jackson gives them confidence, he is there in the back end. At any point in a game, Eddie can go off and they know that. Charles and Elliott are great. The difference is that we have the ability to score three goals in three minutes and that is not somewhat we usually had. Even when you are down or tired, this can change in an instant. We tell them to stick with it a little bit and they do. They hang with it.”

With the Mercer County Tournament coming up next month, McNally believes his squad is primed for another run in that competition as it goes for its seventh straight county crown.

“All the kids like playing in the counties,” said McNally, whose team defeated Notre Dame 11-3 last Monday to improve to 6-8-2 and hosts St. Joe’s Prep (Pa.) on January 29 and St. Augustine on January 31 before playing at Gloucester Catholic on February 3.

“This year we have a lot of kids who aren’t from here and they don’t know what it is. They wouldn’t realize that is it something that Hun has done in the past few years. We look forward to what is coming.”

While the Hun veterans are used to success in the MCT, Evaldi believes the Raiders will be fired up by the chance to extend their title streak.

“We are psyched about it,” said Evaldi.  “Once you get to that final, a lot of people that show up. Everyone gets hyped for that, everyone is cheering us on. It is definitely something we don’t see every game.”

—Bill Alden