February 15, 2012

ON TARGET: Princeton High boys’ basketball star Davon Black puts up a shot in a game earlier this season. Last Monday, Black scored a game-high 17 points to help eighth-seeded PHS defeat No. 9 Nottingham 52-43 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, now 10-10, play at top-seeded Notre Dame on February 15 in the MCT quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After going through a dry spell in January, Davon Black and the Princeton High boys’ basketball team finally got back to the .500 mark last week.

Producing a superior defensive effort, PHS topped crosstown rival Princeton Day School 57-48 on February 6 to post its third straight win and improve to 9-9.

A day later, though, the Little Tigers experienced a letdown as they fell 54-35 to Hightstown.

In assessing the loss, senior guard Black acknowledged that PHS came out flat for the clash against the Rams.

“We let it get too high yesterday; we didn’t come out ready to play,” said Black, who scored 11 points in the loss.

“Hightstown is a good team and they jumped right on us at the start of the game. They stayed poised and controlled for the entire game.”

The Little Tigers showed some game in the third quarter when they started the half by outscoring PDS 8-4.

“We had a nice little run but it wasn’t enough,” said Black. “It showed some good signs. Coach [head coach Jason Carter] told me to be a lot more aggressive on the offensive end so I tried to get it going.”

In Black’s view, PHS needs to demonstrate their aggressiveness on a more constant basis to be successful.

“We have to come into every game prepared; we can’t let a team jump on us that fast,” said Black. “We just have to play every game like it is our last.”

The team’s three-game winning streak, which included hard-fought victories over WW/P-N and Lawrence, reflected a jump in PHS’s intensity at both ends of the court.

“I think we are finding our stride now,” said Black. “This game was a letdown but we had three big wins coming in so we were hitting it. We have been playing good defense. Defense starts it all. When you are playing good defense, the offense flows.”

The battle-tested Black, a team captain along with classmate Matt Hoffman, has looked to jump start the Little Tigers.

“As a senior, I just try to be a leader,” said Black, who showed leadership Monday, contributing a game-high 17 points to help eighth-seeded PHS beat No. 9 Nottingham 52-43 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

“I have been on the floor for three years now. I have seen a lot so my role is getting it going for everyone else. I want to dictate on the offensive end and be that defensive stopper. Whatever coach needs, that is what I am going to do.”

With PHS, now 10-10, playing in the MCT quarterfinals at top-seeded Notre Dame on February 15 and the state tournament coming up in a few weeks, Black is hoping to keep things going for as long as possible in his final weeks with the Little Tiger program.

“The focus is to have fun every single day,” said Black. “It has been so much fun here. It is hard knowing that it is coming to an end but my focus is just on the next game.”

CALLIS TREATMENT: Princeton University men’s squash player Chris Callis battles a Yale foe in recent action. Senior star ­Callis, who plays at No. 2 for the Tigers, will look to come up big this weekend as Ivy League champion Princeton hosts the College Squash Association (CSA) men’s national team championships. Second-seeded Princeton, 12-1 overall, will be looking to end top-seeded Trinity’s 13-year championship run.

The last time Princeton University hosted the College Squash Association (CSA) men’s national team championships, the Tigers came within an eyelash of derailing the Trinity College dynasty.

In the titanic 2009 title match that lasted more than six hours, Princeton came within two points of taking the crown before falling 5-4 to the Bantams.

This weekend, Princeton is again hosting the CSA competition and longtime Tiger head coach Bob Callahan believes his team could have what it takes to end Trinity’s 13-year championship run.

Noting the high level of parity in the sport and the fact that Yale snapped Trinity’s 252-match winning streak in January, Callahan sees the 2012 CSA as more wide open than it has been in years.

“Everyone feels excited that it is not preordained; any one of six teams feels that they could win,” said Callahan, whose team is seeded No. 2 behind the Bantams after going 12-1 overall and 7-0 in Ivy League action in winning the program’s 17th league title.

Since Trinity lost to Yale, they haven’t been in that position before coming into this. On the basis of that alone, teams think they have a chance.”

Coming into the season, Callahan wasn’t sure that his team had a chance to be a title contender.

“The biggest question marks were would Chris Callis and Kelly Shannon be healthy,” said Callahan, referring to his senior standouts who have struggled with injuries during their Princeton careers.

“Chris came in ready to go right off the bat, his back was better. Over the fall, he regained confidence and conditioning. Shannon came in healthy but injured his shoulder on our fall trip. When he was coming back from that, he twisted his ankle. He is just getting back in the lineup. We had some good freshmen coming in but you are not sure how good they will be compared to the players they will see in college.”

Callahan acknowledged that he had an ace in the hole with defending national champion Todd Harrity firmly ensconced at No. 1.

“Todd has such a spectacular season last year,” said Callahan of the junior who didn’t lose a single game during the individual championship tournament as he become the first American-born player to win the title in 21 years.

“In just about every match, you can figure that he will win and you only need to win four of the remaining matches.”

After cruising to a 7-0 start this season, Princeton pulled off a spectacular win at Harvard in mid-January.

“That was a huge win for us,” asserted Callahan, pointing out that Harvard had won the preseason Ivy scrimmage and received an added boost from the debut of international star Ali Farag in the January match.

“With all the parity, it has become the year of the home court advantage. The top 6 teams have all been winning their home matches. We went up to Harvard who had Ali Farag and pulled out a win on the road. It was one of the most rewarding wins I have had at Princeton.”

Two weeks later, Princeton suffered its only loss of the season as it fell 7-2 at juggernaut Trinity, who brings a 16-1 record into the CSA competition. Despite the lopsided final score, Callahan drew positives from the match.

“Three of the matches were close, going to five games with 11-9, 13-11, and 11-8 scores in those games” said Callahan, who is in his 31st season at the helm of the program and guided the Tigers to the 1993 CSA Potter Cup national team title.

“If six points go the other way, it could be a 5-4 match. They are a very good team, as always. They have responded very well to the Yale loss with 7-2 wins over us, Harvard, and Rochester.”

Princeton responded well to the Trinity setback, rolling past Yale three days later.

“We played Yale here and won 8-1; we were helped quite a lot by the home advantage,” said Callahan.

“That was a big win; there was a lot of talk about Yale after they beat Trinity.”

That triumph set the table for Princeton to gain the outright Ivy title which they clinched last Sunday with 8-1 victory over Columbia.

“That is my No. 1 goal every year,” said Callahan, reflecting on winning the Ivy crown.

“We got it without sharing, that is a great tribute to our kids. It was great to see the kids rise to the occasion in those matches. We came really close the last two years, it is nice to have something go your way. It was good for seniors to bookend their careers; they won the Ivies as freshman but lost the famous match to Trinity at the CSA.”

Callahan is hoping his players can rise to the occasion this weekend in the friendly confines of Jadwin.

“It is absolutely huge; we hope to be able to take advantage,” said Callahan, referring to the home court advantage.

“It does dissipate as the tournament goes on with three straight matches. Every time you play on the court, you get more comfortable.”

In Callahan’s view, there are four basic keys to success in the eight-team draw at the CSA.

“We need to be ruthlessly efficient in the first round and make every match a 3-game match,” said Callahan.

“You need to get off the court and preserve energy. So efficiency is No. 1 Second is to stay healthy and get as much rest as possible. The third is to have confidence and be optimistic, and the fourth thing is to have a little luck.”

The Tigers have established a blueprint for success which gives Callahan additional cause for optimism coming into the weekend.

“We do matches in three shifts, starting with Nos. 3, 6, and 9,” explained Callahan.

“We have done extremely well in the first shift; we had a 2-1 lead in all of our big matches except for Trinity. They have set the tone; hopefully they can keep doing that this weekend.”

If so, Princeton could use this weekend at Jadwin to make squash history.

HUMMING ALONG: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer heads to the basket last Saturday in Princeton’s 70-62 win over No. 21/25 Harvard. Junior forward Hummer sparked the Tigers to victory, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and six assists. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Ian Hummer, the cold front this weekend arrived early when he couldn’t buy a basket Friday night as the Princeton University men’s hoops team hosted Dartmouth.

The junior star went 0-for-11 from the floor with four points on free throws as the Tigers sleepwalked past the Big Green 59-47.

In the wake of his cold shooting, Hummer consulted two former Princeton hoops stars for some tips in order to get back on track.

“I talked to my dad and I talked to my uncle; they just gave me some advice,” said Hummer, whose father Ed was a three-year letterwinner from 1965-67 and ranks 10th all-time in Princeton history with 550 career rebounds while Uncle John was a two-time first-team All-Ivy Leaguer and scored more than 1,000 points in his Tiger career from 1968-70.

“Basically I was rushing all of my shots, not really looking at the basket when I was shooting. They said keep your head up and just take what comes to you.”

A night later, Hummer took it to No. 21/25 Harvard, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and six assists as the Tigers topped the Crimson 70-62 before a delighted Jadwin Gym throng of 5,266.

“To get that first one to go down was quite a bit different from yesterday, said Hummer, who hit a 3-pointer from the corner 3:20 into the game to break his shooting drought.

“I was a little frustrated yesterday; I just knew that shots were going to come my way.”

Things weren’t quite going Princeton’s way in the early going as it trailed 27-22 at halftime. But with the Tigers down 42-38 with 11:04 left in regulation, they caught fire, reeling off a 21-7 run that broke open the game.

The win lifted Princeton 13-10 overall and 4-3 in Ivy League play while league frontrunner Harvard fell to 21-3 overall and 7-1 Ivy.

In addition, the triumph marked Princeton’s 24th straight win over Harvard at Jadwin Gym since 1989 and was the Tigers’ first home win against a nationally-ranked team since a victory over No. 2 Notre Dame in 1977.

For Hummer and his teammates, those streaks paled in significance to simply beating an arch rival.

“We don’t pay attention to the ranking overall,” maintained Hummer, who starred last year when Princeton edged Harvard in an Ivy title playoff game to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.

“Harvard has always been a big opponent of ours and we just wanted to come out and play them as hard as we can every time. It is just a great rivalry. We are just happy to come out with the win against a very good Harvard team.”

The Tigers were also happy with the raucous support they got from their fans, who stormed the court to mob the players when the buzzer sounded.

“It really lifts you, it gives you motivation to play well,” said the 6’7, 230-pound Hummer, who recently passed the 1,000-point milestone and is leading the Tigers with 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.

“We take energy from the crowd both on defense and offense. For them to come down to see us and have another great game with Harvard is special. We love when people come to our games and cheer for us. I think it was a great game for them to come to. Every time we have a packed house, we seem to play really well.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson loved the performance he got from his players as they tightened up the Ivy title race.

“First of all, we are very happy with the win, this is a really good Harvard team,” said Henderson, who got 12 points and four assists from T.J. Bray in the win with Brendan Connolly scoring 11 points and Denton Koon and Mack Darrow chipping in 10 points apiece.

“We knew they have games where it is almost like a fight and they have been defending so well. Up until 12 minutes left in the game it was the same thing for us and then we hit a spurt. I thought it was really spurred by Ian’s play and T.J.”

Henderson acknowledged that his team had to pick things up after its lackluster effort a night earlier against Dartmouth.

“I just didn’t feel like there was much life on the team,” said Henderson, noting that the Tigers trailed the Big Green 11-1 at one point.

“I felt like the team that showed up in the last 12 minutes of this game is a group that is pretty tough to beat. We have played like that at times all year. Ian had six assists and one turnover, that is Princeton basketball. We just keep talking about sharing the ball and making each other better. When we are committed to that, we can be pretty good.”

Sharing the ball led to a balanced attack which saw five Princeton players score in double figures.

“We weren’t going to get much if we didn’t get balanced scoring,” said Henderson.

“We had a really nice contribution from everybody; it was hugely important because when you are playing a good team like that you have to have balance.”

In Henderson’s view, the 6’11, 255-pound junior center Connolly made a big contribution, getting the start instead of Mack Darrow.

“We got some quality minutes from Brendan Connolly; I thought Brendan established a little bit of a swagger for us early which we needed,” added Henderson of Connolly, who also contributed six rebounds.

“I think because Mack and Brendan support each other so much off the floor and on the floor, it is an easy thing to do. I thought it presented a nice matchup for us with Keith Wright.”

While the win Saturday was sweet, Henderson knows that it isn’t going to be easy for the fifth-place Tigers to catch the league-leading Crimson in the Ivy race.

