February 24, 2021

Providing a Highlight in 3-2 Loss to St. Augustine, Kunkle Notches 1st Career Goal for PDS Boys’ Hockey

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Trevor Kunkle celebrates last week after scoring his first career goal against St. Augustine. Senior forward Kunkle’s tally was a highlight in the February 16 contest which saw a late PDS rally fall short in a 3-2 defeat. The Panthers, now 1-1-1, host Princeton High on February 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a highlight years in the making for Trevor Kunkle.

After working his way up through the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey program, playing junior varsity for two years and then getting called up to the varsity last winter, senior forward Kunkle finally found the back of the net last week for the Panthers as they hosted St. Augustine.

Five minutes into the February 16 contest, Kunkle battled in the crease and slotted the puck home to give PDS a 1-0 lead.

“It was the first varsity goal for me so it felt great,” said Kunkle. “It was good, it lifted the boys up. I was on JV my first two high school years and then last year I got the call up. I didn’t get much playing time. I was a big bench energy guy. This year I am getting a lot of playing time. I have never played travel hockey. I am just happy that I got it out of the way. I got that pressure off my back.”

Kunkle is happy to be on the ice in a season limited by COVID-19 concerns.

“None of the games are guaranteed, you just have to make the best of it,” said Kunkle.

“We are lucky to have a couple of games on the schedule. It was looking pretty grim, that we weren’t going to get any games this season. We had a lot of guys out with COVID. We are just happy to get a game. It was the first game in a while; it felt good, definitely.”

The game didn’t turn out so well for PDS as it took a 2-1 lead into the second period only to see St Augustine score two unanswered goals in a span of 1:17 and hold on for a 3-2 victory.

“I am disappointed that we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” said Kunkle, reflecting on the defeat which left the Panthers at 1-1-1 on the season.

“Pucks didn’t go our way but it is alright. They just came out smarter, playing stronger than us in the second period.”

In the third period, PDS tried valiantly to rally, outshooting St. Augustine 8-4, but couldn’t break through.

“We were just trying to play smarter and play harder,” said Kunkle.

“They were playing body a lot in the second. We wanted to match that; it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. We tried at the end, it was just unlucky.”

Kunkle feels lucky to have been able to carve out a role with the PDS hockey program.

“It has definitely meant a lot to me, I wasn’t expecting to be playing at the varsity level,” said Kunkle, who also plays soccer and lacrosse for PDS.

“I have got my boys around me and they just keep me fired up and playing and working hard in practice and grinding hard in the games. It has definitely been one of the more exciting experiences. It has been one of my more exciting PDS moments, especially last year because of the Lawrenceville game. It was a lot of fun to just sit in the bench and enjoy the moments with the boys. This year, I didn’t really expect to play much but I just wanted to be around with the guys and the coaches.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli enjoyed seeing Kunkle break through with his first goal.

“Trevor had worked his way up through the middle school program, through the JV program and still plays in JV games, he played in a couple this year,” said Bertoli.

“He is a great kid. It is a testament to him that he stuck with it as a senior and now because of his commitment to the sport, he has gotten better. The cross training that he is doing between being a soccer player and a lacrosse player has helped. He is a really likable  coachable kid. I know when we put him out there, he is going to be in the right spot.”

Although PDS got itself in the right spots against St. Augustine, it didn’t close the deal.

“I felt like we played good hockey today but we lacked a little grit,” said Bertoli, who also got a goal from sophomore forward Nick Bruno.

“We lacked a little toughness at times on the 50/50 pucks. I look at the goals that they scored, they were second and third chance opportunities right in front of net. We have to clear the front of the net. We have got to be harder in the hard areas of the rink.”

The Panthers did play hard in the third period, generating some good opportunities even as their rally fell short.

“We wanted to be more aggressive, we wanted to get back to the way we were playing in the first period,” said Bertoli.

“As much as we pushed at the end, we didn’t have that consistent, sustained pressure that you would like to see when you are down late. I think we have a pretty opportunistic group. We create a lot on the rush. We had some chances on the rush today and I thought we did some good things.”

The defensive unit did some good things, led by freshmen Han Shin and Connor Stratton along with sophomore Will Brown, sophomore Cole Fenton, and junior Chris Babecki, a converted forward.

“They are just good hockey players, they play a lot of minutes, they play the game the right way, and they play hard,” said Bertoli of his two freshman standouts.

“It is a position that we are not deep at right now and yet I thought the five of them played very well today. I thought Will moved his feet, we have encouraged him to get more involved offensively and I thought he did that today. I thought Cole had a good game. Chris is just kind of learning the position, he is starting to get a little more comfortable.”

While not winning the St. Augustine game was disappointing, Bertoli was happy to see his players get the chance to compete.

“It is fun to be around the kids,” added Bertoli, whose team is slated to host Princeton High on February 24.

“I can see the excitement in their eyes as they get the opportunity to play and be around each other. Most of our kids have been remote the vast majority of the year. They get that social interaction at the rink that they are not getting in the school building. That has been nice.”

Kunkle is determined to enjoy his last few weeks at the PDS rink. 

“I am trying to make the most of what I have here with this group of guys, this coaching staff, and my classmates; it is a great senior class,” said Kunkle.

“I am just trying to have fun and enjoy the season while we have it. Eventually the end is going to come, it is inevitable so we just want to make the most of what we have now and hope that we get some more games on the schedule.”