John Reid and his senior classmates on the Princeton High boys’ hockey team have become closer through adversity.
“We have had a couple of tough state tournament losses; we had a couple of tough losses early on,” said Reid.
“I think as a class we have grown into really strong hockey players. We all like each other. As a whole, I think we are a pretty cohesive unit.”
Last Saturday, Reid and his classmates were showered with affection as the program held its annual Senior Night celebration at Baker Rink in conjunction with its game against WW/P-N.
“Sending off three classes of seniors before me in this building and now doing it with my classmates is really special; getting the opportunity to play our last game here at Baker,” said Reid. “It is tough to swallow that we can’t be back here. It was a fun night.”
Reid ended up having a lot of fun in the game, getting four assists to help trigger PHS to a 10-3 win over the Northern Knights which improved the Little Tigers to 7-8-1.
In reflecting on his performance, Reid said he enjoys being the playmaker.
“That is usually my game, it mostly comes from the fact that I don’t have the best shot,” said Reid with a smile. “I like setting guys up. I guess tonight it showed itself.”
Many of Reid’s passes over the years have found the stick of classmate and fellow captain Connor McCormick.
“Connor played a big role freshman year and then both of us have gotten a lot of minutes since our sophomore year,” said Reid of McCormick, who scored two goals in the win over WW/P-N.
“I think he and I bonding has really helped the team. I think we both came in knowing that this was our last game in Baker. I think knowing that gave us a little extra spark.”
Reid is hoping the win will spark PHS as it looks to qualify for the upcoming state tournament, needing to have a .500 record as of the February 9 cut-off date.
“We need four more points to qualify for the state tournament,” said Reid. “I think this is huge for us to come in tonight and get a big win. We have struggled finding our identity. We are just kind of finding that now later in the season.”
PHS head coach Terence Miller saw the win over WW/P-N as a huge plus. “We have a big week coming up, this was much needed,” said Miller.
“We just told our guys that our season is on the line from now on. I think we realize that we have no room for error at this point. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole and we are trying to climb out with about 10 days left in the regular season.”
The emotions surrounding Senior Night gave PHS a lift on Saturday. “It is fun to see these guys get honored on Senior Night in Hobey Baker Rink,” said Miller, whose Class of 2015 includes Joe Hawes, Chris Munoz, Nick Palmer, Becket Tovar, and Aidan Bitterman in addition to Reid and McCormick.
“It is great stuff, it is well deserved. We have a great group of guys, great seniors. They are genuinely good kids and they deserve the recognition. Hockey aside, they are just really good kids. I was happy for them.”
The pair of Reid and McCormick had provided good leadership for the program this winter.
“Connor and John have the ‘C’ on their sweater for a reason, they are our leaders,” said Miller.
“They have been good at adapting to different needs, whether that be on the back side, playing defense or going to wing or center. They are both willing and eager to play wherever they are asked. They are good solid good-hearted kids that set a good tone for our guys. They are not necessarily the loudest rah rah type guys but they lead by example. They quietly go about their business and the other guys follow that lead.”
Some of the other PHS seniors took care of business on Saturday. “Aidan Bitterman got his first career goal,” said Miller. “Nick Palmer is a great kid, he plays on the back end and he got a lot of good minutes tonight. I am happy he was honored and had a good night on Senior Night. It is important.”
In Miller’s view, PHS has what it takes to produce a good finish this winter. “I think we are a game off the pace for states,” said Miller, whose team plays Hopewell Valley on February 6 and Robbinsville on February 8.
“We are just trying to take this one game at a time; we want to finish on a good note. Hopefully this gets us going, gets our mojo going, gets our legs going a little bit.”
Reid, for his part, is confident that the Little Tigers will do their best to go as far as possible in postseason play.
“We don’t have the deepest team but we have some great skill,” said Reid. “We have guys that are going to fight until we are done so a run in the counties is definitely not out of the question.”