“We have got to go up to their place in a little while; we are pretty focused on what we have got at hand and ahead of us,” said Henderson, whose team hosts Columbia (14-10 overall, 3-5 Ivy) on February 17 and Cornell (10-12 overall, 5-3 Ivy) a day later.

“They are doing a great job and I know they are going to finish the year strong. In terms of league play we have work to do and we need help. I want to build on what happened tonight and take it into next weekend.”

In Hummer’s view, the Tigers are working their way back into contention.

“We dug ourselves a hole in the beginning of Ivy League play,” said Hummer.

“We knew we had to come out as hard as we could tonight. We had a disappointing game against Dartmouth. Even though we won, we didn’t play as well as we should have. We are still in a hole a little bit but it is a little shallower now. We just hope other teams play as well and we can just keep on trucking.”

February 8, 2012

STATEMENTS OF INTENT: Hun School star senior athletes are all smiles last week after signing letters of intent to join college sports programs. Pictured, from left, are John Loughery (Elon University - football), David Dudeck (Boston College - football), Holly Hargreaves (Rice University - women’s soccer), Wyatt Vinci (University of Connecticut - football), and Wendy Laurent (Penn State- football). (Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

David Dudeck traveled to Boston during the last weekend of January and had such a good time that he decided to spend a lot more time in the area.

The Hun School senior star athlete committed to the Boston College football program, choosing the school over Yale and Navy, his other top two choices.

“I took my official visit there last weekend,” said Dudeck, who verbally committed to the Eagles on site and then signed his official letter of intent last Wednesday.

“I loved everything about it. I want to play big time football and they are in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). It is a great institution academically. Everything felt right.”

Adding to Dudeck’s comfort level was the reaction of his parents, mother Amy and father Dave, the Hun football head coach.

“I talked about it with my parents on the visit,” said Dudeck. “They were really behind me. I am blessed to have a family that is so supportive.”

Dudeck was also anxious to have the blessing of older brother, Brendan, a former Hun teammate and current back-up quarterback at Navy.

“Brendan supported me 100 percent,” added Dudeck, noting that he ended the recruiting process with great respect for Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo and Yale head coach Tony Reno.

“Of course it would have been wonderful to play with him but he wanted what was best for me. He was pleased that I was happy.”

Getting the chance to play big-time college football is a dream come true for the 6‘0, 200-pound Dudeck.

“I have set goals in my life and this is one of them,” said Dudeck. “I am really lucky and blessed to have this opportunity to play ACC football. I have worked hard for years for this. There is a lot of hard work to come at another level.”

At the outset, that work is going to come in the secondary for Dudeck, a two-way performer for Hun who had 50 catches for 1,003 yards and 10 touchdowns as a wide receiver this past fall for a Raider team that went 7-1 and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

“They recruited me as an athlete,” said Dudeck, who is also a college prospect in baseball and may consider trying to walk on to the BC team.

“They said they plan to use me on the defensive side of the ball at safety.”

Dudeck has used the academic and athletic opportunities he found at Hun to his best advantage.

“Hun really helped me get organized with my schoolwork and how to best use my time,” said Dudeck, who had gone to public school in Hamilton before entering Hun in ninth grade.

“I took AP and honors courses; doing that will really help for college. Athletically, it was an awesome journey. It was great to play for and with family. I had great opportunities as an athlete. My dad did so much for me and for other kids to help them get into schools.”

Dudeck wasn’t the only Hun athlete to commit to a Division I program last week. Football teammates Wendy Laurent, Wyatt Vinci, and John Loughery each signed a letter of intent with Laurent heading to Penn State, Vinci to Connecticut, and Loughery to Elon.

Raider girls’ soccer star Holly Hargreaves signed to continue her soccer career at Rice University.  Previously, soccer stars Lexi Golestani and Nicole Campellone had committed to the Providence College and Tufts University programs, respectively.

Several PDS athletes got into the act as well with Sarah Godwin signing on to continue her basketball career at Valparaiso University with Beau Horan headed to the Williams College baseball team and girls’ hockey star Megan Ofner on her way to Sacred Heart.

Over at Princeton High, wrestling star Ian Snyder is headed to the Duke University program while Jeff Barsamian has committed to play for the Penn sprint football team. Earlier, PHS lacrosse stars Mia Haughton and Katie Reilly opted to join the Amherst College women’s lax program.

Two Princeton residents, Philip Pecora and James Bunn, who have been star athletes at the Pennington School, also made college decisions last week. Pecora is headed to Bucknell University to play football while Bunn will be joining the baseball program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

GOLD RUSH: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player ­Emily Goldman rushes up the court in a recent game. Sophomore guard Goldman has provided athleticism and endurance for an injury-riddled PDS squad that has shrunk to six players for much of the season. PDS, now 7-11, hosts Peddie School on February 8 before starting play in both the state Prep B tourney and Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Trying to hold together a team that has shrunk to six players for much of the season has weighed on Princeton Day School girls’ basketball head coach Mika Ryan.

“I think we are one step away from putting a quality game together but it has been Murphy’s Law; something goes wrong or someone gets hurt,” said Ryan.

“The kids’ resilience has been amazing. I leave practices and I feel 1,000 percent better about things.”

Ryan feels good about the return of senior guard Sarah Godwin, who recently got back into action after being sidelined by an ACL injury since last season.

It has been a real lift,” said Ryan, referring to having the services of Valparaiso University-bound Godwin.

“Since I have coached her, she has always been upbeat and encouraging in practice. She doesn’t have game fitness yet but she is going up and down the court well.”

Last Thursday, Godwin displayed her offensive skills, scoring 17 points as PDS lost 58-50 to Burlington Township High.

“They were a very good team and we started out slowly,” said Ryan, whose also seen the return from an ankle injury of promising freshman Kirsten Kuzmicz. “We were down 16 points at half and we cut it to eight. We made a great effort in the third and fourth quarters. We were overmatched.”

Making Herculean efforts as they have battled through a winter of mismatches has drained the Panthers.

“The problem is that the rest of us are beat up,” said Ryan, whose team lost 28-23 to Notre Dame last Monday to fall to 7-11.

“Molly Rubin is tired. She has put us on her back. We have been asking her to do everything, from playing point guard to center. She has been defending the other team’s best player. She was up and down this week.”

Ryan is hoping her team will step up as it enters postseason action later this month by playing at Rutgers Prep on February 12 in the opening round of the state Prep B tourney and then starting action in the Mercer County Tournament.

“I am excited about our prospects going in the Mercer County Tournament,” said Ryan, whose team hosts Peddie School on February 8 before the 12th-seeded Panthers play at No. 5 WW/P-S on February 13 in the first round of the MCT.

“We have beaten two of the three CVC teams we played, defeating Hamilton and Nottingham. When we played Rutgers Prep before, we were the dirty half-dozen.”

In Ryan’s view, the Panthers need to clean up things on offense if they are to make a good postseason run.

“I think we have to eliminate turnovers,” said Ryan, who guided the Panthers to the Prep B title game and the MCT semis last winter.

“We beat ourselves on offense. We don’t value the ball, I have been telling them to just complete the next pass. We defend well but you can’t defend and then not score, particularly against better competition.”

NOT STANDING PAT: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick fires the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore defenseman McCormick tallied an assist as he set up a Will Greenberg goal in PHS’s 1-0 win over Hamilton. The Little Tigers, now 11-4-2, face Notre Dame on February 8 at Mercer County Park before battling Hun on February 10 at the Ice Land Skating Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Patrick McCormick faced a major transition last winter in his freshman season with the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

In addition to getting his first taste of varsity action, McCormick was shifted to defenseman from his customary position of forward.

As he adjusted to his new spot on the ice, McCormick had a safety net in senior star defenders Dean DiTosto and Griffin Peck.

“Last year, I had Dean and Griffin to rely on if I was having a bad game,” said McCormick. “They could always play over me.”

With DiTosto and Peck having graduated, McCormick has emerged as the iron man along the Little Tiger blue line.

“It is different; the team relies on me a lot more,” said McCormick. “I have to be on my best game every night. It is nice getting all this ice time. Although it is tiring, it is worth it. You feel a lot better when you get that win because you feel like you were more a part of it. I have been constantly improving; I like it a lot more.”

Last Wednesday against Hamilton, McCormick utilized his offensive background in the third period, assisting on the game’s lone goal as the Little Tigers edged the Hornets 1-0 to improve to 11-4-2.

“Before the faceoff, I said to Will [Greenberg] break up the ice and I am just going to throw it up to you,” recalled McCormick.

“So then Will just broke up the ice; I saw him break and I just tried to flick it up out of the zone. He beat the guy in the corner. The guy tried to intercept it and he just went hard to the net. It was a relief.”

McCormick acknowledged that the Little Tigers didn’t bring the right intensity into the Hamilton game, due to having beat the Hornets 7-2 in December.

“When you beat a team badly the first time, you can only go down from there,” said McCormick.

“I guess we went in thinking we had the win. It is not that we played poorly, we just couldn’t finish.”

PHS head coach Tim Campbell was disappointed with the way his team played in the win over Hamilton.

“We were just flat,” said Campbell. “We were just asleep; we came off a big win on Friday [a 3-2 win over Cranford]. I think we just thought we would coast through these guys which, as a coach, is the scariest mentality to see.”

Campbell did like the way his team performed along the blue line. “We were fine defensively,” said Campbell, whose team outshot the Hornets 38-8.

“We just didn’t create any scoring opportunities. Usually it is the other way around, our defense is a little porous. But tonight, they were a brick wall; we only gave up eight shots. It is scary when we don’t score because we can give up one and that is it.”

In Campbell’s view, McCormick is becoming a one-man brick wall for the Little Tigers.

“Patrick is a phenomenal skater,” said Campbell. “Skill-wise, there is not a better defenseman in the league. He is a good skater; he is smart. I kept thinking to myself he is a really smart defenseman. He gets opportunities to rush the puck and he takes advantage of those.”

With the Mercer County Tournament and the state public tourney both around the corner, Campbell is hoping that his club can maintain its recent penchant for peaking at the right time.

“In the past two or three years, we have been a February team, this is where we hit our stride,” said Campbell, whose squad faces Notre Dame on February 8 at Mercer County Park looking to avenge an earlier last-second 4-3 loss to the Fighting Irish and then battles Hun on February 10 at the Ice Land Skating Center.

“I am fine with that as long as we take care of business which we didn’t tonight. We have two big games in front of us. We owe Notre Dame so we will come out ready for that game without a doubt. We look forward to that game and hopefully we have learned lessons from tonight.”

McCormick, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are ready for a big stretch drive.

“I feel like we kind of overlooked this game because we were looking towards Notre Dame,” said McCormick.

“We feel like we are going to be ready for that game; it was heartbreaking. We have got to try and come back and prove something to them. We have a pretty good chance to make a run. We are strongest in the postseason. We usually have lulls midway through the year and we like to pick it up at the end.”

MAD LIB: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Maddie ­Cahill-Sanidas looks to create some offense in recent action. Last Friday, junior forward Cahill-Sanidas scored seven points as PHS lost 56-26 to Lawrence High to fall to 0-13. The Little Tigers will be starting action in the Mercer County Tournament on February 13 when 16th-seeded PHS plays at No. 1 Hopewell Valley in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Maddie Cahill-Sanidas started slowly as the Princeton High girls’ basketball team hosted WW/P-N last week.

The junior forward went scoreless in the first quarter as PHS fell behind 16-6.

In the second quarter, though, Cahill-Sanidas came alive, scoring five points as the Little Tigers played the Northern Knights to a 13-13 standoff.

For Cahill-Sanidas, taking a little time to get rolling has become her modus operandi.

“It always take me a couple of minutes to analyze the situation but I got it,” said Cahill-Sanidas. “I was feeling a lot better in the second quarter.”

PHS was feeling good in the third quarter when it cut the WW/P-N lead to eight points at 36-28. The Northern Knights, though, reeled off 13 unanswered points on the way to a 52-37 victory.

While the loss was disappointing, Cahill-Sanidas thought the Little Tigers had some positive stretches.

“I think in the second half, we really stepped it up,” said Cahill-Sanidas.

“We are capable of playing with that intensity; we just have to learn how to do that for four quarters.”

As one of the more battle-tested players on a young squad that features several freshmen and sophomores, Cahill-Sanidas is stepping up on many levels.

“I see myself as someone who needs to shoot,” said Cahill-Sanidas, a versatile athlete who also stars for the PHS girls’ tennis and softball teams.

