February 13, 2013

 

CONDO VALUE: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Mike Condon controls the puck in a game earlier this winter. Last weekend, senior netminder Condon came up big as the Tigers posted a 4-2 win at Colgate on Friday and then triumphed 1-0 at Cornell the next day. Condon, who made 36 saves against Colgate and then had 39 in his shutout of the the Big Red, was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week. Princeton, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CONDO VALUE: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Mike Condon controls the puck in a game earlier this winter. Last weekend, senior netminder Condon came up big as the Tigers posted a 4-2 win at Colgate on Friday and then triumphed 1-0 at Cornell the next day. Condon, who made 36 saves against Colgate and then had 39 in his shutout of the the Big Red, was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week. Princeton, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last weekend’s trip north to Colgate and Cornell, the Princeton University men’s hockey team hadn’t exactly been road warriors.

The Tigers went 1-7-3 in their first 11 away contests and were coming off a rough New England jaunt which saw them fall 4-2 at No. 8 Yale on February 1 and then absorb a 5-1 setback at Brown the next day.

While Princeton head coach Bob Prier acknowledged that he was disappointed by that weekend, he was confident his team could benefit from the experience. “We tried to forget about it,” said Prier.

“We had a good week. We needed a day off so we didn’t practice on Wednesday. We were pretty tired. The Yale game took a lot out of us. We didn’t play poorly but we didn’t play well enough to win. We weren’t ourselves in the Brown game. We learned from it, we compiled videos of some habits that weren’t strong that weekend. We didn’t watch it as a team. We had the guys watch it on their own.”

Even though the Tigers were down to 16 skaters as they braved the blizzard and made their way to New York last weekend, Prier was upbeat about his team’s prospects against Colgate and Cornell.

“It was a challenge, not a concern,” said Prier. “We had three solid lines and three pairs of defensemen. If we wanted to be successful this weekend, everyone had to pitch in.”

In the early going against Colgate, it looked like undermanned Princeton was on its heels as it was knotted at 1-1 after the first period but had been outshot 18-8.

In the second period, however, the Tigers found their stride, scoring two unanswered goals with Alec Rush and Jack Berger both finding the back of the net. Princeton went on to a 4-2 victory as Jonathan Liau added an insurance goal and senior goalie Mike Condon made 36 saves.

“We had 16 scoring chances and they had nine, we didn’t waste too many opportunities,” said Prier.

“We did a real good job in tight on the goal. We generated a lot of chances and kept them out. It was nice to see Jack get his first goal. Alec got another and Liau got his first. It was nice to get balanced scoring; all three lines were involved. Guys did things they don’t usually do, everyone helped with the penalty killing.”

A night later, Condon did some great things, making 39 saves as Princeton blanked Cornell 1-0.

“Mike was the MVP of the weekend, he was clearly the best player on the ice,” asserted Prier of his netminder who was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week for his performance on the trip.

“He made a huge save with a minute and a half left and he made another big one in the second. He came up huge.”

In Prier’s view, his team’s performance before a crowd of 4,267 jamming Lynah Rink marked a huge step forward.

“The guys played really well on the road,” said Prier, whose team got the lone tally of the contest on a second period goal by Andrew Ammon as it improved to 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, moving into a three-way for third place in the league standings with Rensselaer and Dartmouth.

“Cornell is a hostile environment, their crowd is electric. It is a tough place to win. It gives you a lot of confidence to win on the road like that.”

The play of sizzling netminder Condon, who now sports a goals against average of 2.42 and a save percentage of .926, is making the Tigers tough to beat.

“When your goalie is playing that well, it really gives your team confidence,” asserted Prier of Condon, a 6’2, 195-pound native of Needham, Mass. who is now sixth in the ECACH in goals against and fourth in save percentage. “It makes everyone better, they don’t grip the stick as tightly.”

The play of junior captain Berger together with bruising senior defenseman and assistant captain Michael Sdao helped Princeton enjoy one of its better weekends of the season.

“Jack Berger scored on Friday; we keep stats tracking impact on the game and he was fabulous,” said Prier of Berger, who now has nine points on a goal and eight assists.

“He played like a captain, he played like a leader. Mike Sdao was also outstanding. He kept the puck safe and made things hard on our opponents. He was not on the ice on any of the goals against us. It is great when you have a leader on the front end and one on the back end playing like that.”

Prier is hoping for a great home weekend when Princeton hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day.

“We approach every game the same,” said Prier, whose team has a 6-2 record so far this season in the friendly confines of Baker Rink.

