FINAL APPROACH: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice in recent action. Senior captain Herring chipped in two assists as PHS topped Pingry 4-2 in the program’s annual Senior Night. The Little Tigers, now 4-8, are next in action when they play at Academy of New Church (Pa.) on February 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
As Lucy Herring entered Baker Rink for her Senior Night with the Princeton High girls’ hockey team, she gained extra inspiration from looking into the rafters.
“I saw the signs, it was awesome to see my name,” said senior forward and captain Herring, referring to the banners hanging in front of the bleacher honoring each of the seven seniors on the squad.
“After the three senior days when I have made the signs and then seeing a sign made for me, it was pretty special.”
Herring went on to enjoy a special evening, passing for two assists to help PHS top Pingry 4-2 in the January 23 contest.
Both of Herring’s helpers came on passes to younger sister, sophomore star Maggie, as the Little Tigers scored three goals in a 33-second span in the first period and then added an insurance goal in the third.
“In the beginning, we wanted to make sure that we were focused on passing,” said Herring. “I know Maggie has a really strong shot so I can always trust passing to her and having her get it in with her slap shot.”
The victory gave PHS its fourth triumph of the season, already doubling its win total from last winter when the Little Tigers posted a 2-11 record.
“It is really surreal actually,” said Herring. “My freshman year, we didn’t win a single game and my sophomore year we didn’t win anything and last year it was two. It is so amazing, especially my senior year. It is a great note to end on.”
In Herring’s view, the bond among the seniors has helped spark the team’s improvement.
“The senior class this year is really close,” said Herring, whose classmates on the squad include Britney Coniglione, Anne Daly, Julia DiTosto, Marian Hancock-Cerutti, Campbell McDonald, and Stephanie Ren.
“We have played since freshman year together, it has definitely been an experience. Senior year is fun. Everyone wants to be at practice, everyone wants to be at the games. It is not as much of a hassle and that just creates a more fun environment and motivates people to do well.”
Getting an infusion of talent has helped give PHS extra motivation. “I think we have definitely gotten new players like Alexa Zammit,” said Herring. “Campbell who left and came back and then Allie Callaway. Also Maggie has gotten a lot better through sheer practice.”
Herring relishes the on-ice connection she has developed with her younger sister. “It is really fun because we know each other really well,” said Herring. “I know what she is going to do with the puck; she knows what I am going to do with it. We sense where each other is going to go so we know where to pass.”
As Herring reflected on her career, she noted that she also got to be on the ice with older sister, Keely, a 2012 PHS alum and former hockey star herself.
“On the high school team, I played one year with Keely,” said Herring. “I was thinking about that. It was very different with Keely. Our playing styles were different. We didn’t have that same tight connection as Maggie. That is the benefit to being the middle child.”
PHS head coach Christian Herzog knows that his program has benefitted from Herring’s constant presence over the last four years.
“I can’t say enough good things about Lucy,” asserted Herzog. “When she came to the program, we were already struggling. It speaks volumes about her level of character that she didn’t just throw in the towel and say I want to play with a better team. She has really given some significant effort; her leadership has gotten better throughout the year. Over four years, she has done a lot for this program and the school in general. She has been a pretty good ambassador with her sportsmanship.”
In addition to providing plenty of intangibles, Herring shoulders the burden on the ice in crunch time.
“The sign of a good player is one who is asking for the puck when there are 30 seconds left and you are down by one, added Herzog. “Like her older sister Keely, she is one of those who is asking for the puck. She wants the opportunity to rise above and make that play and get that goal.”
As PHS got ready to hit the ice for the Pingry game, emotions were on the rise for the Little Tigers.
“The girls were buying into the fact that we were going to play period by period,” said Herzog.
“We are just going to go out there and play our game and regardless we are going to leave all of that emotion on the ice. I told them that if nothing else, you guys should play even harder for the seven people graduating in here because eventually you younger players are also going to be in the same situation. You don’t know what it feels like until you are in that position. You start to think alright this is the last hurrah.”
Herzog liked the position PHS put itself in with the three-goal outburst in the first period that started with an Isabelle Sohn tally.
“Izzy admitted it was a garbage goal but if a garbage goal goes in, the goalie focuses on that garbage goal,” said Herzog.
“They put a little more pressure on her and they got lucky with some opportunities. That is a first this season, I haven’t seen that since the Gabby Vukasin days when we had four in 1:05. That changed the tone of the game and it gave me the opportunity to get the novice skaters in as well.”
The team’s progress this season has been heartening for Herzog. “It is night and day different compared to some of our previous years,” said Herzog. “It means a lot. You are coming from the very bottom and you aren’t focusing on not getting people to quit.”
Herzog credits the program’s Class of 2015 with getting people to play their best.
“The senior class, in general, is a good group of girls,” said Herzog. “They are always out to have a good time, they are a very inclusive kind of group. They all vibe together and they have a collective vision for the program.”
As Herzog looks ahead to the last few weeks of the season, he envisions some good things ahead.
“I don’t want to have a let up, regardless of what the record is at the end of the season,” said Herzog, whose team is now 4-8 and is next in action when it plays at Academy of New Church (Pa.) on February 4.
“I want to reflect back on this when we have our banquet and be able to say that to the end, there was no let up or throwing in the towel. The season is not over until that second game on February 15; I want to focus all the way through.”
Herring, for her part, isn’t about to lose her focus. “We have never had so many close games that are winnable,” said Herring. “I am really excited to try our best in them and see where we go.”