“I think I also need to
facilitate and find other people with passes. I think that is important. Jocabed [Muflam], Emma [Wingreen], and I are captains this year, it is a new leadership role for us. We have filled those shoes as the season has progressed.”

The Little Tigers are focusing on making progress offensively. “We need to work on movement on offense,” said Cahill-Sanidas, who scored seven points last Friday as PHS lost 56-26 to Lawrence High to drop to 0-13 .

“We have been trying to work on cutting and getting to the basket. We are trying to utilize our post a little more because we have been doing a lot of outside rather than inside-outside play. We need to work on ball movement in general.”

While the team’s uneven play has been frustrating, Cahill-Sanidas is confident the work will pay off.

“It is not a question of trying hard; in practice we are really conditioning,” said Cahill-Sanidas, who will be trying hard this week as PHS competes in the Mercer County Tournament with the 16th-seeded Little Tigers playing at No. 1 Hopewell Valley on February 13 in a first round contest.

“We have done more running than I have ever done in basketball. It’s not translating on the court and that’s what we are working on. Against WW/P-S, we scored 46 points. Once we get in a rhythm, it works great.”

In Cahill-Sanidas’ view, the team is laying the foundation for developing a rhythm.

“This team has gotten a lot closer; I think the team dynamic is great,” said Cahill-Sanidas,

“We are going to do a lot of work this summer, trying to get used to each other as a team. We haven’t been playing with these girls for that long. We are going to do camps and leagues; we are going to do a lot

VALUABLE ASSET: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Derek Colaizzo displays his freestyle form last Saturday at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. Senior star Colaizzo won the 50 and 100 freestyle races and helped the Little Tigers to victories in the 200 medley and 400 free relays as PHS won its second straight county crown. Colaizzo was named the meet’s Most Valuable Swimmer on the boys’ side. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Greg Hand scrawled “EGAD” on his copy of the program in the section for the boys’ 200-meter medley relay last Saturday at the Mercer County Swimming Championships.

Hand’s exclamation of surprise was prompted by his Princeton High boys’ medley quartet as it opened the meet with a record-setting performance, clocking a time of 1:48.05 to shave more than four seconds off the previous meet record.

That effort was the first of many superb swims as the Little Tigers won six of eight individual events and all three relays in cruising to their second straight county crown with 356 points, nearly doubling the 190 points accumulated by runner-up Notre Dame in the meet held at Lawrence High.

Individual winners for PHS included Derek Colaizzo in the 50 and 100 freestyle races, Matt Kuhlik in the 200 free, Victor Honore in the 100 butterfly, and Will Stange in the 400 free and 100 backstroke.

“I was impressed; everyone dug deep today,” said PHS head coach Hand. “I had the sense that they really wanted to put together a strong meet overall and everybody wanted to contribute to that. Regardless of where guys were placing, I thought they raced with a lot of determination.”

Senior star Colaizzo, who was named the meet’s Most Valuable Swimmer on the boys’ side, saw the effort in the day’s final event, the 400 free relay, as emblematic of PHS’s determination.

Despite having long before clinched the team title, the quartet of Colaizzo, Honore, Addison Hebert, and Kuhlik, produced a sizzling effort, posting a time of 3:33.75, smashing the previous meet record of 3:39.89.

“That was absolutely amazing; we broke our school record and the meet record by six seconds,” said Colaizzo.

“Even though we were ahead by so much we were just thinking we have got to keep going after it. We really wanted that record. We really wanted to have some great swims so we decided to go after it.”

Colaizzo and classmates Honore, Hebert, Kuhlik, Harun Filipovic, and Jacques Bazile came into the meet looking to make a statement.

“Not to sound cocky or anything, but we knew we were pretty strong compared to the rest of the county,” said Colaizzo.

“There is a core of six seniors and we just wanted to go after it and have this last meet to be our best. We looked at some of those records and we thought maybe we had a chance of being able to break some of those so we went after it that way too.”

For Colaizzo, being named as the MVS was something he was going after.

“I was kind of shooting for it; I was trying to win all my events and see what would happen,” said Colaizzo, who posted a time of 24.11 in winning the 50 free and then came back with a 53.26 effort in the 100 free to edge Kuhlik by 0.20.

“It means so much. I think it was based on winning individual events and I was so close last year. I just got touched out in the butterfly and I won the 50. It really means a lot that I pulled through and I was able to come out on top in both events this year.”

After falling just short of the state Public B state title last year, suffering its only loss of the season in the championship meet as it fell 90-80 to Scotch Plains Fanwood, Colaizzo is hoping undefeated PHS call pull through in the states.

“I think we have a very good chance but it is going to be tough,” said Colaizzo, reflecting on the state tournament which starts next week.

“There are a lot of good teams out there. The teams we run into in the state semis and finals are really good. We got beaten so badly my freshman and sophomore years. Last year we just beat Haddonfield in the semis and just lost to Scotch Plains Fanwood.”

Hand, for his part, believes the team’s dominant performance in the county meet was a step forward as the Little Tigers look to peak at the right time.

“I am sure the guys feel a little surprised by some of their performances,” said Hand.

“Nobody has seriously tapered for this meet as is true all over the state. It is nice to know that we could swim fast and get good swims under these conditions. It does help build some confidence. No doubt, we can go faster.”

Colaizzo has no doubt that the team’s group of seniors will bring a special sense of urgency to their final state tourney.

“We want to go after it. It is one of our only chances in a long time and who knows when this opportunity is going to come again,” said Colaizzo, who is headed to Princeton University next year and plans to walk on to the Tiger men’s swimming program.

“We just got lucky with all of these great seniors. A lot of us have different interests but when we come together, we have a tight bond.”

FAMILY TRADITION: Princeton University men’s hockey player Marc Hagel prepares to send the puck up the ice in recent action. Senior captain Hagel is following in the footsteps of his brother, Kyle, a former Princeton hockey star and assistant captain. Last Friday against visiting Dartmouth, Hagel provided leadership in the form of a third period goal as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie. Princeton, now 7-10-6 overall and 5-8-3 in ECAC Hockey action, plays at Clarkson (13-12-5 overall, 7-6-3 ECACH) on February 10 and at St Lawrence (10-15-3 overall, 6-9-1 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kyle Hagel distinguished himself as a leader during his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team from 2004-2008.

The rugged Hagel, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, served as an assistant captain of the Tigers and helped Princeton win the ECAC Hockey championship in his senior campaign.

Now another member of the Hagel clan, has stepped into a leadership role for the Tigers as younger brother, Marc, is serving as Princeton’s captain this winter.

The younger Hagel is relishing the chance to follow in his brother’s footsteps as a team captain.

“It is an honor and a great privilege,” said senior forward Hagel, reflecting on his post. “I get to lead a great group of guys.”

In handling that responsibility, Hagel has consulted his brother. “Kyle is a special guy; he was actually down last weekend,” said Hagel. “We were able to hang out and have coffee and had some good talks. He saw us play UConn; it was good to see him.”

Hagel knows that it is a stroke of good fortune for the brothers to share their Princeton hockey experience.

“Coming to an institution like Princeton is the best opportunity I have had in my entire life,” asserted Hagel. “For two of us to come here, we are really grateful.”

Last Friday against visiting Dartmouth, Hagel took advantage of a scoring opportunity as he scored early in the third period to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.

“I saw Jeremy Goodwin winding up from the point and and two guys crashed the net from my right side,” recalled the 6’0, 200-pound Hagel, reflecting on his sixth goal of the season and the 16th of his Princeton career.

“He shot far left and it popped right to me. I knew the goalie was going to jump across so I just laid her on the ice.”

The Big Green tied the game at 3-3 a minute later and then the game took a strange turn as a Dartmouth shot shattered a pane of glass with 12:36 left in the period, causing a delay of more than an hour as the panel was replaced.

The hiatus prompted some creative leadership by Hagel. “We got unchanged and played a little one-touch soccer in a circle in the room,” said Hagel.

“Then with about 15 minutes left in the break, we put our stuff back on and went around the room and had a good little talk. Everyone put in their input.”

Once play resumed, Princeton put in a good effort. “We had a face-off in our own end,” said Hagel. “I took the face-off and we won it clean. We got it out of our end and went right to work.”

The game ended in a 3-3 tie as neither team could break through in the remaining 12:36 plus five minutes of overtime before a sellout crowd of 2,292 at Baker Rink. The tie left Princeton at 7-10-6 overall and 5-8-3 in ECAC Hockey action.

While Hagel would have preferred to see Princeton end the night with a win, he saw the effort as progress.

“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” asserted Hagel, who has helped the Tigers go 3-1-4 in their last eight contests.

“We have a young team and it is hard to tell the guys what it takes to win. It has to happen and it needs to build. We have been doing a good job; we have been playing some good teams. Ties are not what we want but it is a step in the right direction.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier saw the performance as a step forward. “I thought our guys did a really good job, we have a lot of guys banged up,” said Prier.

“With the absence of guys like Brodie Zuk and Will MacDonald, who have both been incredible for us, a lot of guys stepped up. I thought Will Ford had a great game; he had a couple of great opportunities. I thought Andrew Ammon played his heart out tonight; he is so explosive. He looked like the type of player who is on the verge of being a dominant college player. There were a lot of good things.”

Prier saw some good things in the way the Tigers responded after the unusual delay.

“I thought we had great jump coming out for those last 12 minutes; our guys played extremely hard,” added Prier, whose team outshot Dartmouth 39-32.

“I look at that game and 45 minutes of it and if you break it down, we deserved a better fate. But with a team like Dartmouth that is that skilled offensively; they just need a few openings and they are going to capitalize. We gave them too many opportunities and they certainly capitalized on a few of them.”

Although Princeton failed to secure the win and accompanying two points in the league standings, the tie could come in handy.

“This could be a crucial point moving forward when we are fighting for a bye and the league is still up for grabs,” said Prier, whose team heads to New York this weekend to play at Clarkson (13-12-5 overall, 7-6-3 ECACH) on February 10 and at St Lawrence (10-15-3 overall, 6-9-1 ECACH) the next day.

“We have 12 points available to us. A game over .500 in the league could get you a bye, .500 could get you a bye. It is going to be competitive, it is going to be down to the wire.”

In Prier’s view, Hagel’s leadership will be a crucial factor for Princeton down the stretch.

“Marc gives you so much; his leadership, his intangibles are incredible,” said Prier.

“He wants this thing so darn bad and it is evident everyday in practice and no matter what we are doing. From day one, he understands his charge and the  guys understand what it is. He has got a very young team to lead so the job that he is doing is just outstanding along with the help from Brodie, Michael Sdao, and Derrick Pallis.”

Hagel, for his part, is determined to get the most out of everyday as he wraps up his college career.

“I am an in-the-moment type of guy,” said Hagel. “I am living every single day and every single game. I don’t worry about the future because I know we are going to do great things here.”

HARD DRIVE: Princeton University sophomore guard Nicole Hung drives to the basket last Saturday in Princeton’s 72-47 win over visiting Yale. Sophomore guard Hung scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench to help Princeton improve to 15-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League action. The Tigers will look to keep rolling this weekend when they play at Dartmouth (3-16 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on February 10 and at Harvard (11-8 overall, 4-1 Ivy) a night later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Nicole Hung doesn’t try to do anything complicated when she comes off the bench for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

“I just focus on immediately bringing a spark and energy, whether it be offensively or defensively, whatever we are lacking at the time,” said sophomore guard Hung.

Last Saturday against visiting Yale, Hung achieved that goal, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds in 22 minutes to help Princeton top the Bulldogs 72-47 and improve to 15-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League action.

Coming into the game, Hung had a feeling that she could get to the hoop against Yale.

“Their style of defense is conducive to my style of play, which is driving to the basket,” said the 5’11 Hung, a native of Los Angeles.

“With them climbing all over us and pressuring us, it opened up driving angles and a lot of lanes. It allowed us to push the pace and run which our team likes to do.”

After producing a subpar effort Friday in a 57-45 win over Brown in its first action since a 19-day hiatus for exams, Princeton was looking to pick up the pace collectively in a showdown with second place Yale, who brought  a 4-1 Ivy record into the contest.

“We just wanted to show that yesterday was just us having to brush off some rust,” said Hung.

“Today was a very important game because it was essentially for first place. With this win, we gave ourselves some breathing room. We really wanted to execute today.”

The Tigers displayed some sharp execution in the second half, outscoring Yale 37-21 to turn a tight game into a rout.

“I think everyone started being more aggressive and I think we locked up the boards better,” said Hung, reflecting on Princeton’s second half effort.

