February 3, 2021

Sparked by Antonacci’s Offensive Brilliance, PDS Girls’ Hockey Produces Sizzling 4-0 Start

NOTCHING GOALS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Ally Antonacci, left, heads to goal in recent action. Last Thursday, junior forward Antonacci tallied a goal and three assists to help PDS defeat Chatham-Madison 7-3. The Panthers, now 4-0, are slated to host Princeton High on February 9 and Morristown-Beard on February 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team locked in a scoreless tie against Chatham-Madison early in the second period last Thursday evening at McGraw Rink, Ally Antonacci broke the ice with a stroke of brilliance.

Racing toward goal on an odd-man rush, PDS junior forward Antonacci fired a laser into the top of the net to put the Panthers up.

For Antonacci, the tally came as a surprise as her view of the goal was obscured.

“I was actually blinded coming up,” said Antonacci. “I couldn’t see where I was shooting. Luckily I got it in.”

Sparked by Antonacci, PDS got a lot more pucks in the net, pulling away to a 7-3 victory, reeling off five unanswered goals over the last 12:05 of the third period as it improved to 4-0.

Antonacci helped get that run going, getting the puck to senior Hailey Wexler, who banged it home with 12:08 left in the third period to make it a 3-3 game.

“Someone shot, I got the rebound and I moved it with my feet to Hailey on the left,” recalled Antonacci, who ended the game with a goal and three assists. “She hit it in the goal because the goalie was on the other side.”

PDS got a goal from freshman Emily McCann 21 seconds later to go up 4-3 and never looked back as freshman Logan Harrison, senior Hannah Choe, and sophomore Lauren Chase each scored down the stretch.

“We got two goals in a minute,” said Antonacci. “We connected better than we did in the first; we just pulled ourselves together.”

In reflecting on the late outburst, Antonacci believes that PDS has come together quickly this season.

“We do have a lot of chemistry,” said Antonacci. “We have a lot of freshmen and the older girls who have played together for two years. A lot of the freshmen and sophomores play outside together. Even the girls that don’t, we connect really well together.”

In the view of Antonacci, Panther head coach John Ritchie has played a key role in helping the players connect on the ice.

“Ritchie is a really good coach,” said Antonacci. “In practice, he goes over all of the specifics so that even the new players know all the drills that we do. That really helps us in the game and I think that pushes us off from there.”

Last winter, Antonacci was new to the PDS program, having opted to play only club hockey as a freshman.

“It was my first year playing on this team, I played travel last year in both field hockey and ice hockey so I didn’t have a lot of time to be here,” said Antonacci.

“Coming out here on the ice helps. Compared to travel, all of the girls are so nice here. It is really easy to connect with them even though we are less intense than travel. It is really fun to come out on the ice and have my friends here.”

Also starring in field hockey, Antonacci has fun juggling the two sports.

“I have been playing hockey since I was like three years old, my whole family plays hockey,” said Antonacci, whose older brother, Luke, starred for the PDS boys’ hockey program.

“I started playing field hockey a couple of years later. I feel like both sports help me play each other.”

Reflecting on her hot start this winter, Antonacci believes she is taking things to a higher level on the ice.

“I think the extra experience helps,” said Antonacci. “My shots have gotten better, they have gotten stronger. It is about the effort and skating as hard as you can to the puck. I think I have gotten faster.”

PDS head coach John Ritchie is certainly glad to have Antonacci skating for the Panthers.

“We were fortunate when she decided to play as a sophomore; she has other obligations, she is a field hockey player so it is a benefit,” said Ritchie.

“Her and Hailey work very well together. I think what is underrated is that she scores but she is also very good in the defensive zone. She sets the tempo for everybody in the defensive zone.”

Ritchie liked the way his squad picked up the tempo in the third period against Chatham-Madison.

“We just said to the girls, refocus and just keep plugging away and do what has worked for us,” said Ritchie.

“We had a couple of really nice goals off zone entries that we have worked on in practice in the first couple of weeks. It is nice to see that translate to the game. It is the resiliency. They are a team that doesn’t get too high or too low. They just keep plugging away, shift after shift, and they listen really well. No matter who is talking, everyone is really receptive. We tell them, they go out and execute. I said to them we have a little break coming up so in the third period we have to control it and own it. I thought we did that by the end of the period.”

With PDS off to a 4-0 start, having outscored its foes by a total of 29-5, Ritchie sees good chemistry as fueling that execution.

“It is a good mix, we have some really strong seniors,” said Ritchie.

“As we get to know each other, between the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, everybody is jelling well in the ice right now.”

The Panthers are showing balance at both ends of the ice.

“Lauren Chase defensively has certainly gotten a lot stronger and more confident as a sophomore,” added Ritchie.

“Offensively, the two freshmen, Emily McCann and Logan Harrison, both contributed. They are really nice players who are able to come in and contribute right away. We have nine or 10 forwards who we can put out there in different situations and that is not something everybody has the benefit of. There are a lot of players who are good on the defensive side of the puck; Ally, Hailey, and Maisie Henderson are really good two-way players.”

Looking ahead, Ritchie is hoping that PDS will get the chance to keep rolling.

“It is enjoy this and hope that we get to play the rest of the season moving
forward,” said Ritchie, whose team is scheduled to host Princeton High on February 9 and Morristown-Beard on February 11.

“My message to them coming in is that we have to take every advantage of what we have because we don’t know how long the season is going to be. We don’t know if this is going to happen or if that is going to happen. We have seen a couple of other schools cancel so every game we play, it could be our last game. I think we have played like that.”

Antonacci and her teammates are not taking anything for granted, relishing every chance they get to be together on the ice.

“We don’t have any games next week for right now; it is off and on,” said Antonacci.

“We try to make the most out of all the practices and the games that we get to play. I know a lot of teams aren’t getting to play like Lawrenceville. It is hard for other people, I think we are very lucky to get to play for the school.”