“We get their tendencies on special teams but we need to focus on ourselves. We need to sprint to spots. Our transition game is getting so much better. We have got some momentum and we want to use it this weekend.”

HOME DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ian Hummer drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Hummer scored 15 points in a 63-46 win over Brown to reach 1,455 career points, moving him up to fourth on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 14 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 69-65 to Yale to see their 21-game home winning streak in Ivy League play snapped. Princeton, now 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy, plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 and at Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) a day later.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

HOME DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ian Hummer drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Hummer scored 15 points in a 63-46 win over Brown to reach 1,455 career points, moving him up to fourth on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 14 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 69-65 to Yale to see their 21-game home winning streak in Ivy League play snapped. Princeton, now 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy, plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 and at Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) a day later. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Ian Hummer moved up two spots on the career scoring list for the Princeton University men’s basketball team last Friday as the Tigers hosted Brown.

The senior forward scored 15 points in Princeton’s 63-46 win over the Bears to give him 1,455 points, moving him up to fourth all-time, passing Craig Robinson ’83 (1,441) and then Pete Campbell ’62 (1,451).

Hummer, though, is focused on the moment, not his place in Tiger hoops history.

“I want to go out and play as best I can, I want to put two halves together,” said Hummer, when asked what the scoring milestones mean to him. “There have been a couple of times where I have had some good first halves … and I have kind of shot away the second half.”

In the victory over Brown, Hummer liked the way the Tigers played collectively.

“A lot of guys are stepping up,” said Hummer. “I think Denton Koon made a couple of jump shots and went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers. Hans [Brase] is playing quite well. Will [Barrett] is playing well. T.J. [Bray] is playing extremely well. Brendan Connolly is really stepping up. Overall, it is an inside-out effort. We have athletic, mobile forwards and guards.”

Still, Hummer saw room for improvement. “Even though it was a good win, we need to rebound better, myself included,” said Hummer.

“A couple of their guys had offensive rebounds. If we cut those out and cut down on our turnovers a little bit, we are looking pretty good.”

A night later against visiting Yale, the Tigers committed 16 turnovers and things didn’t go well as Princeton fell 69-65 to suffer its first loss this winter in Ivy League play.

In reflecting on the setback, Hummer acknowledged that he wasn’t at his sharpest.

“I kind of forced the issue,” said Hummer, who ended up with 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds in the loss which dropped Princeton to 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy.

“I had seven turnovers, which is way too many. It is more the fact that I forced a little too much rather than them frustrating me. The last couple of games I have been taking care of the ball and cutting down on my turnovers. This is first game in a little while where I have had a lot of turnovers so I have to play a little better and lead my team.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson tipped his hat to Yale, who shot 65 percent in the first half to lead 34-26 at intermission.

“I thought Yale played lights out,” said Henderson, whose team came into the evening riding a 21-game home winning streak in Ivy play.

“They got us on our heels and we never responded. We never had a counter punch. We made a little bit of a run but it is a disappointing result. I thought they were terrific. They turned us over and we have been taking care of the ball nicely.”

The Tigers had the chance to pull out the win as they had the ball with 38 seconds left in regulation and trailing by 67-65. Princeton, though, couldn’t get a shot and ended up losing the ball and Yale made two free throws to seal the victory.

“At the very end without being able to get a shot off, that really hurt us,” said Henderson, reflecting on that final sequence.

“We wanted to get the ball to the basket. Against a zone, you have to get it inside and I think that pass that was turned over was just a poor angled pass into the post. We just got spread out and there was a lot of deferring; somebody has got to make a play.”

Henderson was disappointed with his team’s failure to make plays on 50/50 balls.

“As a coach of this team and as an alum, I don’t think this is what Princeton basketball should be about,” lamented Henderson.

“We lost a lot of loose balls and we didn’t come up with the rebounds that we needed to come up with. Those things have been hallmarks of this program for a long time.”

Still, Henderson believes that Princeton can live to the program’s tradition of winning Ivy titles.

“We have got nine games left,” said Henderson, whose team trails Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) in the league standings and plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 before playing at the front-running Crimson a day later.

“I never thought we were going to go undefeated in the league. I am disappointed to lose at home; we have been playing really well. I am disappointed and I know the guys are too but we are not hanging our heads for a second here. We are going to get right back out there.”

Hummer, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will remain in the title chase.

“I think we still have the mindset that we are one of the better teams in the league,” said Hummer.