“I think we doubled them; I think we had 60 something to 30 something (61-30) so I think giving ourselves multiple looks on the offensive end helps us a lot. We really got out and ran more in the second half.”

Hung is showing an increased aggressiveness in her second college campaign. “I really think it is confidence, not necessarily in games but in everything,” said Hung, who is averaging 7.2 points and 17.4 minutes a game this season, up from the 3.1 points and 8.9 minutes she posted as a freshman.

“I have a role and I know what my role is on this team. Last year, everything was new and you don’t know where you fit. With one year under my belt, it is giving me confidence knowing what my role is.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked the mentality her players displayed in pulling away from Yale.

“That was a good game; we just blew it open later,” said Banghart. “You always hope that when Niveen [Rasheed] doesn’t play her best how are we going to play when teams are pushing us around. We had 61 rebounds and I thought we defended for 40 minutes, the best I’ve seen this year. Although not everyone played equal minutes, there wasn’t a dropoff in toughness. When they pushed us in the face, we pushed back so that was great.”

Banghart is proud of how Hung has toughened up after one season under her belt.

“This is a good game for her; she came in early today because she didn’t like how she played yesterday and I appreciated that,” said Banghart.

“I think what Nicole is trying to do is to mix up her athleticism and talent with toughness. She was that talented last year, she was that fast last year but she wasn’t as tough. She is investing into it. She is not a sixth man; she is an important part of our team. We don’t really have a sixth man and starters. It is who can help, how, and in what way. She was huge tonight.”

The Tigers could really help themselves in the league race if they could produce a road sweep when they play at Dartmouth (3-16 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on February 10 and at Harvard (11-8 overall, 4-1 Ivy) a night later.

“It is a big weekend; it is on the road and there is a lot of competitive fire in the league,” said Banghart.

“It is a big separation if we can get two more. If we can get Harvard with another loss so that everyone else below us has two losses not even one way through the league, that is pretty important.”

In Hung’s view, the superb performance against Yale was important for the Tigers.

“I am glad it was our performance today on a Saturday as opposed to yesterday because that would have been kind of a dampener on what we are trying to do next weekend,” said Hung.

“I think it is really good because it gives us a lot of momentum, especially going on the road. We have tomorrow off and then Monday we are going to start with Dartmouth.”

February 1, 2012

CLOSING THE DOOR: Hun School boys’ hockey goalie Devin Cheifetz makes a save in a game last season. This winter, sophomore Cheifetz has emerged as one of the top goalies in the area. He posted two shutouts last week as the Raiders blanked Germantown Academy (Pa.) 4-0 on Wednesday and then defeated Robbinsville 3-0 two days later. Hun, now 9-4, hosts Academy of New Church on February 3 before starting play in the state Prep tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Star goalie Devin Cheifetz is bringing a clearer focus on and off the ice as he goes through his sophomore season with the Hun School boys’ hockey team.

“I think I am a better goalie through my schoolwork,” said Cheifetz.

“Once your schoolwork is done, it is a bit more relaxing and you don’t have another thing on your mind. Having another season under your belt is a great thing. It is more experience, more ice time.”

Last week, Cheifetz showed the benefit of his experience, posting two straight shutouts. On Wednesday, Cheifetz made 20 saves as Raiders blanked Germantown Academy (Pa.) 4-0. Two days later, he recorded 22 stops as Hun defeated Robbinsville 3-0.

In the Robbinsville game, Cheifetz produced some of his biggest saves when the Raiders were shorthanded in a 5-on-3 situation in the second period with the teams knotted in a scoreless tie.

“I think we do better when we are down,” said Cheifetz. “That gives us momentum because that was a big kill.”

Minutes later, Hun cashed in when it went on the power play, scoring twice.

“Once one goal goes in, the momentum changes,” said Cheifetz. “The next goal is the biggest one.”

But in the third period, Cheifetz and the Raiders found themselves under the gun again when Robbinsville went on another 5-on-3.

“It was so nerve-wracking,” said Cheifetz. “I don’t mind it though. It is part of the game and you have to learn from it.”

While Cheifetz knows that he is on a good run, he is the first to say that shutouts are a group effort.

“I am in a groove,” said Cheifetz. “We are on the ice everyday; it is kind of in my blood. I couldn’t do it without my teammates. My defense saved me a lot and I really respect them for that. I couldn’t ask for a better defense.”

Utilizing his stick skills, Cheifetz has helped his teammates get the puck up the ice.

“I love handling the puck,” said Cheifetz. “It is one of my favorite things but sometimes I get in trouble and I understand that. I can’t be stupid with it but practice makes perfect.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally likes the way Cheifetz is keeping the Raiders out of trouble.

“Devin is obviously extremely reliable; a big part of it is that he is able to play the puck,” said McNally, noting the Cheifetz now has six shutouts on the season.

“We don’t seem to spend long periods of time in our zone because if it comes within five feet of him he is able to get it out himself. A lot of teams aren’t able to do that and you certainly don’t plan for a goalie to shoot it hard. I can’t point to a spectacular save in the last two games, he has just been very reliable. He knows how to win. He adjusts himself to the game. If he knows we are only going to score two or three goals, he can’t let up any. He has been playing great.”

Cheifetz’s reliability was particularly key against Robbinsville as Hun found itself in a nailbiter.

“A lot of our games have been a 5-goal win or a 5-goal loss so we haven’t had tight games,” said McNally, whose team improved to 9-4 with the win.

“So it was 0-0 after the first and that is what we talked about at intermission. We are not usually in a position like this so here is a bit of a dogfight and you get to learn how to win.”

The Raiders broke the deadlock when they drew a five-minute major to give them a 5-on-3 with 6:10 left in the second period. Defenseman Brad Stern scored on a blast from the point with 5:57 remaining in the period and forward Chris Rossi tallied minutes later.

“Stern’s power play goal was great,” said McNally, who also got a goal in third period from Alex Bidwell.

“It is everything we have talked about. He looked, he saw that he had an opening and he buried it, so it was perfect. Rossi shot it from behind the net; he was pretty pumped up about that one.”

McNally is pumped up by how his team is playing as it regained momentum after some exam break rustiness.

“They took three days off for exam break but unlike Christmas break where we came out flying, we stunk for a week,” said McNally, whose team hosts Academy of New Church on February 3 before starting play in the state Prep tournament.

“We had a bad week of practice and we were just in a funk. So this week, we got ourselves back. Besides the one week where we had a dip, I think we have been improving the entire season and that continues to show.”

Cheifetz, for his part, is proud of the way the Raiders have continued to come together this winter.

“I love this team; this team is amazing,” asserted Cheifetz. “I think we are bonding as a team off the ice which is really a big help too. A big part of the game is getting the rhythm off the ice.”

DRIVE TIME: Princeton Day School basketball star Davon Reed drives to the hoop last Thursday in PDS’s 68-54 loss to Notre Dame. Junior guard Reed poured in a game-high 29 points in a losing cause. The Panthers, now 11-6, play at Abington Friends on February 1, hosts Life Center Academy on February 3, and plays at Princeton High on February 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Davon Reed is clearly the go-to player for the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team but he has no desire to be a one-man show.

“I try to be a leader but talent can only go so far from one player or one source,” said junior forward Reed, who is averaging 25.4 points a game this winter and passed the 1,000-point mark in his career in December.

“I try to keep people’s confidence up so we can all go out there and give it our best and do what we do best.”

As PDS hosted powerful Notre Dame last Thursday, the Panthers showed plenty of confidence in jumping out to a 24-16 lead after the first quarter.

“We came out smoking and I don’t think they expected that,” said the 6’5 Reed, reflecting on the team’s early surge.

“They are definitely a big, fast, and strong team; we wanted to come out and just match their tempo. I think we hit them in the mouth first.”

The Fighting Irish, though, struck back, outscoring PDS 11-6 to narrow the gap to 30-27 in the third quarter. Notre Dame started the third quarter with an 11-3 run to seize the momentum.

With the Panthers reeling, Reed took matters into his own hands, making several forays to the hoop.

“I do whatever my team needs me to do,” said Reed. “In a way, I was taking the team on my back. That’s what my team needed me to do so I had to do it.

Reed held up his end of the bargain, ending up with a game-high 29 points but it wasn’t enough as PDS lost 68-54.

With Reed having made a habit of superb displays like his effort against Notre Dame, he has been ranked as one of the top 100 junior players in the country and is the subject of some intense recruiting by college programs.

“It is a blessing, I am excited to receive offers,” said Reed, who noted that he now has 18 offers after getting a commitment from Boston College last week.

“It is definitely overwhelming at time balancing school, basketball, and my social life. I am still taking everything in stride, no particular school is in the lead.”

In reflecting on the Panthers’ progress so far this season, Reed said the team is still looking to find its stride.

“We just need to play
confidently on offense and defense throughout the whole game,” said Reed. “We can’t take any time or plays off. We need to keep going. We haven’t developed that motor yet.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean concurred with Reed’s analysis. “We have got to sustain leads like that,” said McLean, whose team fell 73-46 at Rutgers Prep to drop to 11-6.

“More people need to contribute. Davon is attracting a lot of attention and he is still distributing to the other guys. We need other people to score. It’s not that they are getting the shots, it is that they aren’t hitting them. We also have to be tougher and get more rebounds.”

McLean has no qualms about what he has been getting out of Reed. “Davon could have had even more points tonight, he didn’t shoot it enough,” said McLean.

“He is unbelievable; he does it all. He broke the all-time record of a tournament with 22 rebounds in a game. That is insane. We need more of that.”

In McLean’s view, his squad is getting what it needs with its challenging schedule even if it has been taking some lumps.

“This is the toughest part of our schedule and we knew this,” said McLean, whose team plays at Abington Friends on February 1, hosts Life Center Academy on February 3, and plays at Princeton High on February 6.

“We will see great competition; that will get us ready. When we come to the counties, we can make a nice run. If we run into Notre Dame or someone else of that caliber, we can say we have been here before. The states are wide open. We are excited about that. We have to take it one day at a time.”

Reed, for his part, is excited about PDS’s prospects. “We just have to bounce back; we need to look forward to the next practice and the next game,” said Reed.

“I think we just need to believe. It is physical but if we believe we can do it, I think we will.”

IRISH WAKE: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey senior captain Garret Jensen controls the puck in recent action. Last Friday, Jensen chipped in an assist as PDS topped Notre Dame 4-1. The win was particularly sweet for the Panthers as they had lost to the Fighting Irish in the semifinals of last year’s Mercer County Tournament. In upcoming action, the Panthers, now 15-4-1, play at Academy of New Church on February 1 before starting play in the state Prep tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Garret Jensen and the other veteran players on the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team, the pain from their loss to Notre Dame last year in the Mercer County Tournament still lingers.

“I think it left a bad taste in our mouths when we lost the MCT semifinals because we definitely felt that we were the better team,” said senior captain and forward Garrett Jensen. “We just didn’t get a few bounces.”

As a result, the PDS players had an extra bounce in their step when they hosted Notre Dame at a jam-packed McGraw Rink last Friday in a regular season rematch.

“You could see before the game that everyone was focused in warmups; in the locker room everyone was motivating each other,” said Jensen.

“The crowd really, really helps; playing in front of them makes it all that much better. They give us a lot of energy.”

Jensen didn’t waste any time giving the PDS supporters something to cheer about as he assisted on Grahame Davis’s goal 2:36 into the contest. Some three minutes later, freshman Ross Colton tallied a shorthanded goal to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage.

“That helps a lot to take all the momentum away from them in the beginning and secure that lead,” said Jensen, reflecting on the Panthers’ strong start. “We know we are the better team; we had to keep playing.”

The Panthers kept playing well, pulling away to a 4-1 victory as junior Rob Colton added two goals to go with the tallies by his younger brother and Davis.

In topping the Fighting Irish, PDS completed an impressive week that also saw it defeat Seton Hall 8-0 and then post a 6-3 triumph over Portledge School (Pa.) as it built on the intensity it showed in a 2-2 tie against Lawrenceville on January 19.

“The Lawrenceville game gave us a lot of motivation; that was another bad taste in our mouth because we felt like we could have won that game,” said Jensen.

“We played really well against Seton Hall and beat them 8-0 and then we came out and played Portledge, who had beaten Lawrenceville and we beat them handily 6-3. So I definitely think that has given us a lot of motivation.”

With the state Prep tournament around the corner, Jensen believes the Panthers are in a good position to defend the title they earned last year with a thrilling victory over Pingry.

