April 7, 2021

PHS Girls’ Hockey Displayed Blue Collar Mentality As it Competed with Short-Handed Squad in 2021 

SHOWING RESILIENCE: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Grace Rebak controls the puck in a game this season. Junior star defenseman Rebak made an impact at both ends of the ice as PHS went 1-2 in 2021. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With a squad of only around ten players, the Princeton High girls’ hockey team utilized a blue collar mentality to get through the winter.

“We had nine, 10 girls and I told them look we have got to play with what we have, it is what it is,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog, noting that his team practiced early mornings at the Ice Land Rink in Hamilton as its usual home, Princeton’s Hobey Baker Rink, was not open.

“We need to do the best that we can, we might end up with a loss but we are not accepting it from the get-go. It was bring the hard hat, the lunch pail, and go to work.”

Taking that message to heart, the Tiger players brought an energy to the ice.

“The girls were excited to be there for the opportunity to play,” said Herzog, whose team went 1-2 in an abbreviated season. “Many of them were not the more experienced players.”

The squad’s two most experienced players, junior Grace Rebak and sophomore Catie Samaan, proved to be the workhorses for the squad.

“They provided some really good leadership, they definitely logged a ton of minutes,” said Herzog.

“Going in I said, look ladies, the two of you are the future of this team as far as leadership and all of that. In our off ice practice sessions, Grace stepped up to that, saying I would like to lead this or this.”

At goalie, junior Jade Tome also stepped up, continuing to progress.

“She did well, she was facing a lot of shots,” said Herzog.

“She has come a long way; I wished we could have had more games so she could see even more shots. She gets a lot stronger towards the end of the season. She is always working. The one thing about her is just to stay positive. You can’t change the fact that you just got scored on, you have to think about the next one. Her work ethic is strong, she is constantly doing stuff outside.”

The team’s two seniors, Hailey Hawes and Olivia Benevento, made a positive contribution.

“Hailey, especially with this being her first season and having no experience, definitely had the right mindset,” said Herzog.

“She was always looking to learn, that is one of the things that I loved about her as an individual. She can take some constructive criticism, if you say you need to do this, she would say coach I will do that next shift. Olivia waited to come out because of COVID concerns, she has been part of the program the whole time. She said she reiterated to her parents the importance of how much this team and the relationships mean to her, not necessarily the wins or the record.”

A quartet of juniors — Sarah White, Monica Watson, Kelsey Riley, and Defne Arsoy — helped bolster the program this winter.

“Sarah played forward last year and we were using her on defense because she was a former figure skater,” said Herzog.

“She acclimated pretty well position-wise. Monica was brand new to the game and had never skated before. She was a hard worker, her head is in the right place. She was always willing to push herself, whether it be practice or games, never complaining about anything. Kelsey is a very motivated individual, she has never missed a practice or a game. She is all-in. Defne is a hard worker too, she played center and started winning some face-offs. She contributed.”

While Herzog was disappointed that the team lost some games due to cancellations, he credited the players with maintaining their strong work ethic throughout.

“Overall, it was a positive year with the fact that we got to play,” said Herzog.

“It was put on your hard hat, we are going to work. It was not a typical year, the numbers were low. I anticipate that when we get back to normal, that we will have bigger numbers.”