When Danny Seelagy joined the Hun School boys’ hockey program as a freshman in 2011, there were only enough players to fill out a varsity team.
With coach Ian McNally taking the helm that winter, Seelagy was confident that Hun would augment its numbers.
“I had played with Ian since I was a squirt and he has all of these connections so I had a pretty good feeling that he was going to reel a couple of good guys in,” said Seelagy.
Over the last few years, some really good players have come on board as Hun has developed into a powerhouse. This winter, with a deep roster and a flourishing JV program, the Raiders have enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in program history. Hun won the Purple Puck tournament in Washington, D.C. in late December and achieved its first state Prep championship since 1996 earlier this month when it topped Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the title game.
Last Friday, the Raiders added another trophy, topping Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game to earn its second straight county crown.
Hun’s depth was on display Friday as it overcame a powerful Notre Dame team without sophomore stars Evan Barratt and Jon Bendorf, two of the team’s most potent offensive threats who were away competing in a club hockey competition.
Coming into the contest, Seelagy and his teammates on hand were confident that they could rise to the occasion despite the absence of Barratt and Bendorf.
“We weren’t really worried about that because Evan has been hurt, he broke his knee at the beginning of the season and we have always been playing without him,” said Seelagy.
“That was a setback in the very beginning but I think we did pretty well without him. Missing Bendy had us a little bit nervous at first. I think it was fine overall; I think that we knew that we were going to win.”
The top-seeded Raiders didn’t waste any time seizing momentum against the second-seeded Irish, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nick Ashcroft 54 seconds into the contest.
“That was huge, especially for us, because we are usually a third period kind of team,” said Seelagy. “Getting that first goal really helped us out.”
The defense took over from there, stifling Notre Dame, highlighted by killing off two 5-on-3’s in a vital stretch early in the second period.
“We stuck to our game plan, we weren’t trying to change anything since everything has been working out for us,” added Seelagy.
The work of Seelagy and classmate Chris Rossi on defense has been a constant for Hun over the last four years.
“Chris Rossi and I are the only two seniors to be here since freshman year so we have always been playing together a while,” said Seelagy, an assistant captain for the Raiders along with Bobby Wurster with Rossi serving as the captain.
“I think we are really good teammates, especially when we play together. because we have known each other so long. He just plays amazing.”
Seelagy has gotten really good over the course of his Hun career.
“I think I have improved every single year,” said Seelagy, who was named the Hun recipient of the MCT’s Scott Bertoli Sportsmanship Award. “My coach came up to me one practice and said I think this is the best year you have ever had so that was huge for me. He loves me because me of my speed.”
Hun head coach McNally, for his part, believed that getting the first goal was huge for the Raiders.
“I know a lot of these guys at Notre Dame; I think if they get up a goal, they get pretty fired up,” said McNally.
“They have guys that have the ability to break the game open so for us to get up first, it was a statement of it doesn’t matter who is here, we are going to keep scoring and get the job done so that was good.”
With Barratt and Bendorf missing, it was critical for the Hun defense to do a very good job.
“We just had to; we pulled Tanner (Preston) and Bobby (Wurster) aside and said you guys have to be the best two players in this game because we won’t have the puck for two-thirds of the game like we usually do,” said McNally.
“They were great as was Chris (Rossi), Danny, and Griffin (Moroney), all five of them that we rolled pretty much. They were good because they had to be, you know that is going to happen when you are missing Jon and Evan, somebody else is going to step up.”
McNally likes the way Seelagy has stepped up in his final campaign for the Raiders.
“Danny stopped playing fall hockey a couple of years ago,” said McNally, noting that Seelagy plays for the Hun football team in the fall.
“I told him earlier I would hate to see what would happen if you played fall hockey; throughout the whole season he gets better. He is awesome; he got the sportsmanship award and he is a captain. He is totally deserving.”
Hun got some awesome play in the MCT from junior goalie Diesel Pelke, who was named the MVP of the tournament.
“They had two or three flurries; sometimes you worry when a goalie makes a save that he may not see what is going on but Diesel tracked the puck every where, up in the air, batting it out with his blocker and all over the place,” said McNally of Pelke, who didn’t give up a goal in the tournament and had 30 saves in the shutout of the Irish.
“He is just so calm; he is in the right spot and makes the save. There is no flair to it, he was awesome. If they score a goal in the first period, that kind of changes the game so that was big.”
In McNally’s view, a key factor in Hun’s success this winter has been the talent throughout the roster.
“The story of us is depth, regardless of who is here we still play the exact same way,” said McNally, whose team competed at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to end the season with a 22-3-4 record.
“Sometimes when you don’t have guys, you have to change the strategy and things like that. Going into every big game, we had to change the lines and whoever it was got it done. Sometimes it was the defense, sometimes it was the big guns and sometimes it was the third line. It is nice to be able to keep the same strategy; it is easy on me.”
Seelagy, for his part, credits an easy going approach off the ice with giving the team a winning chemistry to go with its depth.
“This team is special because we don’t exclude anybody, everyone is happy, everybody is welcome,” said Seelagy.
“Before the games we have dance-offs in the locker room and stuff to keep it loose. In the past few years we were really strict and everybody was quiet in the locker room. We wanted to make it loose and fun.”