“I think we are really starting to play our best hockey; I think as a good team we have to face adversity,” said Jensen.

“I think we are definitely starting to come through adversity. The team is really coming together and playing really well.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli knew he didn’t have to do much to motivate his team before the rematch with the Fighting Irish.

“I didn’t have to say much before the game; the kids all knew what that game meant,” said Bertoli.

“We are not going to play in the county tournament so in our minds that was the county finals. We want to talk about who the best two teams in the county are, Lawrenceville aside because they don’t compete in that tournament. I don’t think there is any doubt now who the better team is.”

Bertoli tipped his hat to Notre Dame for competing hard, particularly goalie Steve Anderson, who made 61 saves on the evening.

“I give them credit, they play hard, they work hard,” said Bertoli, whose team outshot the Fighting Irish 65-23.

“They are having a great year, they don’t win 16 or 17 games by accident. They are a good team. I just think we benefit from playing a tougher schedule and we benefit from having more depth than they do. It was pretty evident tonight. We carried play for the majority of the game. You look at the shots and the scoring chances; had it not been for Anderson in net, I think that margin is six or eight goals.”

A big part of PDS’s depth this season is the addition of the Colton brothers. “They are obviously two kids who find the back of the net,” said Bertoli.

“Any time you can add two talented players like that, it goes a long way. In addition to that, they are good 2-way hockey players, good teammates, they care, they are passionate. They wanted to play a higher level of hockey and we have been able to provide that.”

In Bertoli’s view, his team has been building momentum since the tie with Lawrenceville.

“We had a lot of confidence coming out of that Lawrenceville game, to us it was a benchmark game,” said Bertoli, whose team improved to 15-4-1 with a 5-2 win over Rye Country Day (N.Y.) last Monday.

“We want to play at that level. I thought we were awesome all week long. We took it to Seton Hall; there was no doubt from the drop of the puck who the better team was. I look at a Portledge team that is very successful; we haven’t beaten a top team in a number of years. We outchance them, we outplay them, we stick to our game plan and we have a pretty convincing win. We follow that up with a strong, strong effort today. The kids feel good about themselves and they should.”

Jensen, for his part, feels good about the help he has been getting as he carries out his captain’s role.

“It really means a lot, everyone is rallying around each other and feeding off each other’s energy and it is really nice to see,” said Jensen.

“I am the only captain; it is a lot of responsibility trying to keep everyone together and on the same page.”

As he wraps up his PDS hockey career, Jensen is trying his best to end things on a high note.

“It is unfortunate that it is winding down,” said Jensen, who is heading to Trinity College. “Every game I try to give everything I have and take every moment in. It definitely means a lot.”

COUNTY WORKERS: Princeton High wrestler Andrew Wenzler ties up a foe in recent action. Last weekend, senior Wenzler took sixth at 132 pounds at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Other Little Tigers also starred at the MCT as senior Nick Gillette won the heavyweight class with Tim Miranda taking third at 113 and David Klinges placing fifth at 152. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Injuries robbed the Princeton High wrestling team of any chance it had to contend for the title at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) last weekend.

While PHS didn’t enter wrestlers in four of the weight classes due to health issues, the Little Tigers who did compete certainly made an impact.

Senior Nick Gillette won the heavyweight class with Tim Miranda taking third at 113 pounds, David Klinges placing fifth at 152, and Andrew Wenzler coming in sixth at 132.

PHS head coach Rashone Johnson credited his wrestlers for hanging in there through adversity.

“I have been challenging them,” said Johnson, whose squad was 11th of 16 schools in the MCT team standings in the competition held at Robbinsville High which was won by Hopewell Valley.

“We have had so many injuries and it is late in the season. The winter season is the longest so it is natural for people to get tired. These guys have been putting in a lot of training. I have been giving them challenges to keep them fresh.”

Nobody gave Gillette much of a challenge for the heavyweight title as he crushed the competition.

“Nick has been getting in the workouts,” said Johnson. “He really wanted to win this. He had a pin in every match; it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Miranda showed some character as he rebounded from a tough loss to James Mottram of Allentown in the semis to top Hopewell’s Mark Gerstacker in the third-place match.

“Tim is solid but he had a bad match in the semis; he had beaten Mottram in a dual match earlier this season,” said Johnson.

“Maybe he was looking ahead but even in shortcoming something positive came out of it. He avenged an earlier loss to get third.”

PHS also got positive work from Klinges and Wenzler. “Klinges did a great job; he wrestled Bethea tough (Raamiah Bethea, voted the meet’s Outstanding Wrestler),” said Johnson, noting that Tom Miers (106), Matt Wong (138), and Jeff Barsamian (182) each went 2-2 at the MCT.

“I thought he would get third place but he got a quick pin to get fifth. Andrew wrestled tremendously; he had a kick-butt weekend. He is a tough kid.”

The program’s group of seniors has displayed plenty of toughness as they helped PHS  break through with a 9-7 record last winter.

“It is a good group when we are all together,” said Johnson, whose group of seniors includes Ian Snyder and Frank Bozich in addition to Gillette, Miranda, Klinges, Wenzler, and Barsamian. “The seniors helped bring it back for us, we had a lot riding on this season.”

Johnson is hoping that the Little Tigers can do some big things over the remainder of the season.

“We are going to focus on the matches wrestled and not worry about team scores,” said Johnson, whose team faces Cedar Grove and WW/P-S in a tri-meet on February 4.

“It is what it is with the injuries. It will all be worthwhile if we can get some wrestlers to Atlantic City (for the state finals). I think Nick can do it; he has the ability to do it. He only started wrestling in high school and he has been improving as the season has gone on.”

Hun School boys’ basketball players, Jason Geter, far left, and Bobby Ganges, far right, battle two Emily Fisher Charter opponents for a loose ball in action last Saturday. Hun won the game 63-41 to improve to 9-9. For more details on the Raiders, see page 39. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HUNTING SEASON: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Abby Hunter heads up the ice in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior forward Hunter chipped in a goal and an assist as PHS fell 10-2 to Rye Country Day School. Hunter will be looking to end her career on a high note as the Little Tigers wrap up the season with a game at Summit on February 3 and the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament on February 11 and 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ hockey team was trailing Rye Country Day School 9-2 late in the second period last Thursday, Abby Hunter wasn’t about to stop fighting.

Chasing down a loose puck, the PHS senior forward raced to the net on a breakaway. While Hunter didn’t notch a goal, she drew a penalty to help the Little Tiger cause.

“I really try to give my all, no matter what,” said Hunter. “Coach [Christian] Herzog always says I am like a midfielder, I backcheck so hard.”

PHS ended up losing 10-2 to the Wildcats to fall to 1-8 but Hunter maintains the record doesn’t reflect the hard work the Little Tigers have put into improving.

“The results are not really demonstrative of how well we have been doing,” said Hunter.

“Pingry, who we played last night and lost to 10-6, destroyed us in the beginning of the season. I think we only got two or three goals. We have really grown better at passing and becoming more aware of each other on the ice, especially with so many new additions to the team. We have really come together.”

Hunter’s play against Rye reflected the team’s progress as she assisted on the first goal and scored the second goal.

“On the first goal, I passed it to Campbell [McDonald], who went on a breakaway,” recalled Hunter.

“She shot and Lucy [Herring] was right there to score; it was definitely a good flow. My goal was a nice one. Erin Forden assisted me. It was right on my stick and went through the goalie’s legs which always feels good.”

Playing with freshmen McDonald and Herring on the first line has been a good experience for the battle-tested Hunter.

“It is kind of funny because Keely [Herring] and I coached Campbell and Lucy when they were in middle school,” said Hunter.

“It is fun because I am telling them the same instructions I was telling them back then. They are always in the right place; they know where to be. It is good to have a lot of backup there.”

Hunter and classmate Herring have tried to be good role models for the whole team.

“It is hard for the girls to try really hard because we have practices so early,” said Hunter, noting that the team typically practices at 5:30 in the morning at Baker Rink on the campus of Princeton University.

“What Keely and I try to do is to lead by example, pushing ourselves in practice.”

The two senior standouts have developed a deep bond in the process.

“Starting as freshmen, Keely and I have always been together on lines,” said Hunter, who is a tri-captain of the Little Tigers along with Herring and Vinita Su.

“This year she is playing more defensively. We have gone through a lot, starting as a great team when we were freshman and then losing a lot of players and then getting a lot of people back this year.”

Hunter has received a lot of support from her teammates as she has gone through those ups and downs.

“It has been a roller-coaster for us but it has been really good,” asserted Hunter.

“The girls on the team are really helpful when you are going through things and losing, it is hard to keep your head in the right place. We have so much fun together. With the budget cuts, we have had to do fundraising. That has helped us really come together as a team.”

With PHS wrapping up the season over the next few weeks with a game at Summit on February 3 and the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament on February 11 and 12, Hunter is looking to have plenty of fun in her final days with the team.

“I am not going to be playing D-I or D-III hockey in college,” said Hunter, a native of Toronto who moved to Princeton when she was 10.

“I want to play hard and take advantage of the last few games here because it has been a really huge part of my high school life. This team is everything to me.”

BIG EFFORT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly puts up a free throw in a game earlier this season. Last Monday, the 6’11, 255-pound junior Connolly had a breakthrough game against Penn, scoring 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Connolly’s heroics, though, weren’t enough as Princeton fell 82-67 to the Quakers. Princeton, now 10-9 overall and 1-2 in Ivy League action, plays at Brown (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on February 3 and Yale (13-5, 3-1 Ivy) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Despite having not played since January 14, the Princeton University men’s basketball team showed little rust offensively as it faced Penn last Monday night in Philadelphia.

The Tigers hit 13-of-19 shots in the first half in their annual trip to the storied Palestra.

But the Princeton’s normally stingy defense seemed out of synch as Penn made 14-of-22 shots, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range, to build a 40-32 halftime lead.

“I thought we played pretty well offensively,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, reflecting on the first 20 minutes of the 225th meeting between the archrivals. “We shot over 50 percent and had less than 10 turnovers.”

In the second half, the Tigers tried to claw back into the contest, narrowing the gap to five points several times. In the end, though, the Tigers couldn’t stop the Quakers as Penn pulled away to an 82-67 win before a crowd of 6,835, led by a brilliant 28-point performance from senior guard Zack Rosen.

Henderson acknowledged that Rosen was the difference in the game. “I really felt like Penn dictated things on offense,” said Henderson, whose team fell to 10-9 overall and 1-2 in the Ivy League while Penn improved to 11-9 overall and 3-0 Ivy.

“We really had no response or answer for Zack Rosen. He was terrific tonight, throughout the game for 40 minutes. His understanding of tempo, it’s special, not just for this game, but as an Ivy League basketball player. He’s a good one. We knew that going in. That’s not to take anything away from the other guys.”

The Tigers didn’t exactly stifle Penn’s other guys as three other Quakers hit double figures.

“They were quicker than us to everything in the first half, and the second,” said Henderson, whose team was outrebounded 33-19 in the contest.

“Forty in the first, and 42 in the second. And that was a real 82. We just consistently couldn’t stop them. It’s supposed to be what we’re hanging our hat on, but maybe we need to hang our hat on something else.”

A major bright spot for Princeton was junior center Brendan Connolly, who was unstoppable at times as he tallied 15 points in 30 minutes off the bench.

“I was very pleased with Brendan Connolly tonight,” asserted Henderson, who also got 21 points from Ian Hummer and 14 from Douglas Davis.

“Brendan has been playing pretty well in practice. I think you saw tonight a little bit of what we see in practice every day. He’s been working hard, and that’s what happens when you work hard.”

Connolly, for his part, saw his effort as the fruits of that labor. “I was just trying to replicate what I’ve been doing at practice lately, which is being more aggressive,” said the 6’11, 255-pound Connolly, who thundered home several dunks as he went 7-of-8 from the field.

“All the coaches have been working with me, and my teammates have helped me out and put me in good spots for most of my baskets today. I was just trying to build off that. It wasn’t necessarily this game. I’d like to do it every game.

Senior star Davis acknowledged that defending Ivy champion Princeton put itself in a hole with the defeat to the Quakers as it now trails Harvard (18-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy), Yale (13-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy), and Cornell (7-11 overall, 2-2 Ivy) in addition to Penn in the league standings.

“It’s tough; whenever you play Ivies, if you lose, you’re basically putting yourself at a disadvantage,” said Davis, whose class was trying to become the first group of seniors to win four straight games at the Palestra.

“Every loss counts and there’s no tournament at the end where you can hopefully try to win. It’s tough. We’re 1-2 right now, so we have to win. We have to find a way to win.”

Despite the setback, Davis doesn’t believe that the team’s will to win has been diminished.

“I don’t think our team is shaken at all, but it definitely puts us behind the eight-ball,” maintained Davis. “We have to find a way to get back to where we need to be.”

In Henderson’s view, it is going to take toil and luck for the Tigers to make their way up the league standings.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’re going to need some help,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Brown (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on February 3 and Yale a day later. “We know that.”

PRODUCTIVE RETURN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Danielle DiCesare speeds up the ice in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward DiCesare chipped in a goal as Princeton edged Robert Morris University 3-2 in returning to action after a 16-day hiatus for exams. The Tigers, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-7-2 in ECAC Hockey action, play at Dartmouth (14-6-2 overall. 10-4-2 ECACH) on February 3 and at Harvard (14-6-1 overall, 11-4-1 ECACH) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having spent much of January dealing with exams, Danielle DiCesare was bursting with energy when the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted Robert Morris University last Monday.

“We were excited to get out of the library and finally have a game, for sure,” said senior forward DiCesare, a native of York, Maine.

“We haven’t played Robert Morris yet so we didn’t know what to expect. We were fired up and ready to go.”

DiCesare got the Tigers off to a good start in their first action since a loss at Cornell on January 14, scoring a goal late in the first period to give Princeton a 1-0 lead over the Colonials.

“We always pass on our line when we have scoring opportunities,” said the feisty 5’4 DiCesare, reflecting on her fifth goal of the season and the 25th in her Princeton career.

“So this game, every time we had a chance, we wanted to shoot. That was exactly what Cookie [Kelly Cooke] did and it was a great rebound. It was great to see the line effort.”

The Tigers continued that effort in the second period as defensemen Rose Alleva and Ali Pankowski scored to give Princeton a 3-1 edge heading into the final 20 minutes.

“All of our goals were team efforts; that was nice to see,” added DiCesare. “There were assists on each goal.”

Things weren’t so nice in the third period for Princeton as the Colonials scored to narrow the gap to one and got a late power play and then pulled the goalie to add an extra attacker to put the pressure on Princeton.

DiCesare, together with Cooke, Alleva, and Gabie Figueroa, held the fort on the penalty kill as the Tigers ultimately prevailed 3-2.

“The 6-on-4 is always interesting; it was definitely dicey,” said DiCesare. “We almost got it out a couple of times but then it got fumbled. We had our defensemen blocking shots and Rachel [Weber] made some great saves. We got it done.”

With Princeton now at 9-10-4 overall and 7-7-2 in ECAC Hockey play, the Tigers will need to get it done if they are to earn home ice for the playoffs. Princeton currently sits in seventh place in the ECACH standings, six points away from fourth and the last spot to host a series.

“We have six huge games to set us up for the playoffs,” said DiCesare. “It was really nice to get back; normally we don’t have a game before we get back into the ECAC play. It was awesome to get this game and get ready. We know what we have to do for the next six games.”

In DiCesare’s view, the formula for success is simple. “We just need to play consistent; I think we just beat ourselves in the first half of the season,” asserted DiCesare.

“We came back after the holiday break and we put together six consistent games and we had a pretty good record and now we need to do the same thing.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, for his part, liked how his players took care of their business on and off the ice during the exam break.

“The kids worked really hard during exams,” said Kampersal. “They definitely paid attention to their academics and did well there. The captains and the seniors made sure that they were down here. There was not a lot of quantity time but just quality with a half hour, or 40 minutes to do their work and get on with their academics. They stayed in great shape, just like over the holiday break.”

The Tigers showed fresh legs in the early stages of the game against Robert Morris.

“I thought we played really well; we had the advantage for sure,” said Kampersal. “Robert Morris is a solid team but they had played a tough weekend against Niagara so it was their third game in four nights. We definitely understood that.”

DiCesare’s early tally gave the Tigers an advantage. “Danielle worked hard; Cookie made a nice play throwing it to the net,” recalled Kampersal. “Danielle took it from her skate to her stick so it was a nice goal.”

The tallies by Alleva and Pankowski were the products of some good work.

“Rosie made a nice fake and shoot on her goal,” said Kampersal. “We have been working on the power play with Pankowski. Corey [Stearns] made a nice pass to her. Ali has an absolute bomb, it was a nice catch and shoot for Pankowski.”

Kampersal acknowledged that the Colonials put a scare into the Tigers over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“I think we were expecting to come out a little stronger and I think they found their second wind in the third period and we were holding on for dear life,” said Kampersal.

With 5:36 remaining in regulation, Kampersal called a timeout to settle things down.

“I told them they have worked so hard and that they are starting to let it slip away and that their will should outlast their skill right now,” said Kampersal, recalling the message he gave to his players.

The Tigers showed iron will on the game-ending penalty kill. “Cookie, Rosie, Gabie, and Cheesy [DiCesare] did a phenomenal job,” said Kampersal. “They showed a lot of heart and soul at the end there; that is what we need.”

In Kampersal’s view, the Tigers needed the challenge presented by Robert Morris before they get back into ECACH action by playing at Dartmouth (14-6-2 overall. 10-4-2 ECACH) on February 3, and at Harvard (14-6-1 overall, 11-4-1 ECACH) a day later.

“We wanted to play a good, solid hockey team,” said Kampersal. “Hopefully it will get us ready for next weekend. I don’t think we could have gone three weeks without a game and then go on the road against Harvard and Dartmouth and expect to compete the way that we want to against those guys.”

Princeton’s seniors are primed to compete hard as they put the finishing touches on their superb careers.

“Now we have the last six ECAC games with four at home,” said Kampersal, whose group of seniors includes Charissa Stadnyk, Paula Romanchuk, Heather Landry, and Julie Johnson in addition to DiCesare and Weber.

“They know that the home games are coming to an end at some point so hopefully they take advantage of each and every one. It is a special group; I know they realize how special this time is.”

DiCesare, for her part, is ready to take advantage of her last few weeks in a Princeton uniform.

“I am just trying to have fun, that’s my biggest thing,” said DiCesare. “I will give my best effort every game because I am not going to have anything left.”

January 25, 2012
PDS Boys Hockey

RENEWING HOSTILITIES: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Conrad Denise, left, battles Jess Norman of Lawrenceville for the puck last Thursday. Junior forward Denise contributed an assist as the local rivals skated to a 2-2 overtime draw in their first meeting in five years.

Bump Lisk and his teammates on the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team brought plenty of intensity last Thursday as they renewed their rivalry with Lawrenceville.

“Going into the game, everyone wanted to play Lawrenceville,” said junior defenseman Lisk, reflecting on the first matchup between the schools in five years. “This is one we really circled on our calendar.”

Supported by a raucous student section dressed in white lighting up one corner of a jam-packed McGraw Rink, the Panthers circled the wagons as they battled a Lawrenceville team featuring players from such hockey hotbeds as Minnesota and Canada with some post-graduate performers.

PDS fell behind 1-0 minutes into the game and trailed 2-1 midway through the second period only to knot the contest at 2-2 on a Ross Colton tally with 14:07 left in regulation.

The game went into overtime and PDS nearly surrendered a goal seconds into the extra session. After surviving that scare, the Panthers frightened the Big Red, producing one point blank shot that went awry and several other good chances.

With the crowd in an uproar, Lawrenceville went on the power play with 1:37 left in overtime. The Panther defenders held on for dear life as several PDS players dove at shots to keep the Big Red from scoring and the game ended in a 2-2 stalemate.

“There was not a single guy in our locker room who didn’t give everything they had,” said Lisk.

“It was an important game and the guys would have killed to win. At the end, guys would have blocked shots with their neck if they had to.”

The fact that the game ended up in a tie was a killer for the Panthers, according to PDS head coach Scott Bertoli.

“I love the fact that my team is in there kicking and screaming,” said Bertoli, whose team was outshot 35-33 in the thrilling contest.

“They felt like they could have won a hockey game so I like that mentality. I like the fact that not only do they they think they can compete, they think they can beat that team over there. The benchmark for hockey in this area is Lawrenceville and we want our program to be at that level and we will continue to push to get to that level.”

PDS junior forward Conrad Denise voiced the team’s frustration at not cashing in on its chances.

“We are upset; it just shows how much we care,” said Denise, who assisted on Colton’s third period tally.

“We knew in the beginning of the game and before the game even started that we are the better team. When you go out and play a team you know you are better than and you don’t win, it is almost worse than losing when you tie them. It is not like they really outplayed us; we had so many opportunities to control the game and we didn’t do it. It is unacceptable in any game.”

Bertoli likewise rued his team’s failure to put Lawrenceville away. We had an opportunity to win the game,” said Bertoli, whose team did go on to pick up a win last Monday as it topped Seton Hall 8-0 to improve to 12-4-1.

“For a good portion of that game, in the second period and the first half of the third period, I thought we outplayed them. We outchanced them and carried the play. You don’t want to get on guys because they are working hard to get the scoring opportunities but at the end of the day, you are out there to score goals. When we are put in spots on power plays and situations, we really do need to convert on those situations.”

In Bertoli’s view, the renewal of the rivalry after a five-year hiatus was a great opportunity for both schools.

“It’s fun, I told the kids this is the kind of thing you are going to remember,” said Bertoli.

“They will remember this type of environment, playing in front of all your friends and family, girlfriends, and whoever else shows up to watch. Enjoy it, thrive in it. As long as they are agreeable to do it again, it is something we will do. I think it is good for the area. These two teams have been playing for 40 years. I have kids on my team whose dads played in the game 30 years ago.”

Bertoli certainly enjoyed the play of his junior goalie Connor Walker, who made 33 saves in the tie.

“That kid is awesome; he has to be one of the best goalies in the state,” asserted Bertoli.

“He singlehandedly keeps us in games; we put so much pressure on him. Our defense gets so involved and our forwards collapse and what ends up happening is the other teams go on an odd-man rush the other way and thank god you have this kid in the net. He bails you out more often than not.”

Bertoli also tipped his hat to his corps of defensemen which includes C.J. Young, Eddie Meyercord, Grahame Davis, Tyler Olsson, and Taran Auslander in addition to Lisk.

“I think our defense has been our strongest part to date; I have six guys that I can count on to play,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 25 and Notre Dame on January 27 before playing at Rye Country Day School (N.Y.) on January 30.

“They kill penalties, four of them are on the power play on a regular basis. The biggest difference between this team and teams we have had in previous years is their ability to make plays. They are confident to go defense-to-defense and to handle the puck in the neutral zone. It has allowed our forwards to be more efficient on the rush; we get pucks in stride and we take advantage of odd man situations.”

Lisk, for his part, sees an increased confidence level in the PDS program collectively.

“My freshman year, something wasn’t there with the program and now it is,” said Lisk.

“We have just developed so much as a group, especially the juniors. There is a ton of guys in that class, Cody Triolo, Conrad Denise, Rob Colton, me and we have grown together. Everybody works and we all want the same thing, to get another prep championship.”

The disappointment surrounding the stalemate with Lawrenceville will spur the Panthers to work even harder.

“I think that is going to motivate us even more in the long run,” asserted Lisk.

“Everybody here wanted a win and we are going to take this 2-2 tie and not think of it as a tie but almost as a loss because we think we are the better team. We’ll get back on the horse tomorrow and have a good practice.”

PDS fans react to their team's first goal

SUPPORT NETWORK: Going in white-out mode, Princeton Day School students cheer for their boys’ hockey team during last Thursday’s clash against Lawrenceville. The Panthers gave their student supporters plenty to cheer about as they rallied twice from one-goal deficits to tie Big Red 2-2 before a capacity crowd at Lisa McGraw Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Matt Hoffman

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hoffman dribbles the ball upcourt last Friday in PHS’s 61-48 win over Steinert. Senior guard Hoffman contributed 16 points in the win with classmate Davon Black scoring 18 as PHS improved to 6-7. Hoffman has caught fire as he heads down the stretch of his Little Tiger hoops career, averaging 14.6 points a game in PHS’s last five contests. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on January 27 before playing at WW/P-N on January 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Applying a mindset that helped him star for the Princeton High boys’ cross country team, Matt Hoffman has developed a finishing kick on the basketball court.

“In the beginning of the game, I am a little cold,” said PHS senior guard Hoffman.

“But as the game goes on I get into it and get into the flow. I can feel the adrenaline
in my body.”

As PHS heads into the homestretch, Hoffman is saving his best for last, having averaged 14.3 points a game in his last four games before last Friday’s contest against visiting Steinert.

“As a senior, there is a different mentality,” explained Hoffman, who served as a captain this past fall for a PHS boys’ cross country team that won a sectional title.

“Last year, I would be a little scared. If I make a mistake, it doesn’t get to me. Last year, it got to me. Now I just keep running the floor. With the cross country, that’s easy for me.”

Hoffman and fellow senior, Davon Black, have gone out of their way this winter to pass on some lessons to the younger PHS players.

“In practice, Davon and me always take the time to go over to them and ask them about their lives,” said Hoffman, who also stars for the PHS baseball team.

“I talk to them to make sure they keep their heads up because they are young. If they get their heads down, it is hard to come back.”

In the game against Steinert, Hoffman helped PHS rally after it got down 22-20 in the wake of a 6-0 Spartan run early in the third quarter and head coach Jason Carter called a timeout to read the riot act to his charges.

“Coach told us the way we got our lead was playing defense,” recalled Hoffman. “He said to play defense when we go back in. I think, personally, that we play better when we are angrier. I think that is the key sometimes.”

Hoffman channeled that anger into some big offensive plays, hitting a left-handed lay-up and a long 3-pointer as the Little Tigers responded with a 7-0 run to regain momentum.

PHS went on to pull away to a 61-48 win with Hoffman tallying 16 points and Black scoring 18.

“It was definitely good to get a home win; it always sparks interest,” said Hoffman, reflecting on the victory which lifted PHS to 6-7. “This part of the season is the toughest part to get through. It is midway and the guys are a little tired.”

PHS head coach Carter liked the way some of his younger players performed on Friday.

“We do have some young guys, even though the roster says juniors, they are first-time varsity guys and some of them are first-time varsity athletes,” said Carter, who got some good play off the bench from juniors Ellis Bloom and Lior Levy in the win over Steinert.

“We are just getting their feet wet and getting them a little bit of experience. Hopefully you are going to see it down the road in the next month or so. We are taking it one day at a time, one step at a time. We have had really, really good practices the last few days.”

That work in the gym paid dividends down the stretch on Friday as the Little Tigers outscored the Spartans 25-17 in the fourth quarter.

“We just wanted them to play the passing lanes; they weren’t that great of a passing team,” said Carter.

“We wanted to cut down the lanes and try to get some deflections and hopefully the deflections will lead to turnovers and fast break points. We wanted to play more of an up and down game instead of a half court game. We were really proud of how they responded.”

Carter is proud of Hoffman’s play and the senior leadership he is exhibiting. “Matt has been playing well; he has grown a lot in the last two months or so,” added Carter.

“He has been providing some leadership on and off the court. He has been able to come up big when we need someone to step up and make a play. We were in little bit of a lull in the third quarter and he got into the paint with a left-handed layup. We need for a senior to step up and he was able to deliver.”

In Carter’s view, Black is also delivering on a more consistent basis.

“Davon dedicates himself to the team and he has dedicated himself to the game,” said Carter, whose squad hosts WW/P-S on January 27 before playing at WW/P-N on January 31.

“He had some struggles early in the season when some guys were keying up on him. He has learned how to play through being double-teamed and triple-teamed and how to make the team better through that. He has also learned to take advantage when he does have 1-on-1 opportunities.”

Hoffman, for his part, is determined to help PHS take advantage of the opportunities that come its way down the stretch.

“I think we just need to keep our spirits up,” said Hoffman, who will be heading to either Michigan or Cornell next year.

“I think sometimes we get a little bit down and we will have bad games. That’s normal. With coach’s practices recently, we have been more energetic and we feel the sense of urgency. It is coming to the end and we really need to step it up.”

Matt DiTosto

GOING TO THE MATT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Matt DiTosto heads up the ice in a game last season. This winter, junior forward DiTosto has emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring with 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists through the first 12 games. Last Friday, DiTosto contributed a goal and two assists as the Little Tigers topped Nottingham 12-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Matt DiTosto admits that he misses playing with older brother, Dean, on the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

“My brother was a big loss,” said the junior forward, referring to the graduation of sibling Dean, a star defenseman and two-time team captain. “His loss affects our defense a lot and the leadership as well.”

As an assistant captain for this year’s PHS team, DiTosto is trying to apply some of the leadership lessons he learned from his brother.

“I am leading by example which is probably the best thing,” said DiTosto. “It is always good to stay positive going into a game but you don’t overlook an opponent. If you have any teammates who are feeling down or joking around that is not good; you have to get everyone focused on the game.”

DiTosto has been having a positive impact offensively, emerging as a top offensive threat for PHS, leading the team in scoring with 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists through the first 12 games.

“I don’t really think about me leading the team in scoring,” said DiTosto. “I try to think about how well the team is doing. We are not really at where I hoped we would be; I feel like we are a pretty skilled team.”

DiTosto joined sophomore teammate Mike Wasson on the Mercer Chiefs club team to help improve his skills.

“That was a step up from my old travel team,” said DiTosto. “It is triple-A level and it is much harder competition. Playing that has developed my hockey sense a little better. My puck work with Mike is obviously really good.”

Last Friday, DiTosto put in some good work, notching a goal and two assists as PHS cruised to 12-1 win over Nottingham.

“These games are dangerous for us because if someone gets hurt, it will affect a much harder game,” said DiTosto, reflecting on the victory which improved PHS to 8-4-2.

“In these type of games I like to get goals for kids that don’t always see ice time. That is just a good thing to do.”

It was also good for PHS to bounce back from a disappointing 5-2 loss to Hopewell Valley four days earlier.

“I felt like we didn’t have our best effort against Hopewell,” acknowledged DiTosto.

“We had a really good practice session on Thursday and to come out and get a win, no matter how you get it is always nice after a bad loss.”

While PHS head coach Tim Campbell liked the way his team took care of business, he knows that one-sided games have limited value.

“I have never been a big fan of these games but it is a good opportunity to work on things that we need to work on,” said Campbell, who got two goals apiece from Connor McCormick,  Gabe MacGregor, and Will Greenberg in the win over Nottingham with Kirby Peck, Jack Andres, Chris Munoz, Kevin Quinn, and Danny Kingsley also finding the back of the net.

“Early on, we had a couple of different forechecking systems that I wanted to work on. In all honesty; I am adverse to 10-goaling people. I try to avoid that but there comes a point where the games just needs to come to an end. It was really nice to see a few of our guys get their first goal; we had three first goals of careers tonight. That’s always fun to see, the guys enjoy that.”

Campbell has enjoyed seeing DiTosto mature into a star. “Matt has made a lot of progress physically,” said Campbell.

“He’s always had a lot of raw physical talent; he has gained a lot of confidence over the years playing with his brother and playing with Fraser [Graham] last year. He is only a junior so he leads by example for the guys below him.”

PHS needed that leadership as it looked to rebound from the loss to Hopewell.

“It was a wake-up  call; we had a practice last night that was probably the best practice of our entire season,” asserted Campbell.

“We were full speed, communicating, concentrating, passes were tape to tape. It was night and day. I have been banging my head against the wall, trying to figure out what the formula is with these kids, trying to get them mentally prepared for big games.”

In Campbell’s view, the Little Tigers have what it takes to do well in the big games ahead.

“Something I mentioned to them in the locker room tonight was that we have hit our stride at the end of January and into the postseason which is fine but we need to do that,” said Campbell, whose team plays WW/P-S on January 25 at the Mercer County Park rink before facing Cranford High on January 27 at Baker Rink.

“We need to continue that on a consistent basis. It is just frustrating when we give away games that could help us with seeding and things like that but it is what we have to work with.”

DiTosto, for his part, believes the Little Tigers can repeat history and produce another stellar stretch run.

“Usually this part of the season we start to pick up our game a lot more and that’s what I am hoping,” said DiTosto.

“We can get some wins in our last games to get a good seed for the MCT and the state tournament as well. So getting wins, no matter how we do it, is what I am focusing on. I am trying to make sure that everyone stays positive.”

Gabby Vukasin

WALKING TALL: Gabby Vukasin races up the ice for the Williams College (Mass.) women’s hockey team in recent action. Sophomore forward Vukasin, a former hockey and soccer star at Princeton High, walked on to the Williams team as freshman. This winter, she has emerged as a star for the Ephs, tying for the team lead in goals with 12 through 16 games.

Blessed with good size and athleticism, things came naturally for Gabby Vukasin during her high school ice hockey career.

Vukasin was the go-to player for the Princeton High girls’ team from the moment she hit the ice and also starred for the Princeton Tiger Lilies and New Jersey Colonials club programs.

Her success had Vukasin looking to join a college hockey program. “I started thinking about playing in college when I was 16 and everyone was talking about recruiting,” said Vukasin, a 2010 PHS grad who was also a star goalie for the Little Tigers girls’ soccer team.

But no schools ended up seriously recruiting Vukasin and Williams College (Mass.) emerged as her first choice.

“I visited Williams twice and when I went to other schools, I realized I was comparing them to Williams,” said Vukasin.

“I met with the hockey coach and she said she had a big freshman class coming in and she couldn’t push for me.”

But Vukasin was offered the opportunity to walk on to the Williams hockey team and she pushed her way on to the squad last winter.

“I did the summer workouts and then I had to try out in the first three practices,” said Vukasin.

“It was very nerve-wracking, I never had to fight for a spot like that. I definitely could hold my own. In the second practice I separated my shoulder. They must have liked what they had seen because I made the team. I was ecstatic. It was a great feeling; I felt like I had really accomplished something.”

For Vukasin, playing at the college level prompted some uneasy feelings at first, as she got up to speed.

“There was definitely an adjustment period,” said the 5’6 Vukasin, who scored two goals and had two assists in 22 appearances last winter.

“It is a quicker game. There is a lot more crisp passing. On turnovers, the puck goes right up the ice. There is so much emphasis on each game. There are more systems. We do a lot of video work and watch other teams and plan how to deal with their systems. It took most of the year to get used to it.”

With a season under her belt, Vukasin focused on her conditioning over the summer.

“I didn’t play as much hockey this past summer,” said Vukasin. “I lifted more and I worked out more.”

It didn’t take long for Vukasin’s fitness and intensity to catch the eye of new Williams head coach Meghan Gillis.

“The first thing with Gabby is her work ethic, she competes hard when it comes to every practice,” said Gillis. “She is tall, fit, and strong. She is a power forward.”

Parlaying that power into productivity, Vukasin has become a go-to player for Williams this winter, as she is tied for the team lead in goals with 12 through 16 games.

Last Saturday, Vukasin scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Ephs edged Colby 4-3 to improve to 9-7 overall and 5-3 in NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) play, more than doubling last season’s win total of four.

“I didn’t expect it,” Vukasin said of her scoring prowess this winter. “I didn’t do as well with scoring last year, it takes a while. I don’t have great stick-handling skills but I have found a pretty good role in the front of the nest. I am decently sized for a NSCAC player and I use my size.”

Vukasin’s teammate and fellow Princeton resident, senior Sarah Herr, notices the difference in Vukasin this season.

“Gabby worked hard over the summer,” said Herr, who skates on the same power play unit with Vukasin. “She is aggressive around the net; she goes after rebounds like nobody’s business.”

In Gillis’ view, Vukasin is just scratching the surface of what she can achieve.

“Gabby has a good skill set and size for this league,” said Gillis. “Clearly with the numbers she is putting up, she can get better and better. I am looking forward to seeing what she can do over the next two years.”

Vukasin, for her part, believes the team can do some good things over the rest of the winter.

“I think we are working things out,” said Vukasin. “Last year, we had so many close games that we lost. Now they are starting to go our way. We are working hard to correct things. Communication is key between the players and between the players and the coaches.”

And Vukasin’s good work has certainly been a key to Williams’ success this winter.

Sarah Herr

FACING THE END: Sarah Herr, right, gets ready for a face-off in a game earlier this winter for the Williams College (Mass.) women’s hockey team. Senior Herr, a Princeton native and former Lawrenceville School standout, is enjoying a superb final campaign for the Ephs. Having recently moved to forward from defense, Herr has contributed six assists to help Williams post a 9-7 record through last weekend. (Photo Courtesy of Williams College Sports Information)

For Sarah Herr, playing defense has been her calling card as she worked her way up the ice hockey ladder.

“I am a natural defender; I think of myself as a defenseman,” said Herr, a Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville star who is a senior on the Williams College (Mass.) women’s hockey team.

But earlier this winter, Herr was moved from her comfort zone around the blue line up to forward. While the shift didn’t thrill her, Herr was determined to master her new role.

“If my coach wants me to play center, that’s what I am going to do,” said the 5‘2 Herr. “She asked me for a reason and I am going to do my best.”

Herr has proven to be a catalyst on the forward line for Williams, picking up six assists and giving the Ephs power play a lift.

Williams head coach Meghan Gillis is pleased with how Herr has responded to the move.

“We were looking for depth at the center position to get more players on the ice,” said Gillis.

“Our center has a lot of responsibility in the d-zone; almost like a third defender. With her defensive experience, Sarah provided immediate stability. She also brings composure and a sense of maturity to the power play. She has done a great job quarterbacking that for us; we now have the leading power play in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference).”

Over her Williams career, Herr has been forced to deal with a lack of stability as the program has had a different head coach four straight seasons. While that situation has been challenging, Herr has relished her experience with the Ephs.

“Playing college hockey and developing the relationships with the other girls has been everything I have dreamed of,” said Herr.

“The coaching changes were not what I dreamed of. The members of the senior class have relied on each other; we have had to be there for one another.”

Herr and her classmates are determined to end their careers on a high note.

“I came into this season excited to play and make this season great,” asserted Herr.

“The senior class wants to make the season great for ourselves and the team. I am holding myself accountable to set an example. We have a very, very young team with 14 or 15 underclassmen.”

Gillis, for her part, credits the senior group with providing inspiration for the squad’s younger members.

“I had three coaches in four years when I was in college so I know what they have gone through,” said Gillis, a star forward at Bowdoin.

“They have been appropriately supportive and vocal. They want what’s best for the program and they want to leave a legacy for the younger players.”

Gillis’ arrival has been a big plus for the program, according to Herr. “I like her; it may not matter as much to my class since we are leaving but we don’t want another class to deal with new coaches and the challenges associated with that,” said Herr, who has helped freshman forward Perry McCarthy, a fellow Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville teammate, deal with the challenges of college hockey.

“Coach Gillis is doing a good job; she is a merit-based coach. If you play well, you will see ice time.”

The Ephs have been playing very well recently, having gone 7-2 in the 2012 portion of their schedule to improve to 9-7 overall and 5-3 in NESCAC play.

“I think we have been making progress,” added Herr, reflecting on a season which has seen the Ephs already more than double their win total of four last winter. “The non-conference games were  good for the young players to get time and for the team to work on things.”

In Herr’s view, starting the New Year with a 9-0 win over Plymouth State helped get the Ephs rolling. “It was more than a win; we had great team play,” said Herr, who has 24 points so far in her Williams career on six goals and 18 assists.

“People weren’t trying to do things on their own. We had good control of the puck and good teamwork all the way through. Before, we weren’t playing our game and some games slipped away. It was great to see us stick to our game.”

Herr believes Williams is developing the game to do some damage down the  home stretch.

“The NESCAC is a very close league and I think it is going to be even closer this year,” said Herr.

“We need to be ready for every single game and work every game. We can accomplish as much as we want. We have talent; people have to want to play with each other.”

Over her four years, Herr has accomplished a lot as person and a player.

“It has help me come into my own,” said Herr, a history major who will be working for Credit Suisse in Raleigh, N.C. after graduation.

“I am more self assured than I was as a freshman; that is to be expected. I have also gained a self reliance. Academically, it is challenging everyday and hockey is the same thing. Everyday you are expected to give your best. Some days, you may only be at 80 percent but you learn to give all of that 80 percent.”

Skye Ettin

SKYE HIGH: Skye Ettin heads to the basket in recent action for The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team. Sophomore forward Ettin, a former Princeton High star, transferred to TCNJ this season and has made an immediate impact on the program, averaging 7.5 points a game. Earlier this month, Ettin enjoyed one of the more memorable games of his basketball career, coming home to score 15 points at Jadwin Gym as the Lions lost 79-68 to Princeton. (Photo Courtesy of TCNJ Sports Information)

Skye Ettin has spent a lot of time at Jadwin Gym over the years.

“I have been to so many Princeton University games at Jadwin and I played there in camps when I was young,” said Ettin, a former Princeton High boys’ hoops star.

Earlier this month, Ettin enjoyed his most memorable visit to Jadwin, playing for The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team as it faced Princeton.

“I was very excited to be on the court, I was soaking it all in” said Ettin, a sophomore forward for the Lions reflecting on the January 8 contest between the local foes.

“I saw my family and a lot of friends behind our bench. On the other side of the court, there were a lot of PHS guys. I knew that coach Carter [PHS boys’ hoops coach Jason Carter] had sent out an e-mail and I knew some people were planning to come. I saw all my buddies from my class on the high school team. I didn’t expect that many people.”

Ettin put on quite a show for his legion of fans, scoring a team-high 15 points as Division III TCNJ fought valiantly in a 79-68 loss to the Tigers.

“I did my best; I didn’t want to disappoint all the people that were there,” said Ettin, reflecting on his performance which saw him hit 3-of-5 three-pointers and drew raucous cheers from his supporters on both sides of the gym.

“I was hoping to have a good game and help the team do well. We played with them for a good amount of the game. We were ahead 20-16. We didn’t fold; we gave them a competitive game.”

The 6’3, 170-pound Ettin is thrilled to be competing at TCNJ. After a superb career at PHS which saw him score 915 points and help the Little Tigers make the Central Jersey Group III finals in 2009 as a junior, Ettin headed south to Guilford College in North Carolina where he made the basketball team as a walk-on. Ettin, though, broke his foot before the season began and never saw any game action.

Having nearly chosen to go to TCNJ after high school and still feeling a comfort level with the program, Ettin decided to come back to the Princeton area to get a fresh start in his college hoops career.

“Everyone was real welcoming,” said Ettin. “We had a lot of new players, five transfers and three or four freshmen,” said Ettin.

“There were a lot of guys in the same boat. Doing open gym, working out and running, we were coming together. Things were jelling and are still jelling.”

Ettin enjoyed his formal welcome to college hoops as he made his debut on November 19 in an 84-66 loss to NYU.

“It was real exciting; it was my first real game since PHS,” said Ettin, who had four points in 19 minutes in the opener.

“It was a great experience. NYU was a really good team, it was a good test. We are a young team and we made some mental mistakes. We played tough; they have some big boys.”

As Ettin has picked up experience, he is adjusting to the demands of college basketball.

“In college ball, the players are a lot more physical and faster,” said Ettin. “A D-I player may be 6’8 but in D-III they are 6’4 and 200. It is a lot faster pace and everyone can shoot.”

Ettin’s shooting touch helped him have a breakout game, scoring 16 points against Drew on December 5.

“We played at home; there was a decent crowd,” recalled Ettin, who went 8-for-12 from the field. “I got a couple of good looks and some shots fell. It got my confidence flowing.”

Shortly after his outburst against Drew, Ettin moved into the starting lineup.

“We were not getting off to fast starts and we were making up for it after that,” said Ettin. “Coach was looking to mix it up and try different lineups. I was excited and trying to contribute the best way I can. Before that, I was playing good minutes off the bench.”

TCNJ head coach Kelly Williams likes what Ettin has been contributing to the Lions.

“Skye is one of those guys who has been one of our glue guys,” said Williams. “I think he appreciates the opportunity of coming back to the area and playing. He is really taking this opportunity very seriously and he is a guy we are going to look to in the near future to add some more character to this program.”

In Ettin’s view, the Lions have the opportunity to do some good things over the rest of the season.

“We are going to try to make the playoffs, anything can happen from there,” said Ettin, who is currently averaging 7.5 points a game for the 8-11 Lions.

“We have a lot of home games coming up so hopefully we can get jump-started and get some momentum. I need to stay more consistent. My play has been up and down. I need to bring more energy and rebounding.”

Ettin has enjoyed coming home to get his college hoops career rolling.

“It has been a great fit; it is nice to be 20 minutes from home and be able to help my parents,” said Ettin.

“I like being at a small school and I like my classes. The people have been great. I became friends with the guys on the team and have met people through them. I am living with some of the guys next year in a house.”

For Ettin, strengthening the foundation of the program is his main focus.

“I am determined to get better and help the program,” said Ettin. “I want to give everything I have got to make the team better.”

January 18, 2012

MAKING HIS CASE: Hun School boys’ hockey star Alex ­Vukasin chases down the puck in recent action. Junior forward Vukasin has emerged as the top offensive weapon for the Raiders, having tallied a team-high 10 goals so far this season. Hun, now 6-3, heads to Maryland this weekend where it will play at the Landon School on January 20 and at Calvert Hall on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ian McNally had some misgivings as his Hun School boys’ hockey team got an extended holiday break.

“We took two whole weeks off and before the break we had two games cancelled there,” said first-year head coach McNally.

The break, though, seems to have done the Raiders good as they have started 2012 off by going 3-1, beating Hill 6-0 on January 6, Episcopal 7-1 on January 9, and Pennington 4-0 on January 13 with a 3-1 loss to LaSalle last Wednesday.

McNally believes the time off reinvigorated his players. “The break gave them a little time away for them to kind of miss it and want to compete again instead of just doing the same thing everyday,” said McNally, whose team improved to 6-3 with the win over Pennington. “I was very surprised; we came in from the break and have been playing very well.”

While McNally was disappointed with the loss to LaSalle last Wednesday, he still saw some positives in the effort.

“We certainly were sluggish at the start,” said McNally, whose team trailed 3-0 after two periods.

“In the third period, we dictated the play a little bit. If we hadn’t spotted them a lead, it might have been a different story. We started the year fairly strong and we have only gotten better every week. Unfortunately we lost today. It is not something I am going to worry about. In our league play, we have won every game and we are in first place so a lot of things are going right.”

The play of junior forward Alex Vukasin is certainly one of the things that has been going right for the Raiders.

“We expected Vukasin to be a dominant force on our team and since the break, he really has been,” said McNally of the speedy Vukasin, who scored four goals in the win over Episcopal.

“The Episcopal game was a coming out party for him this year. He dominated the game, he was on a plane of his own. We had to go without him for a couple of weeks before the break because he had hit his head. It wasn’t until after break that he was ready to actually do what he is capable of doing and now we are seeing what it is. We are certainly happy to have him healthy and playing.”

McNally is also happy with the play of sophomore forwards Alec Karanikolas and Spyridon Avgoustiniato.

“Alec has been given a bigger role this year,” said McNally. “He got his feet wet as a freshman and now he is has a regular shift and is a go-to guy as a sophomore. He has done great with it; he scored a couple of goals the other day. He is very coachable; he has been a gem for us. Spy keeps knocking in goals. He has three or four on his own; he just seems to find them. He is one of those kids who hangs out in front of the net and all of a sudden the puck comes and he bangs it in. He is definitely a right place, right time kind of guy.”

Senior forward Harry Hagen has been showing the right stuff for the Raiders.

“Harry Hagen has definitely been one of our strongest players to this point,” said McNally.

“He is scoring goals and he is also being a very good leader as the senior he is. We have only two seniors and we are kind of hurting for somebody to step up in that role. He does a lot of the little things right and he always wants to be on the ice.”

On the blue line, defensemen Eric Szeker and Brad Stern have been doing some good things. “We lean pretty heavily on Eric and Brad,” added McNally.

“They log the majority of the ice time and they have put up some points themselves. Brad is more of an offensive guy and Eric is more of a defensive guy. We have them playing at least half the games; they don’t get many breaks. They have been steady and reliable for us back there.”

Sophomore goalie Devin Cheifetz  has emerged as a reliable performer. “We knew Devin was a very key member of our team and we were just waiting for him to take over,” added McNally of Cheifetz, who had 41 saves in the loss to LaSalle.

“The Episcopal game was a huge one for him too. We won by a bunch of goals but it wasn’t a lopsided game. He definitely had a big part of that; I told him that was his best game of the year so far and today he was extremely active. He stopped the puck well and played the puck well. We have gotten to the point where we can not only feel comfortable with him but rely on him to greatly contribute to us winning.”

In McNally’s view, the team is headed in the right direction. “As we go forward, we are going to make sure week to week that we continue on this trajectory where you are playing your best hockey when it matters at the very end instead of being on a roller-coaster and going up and down every week,” said McNally, whose team heads to Maryland this weekend where it will play at the Landon School on January 20 and at Calvert Hall on January 21. “For us, the focus is to focus.”