“This doesn’t change it at all. It stinks that we had to lose at home and lose against a team I thought we could play well against.”

COOKING TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelly Cooke heads up the ice in recent action. Senior forward and assistant captain Cooke has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer this winter, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey. The Tigers, now 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH action, play at No. 6 Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COOKING TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelly Cooke heads up the ice in recent action. Senior forward and assistant captain Cooke has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer this winter, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey. The Tigers, now 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH action, play at No. 6 Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After scoring a total of 11 goals in her first three seasons on the Princeton University women’s hockey team, Kelly Cooke has saved her best for last.

The gritty 5’1 forward has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer in her senior season, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey.

For Cooke, her outburst has been a bit surprising, even to her. “I don’t know; I think it is partly desperation,” said Cooke, a native of Andover, Mass. who starred at Noble and Greenough before coming to Princeton.

“I think a lot of it is playing with Corey [classmate Corey Stearns]. We played together in high school. We have played all year together and it has worked out well for both of us. She is such a great playmaker. I have been getting lucky, she has been setting me up all year.”

Coming into its game against visiting Cornell last Saturday, Cooke and the Tigers were desperate to bounce back from a disappointing 6-1 loss to Colgate the day before.

“I think every one realized after last night that in order to make the playoffs, we have to play our hearts out every night,” said Cooke, who scored Princeton’s lone goal in the defeat to Colgate.

The Tigers went out and fought the No. 4 Big Red tooth-and-nail, trailing just 1-0 heading into the third period.

“It was great that everyone came back and played the way we did today,” said Cooke. “We had all of our lines and defensive pairs playing well tonight which gave us a chance to win.”

Princeton tied the game at 1-1 with 18:04 left in regulation and it looked like the Tigers might pull off the upset. But the Big Red scored seven minutes later and went on to a 4-1 victory as Princeton dropped to 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH play.

“We hung on for a long time and once we got that goal, we definitely had the momentum,” recalled Cooke. “But when they scored, it took the wind out of our sails.”

Cooke and classmates Stearns and Alex Kinney have made a habit of hanging out together before games this winter.

“It is crazy how fast time flies; you always hear that from the seniors when you are coming up through the ranks,” said Cooke.

“After the first warmup, Kinney, Corey, and I always sit in the stands for just a minute or two before we go to the locker room. It was weird sitting there today, knowing that we are not going to come back here as players.”

For Cooke, moving up the ranks to serve as an assistant captain this season has presented some challenges.

“It is definitely tough,” said Cooke. “Our coaches always say that instead of just worrying about yourself, you have to worry about the whole team which is a tough place to be but it is also great to see the team grow throughout the year.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal wanted his team to show some growth in the wake of its disappointing performance against Colgate.

“Yesterday was really unfortunate; we were really flat,” said Kampersal. “It was just a real bummer, we laid a big egg. That was a humongous game; it is still not over for us but that was a humongous game. Today, the kids wanted it. I thought yesterday, they didn’t want it as much as Colgate did. Today they wanted it badly.”

In Kampersal’s view, the team brought some extra emotion to the table on Saturday, knowing it was the last home game for the seniors and that it had fallen to ninth place in the ECACH standings, one spot out of a playoff berth.

“It was Senior Day and the fact that they know that every point right now is really critical,” said Kampersal

“Cornell scored a really nice goal there at the end to make it 2-1. They made a nice zone entry and a nice catch. They are a really skilled team and they made the most of their chances but I thought Kim [freshman goalie Kimberly Newell] played great and everybody played really well, staying out of the box and doing the little things, all that stuff that we didn’t do the day before.”

Cooke has certainly done a lot of good stuff this winter for the Tigers. “Cookie has had a humongous year, no question,” said Kampersal.

“She brings a lot of heart and soul with a lot of quickness and good penalty killing. She has scored some big goals this year. I think that her and Corey playing together helps.”

The Tigers have also been sparked by the play of Stearns and Kinney. “Corey is a really good playmaker, she is a dynamite puck handler and passer,” asserted Kampersal of Stearns, who leads Princeton in scoring with 27 points on four goals and 23 assists.

“Kinney has had a good solid senior year, no question. She had some big goals earlier in the year. She has been a steady, calm player.”

Princeton will need to come up with some big goals if they are to get back into the top eight and earn a spot in the ECACH playoffs.

“We have to get points in the north country, no question and then it is the Yale, Brown weekend,” said Kampersal, whose team plays at sixth-ranked Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later. “Hopefully that will set up to be another playoff weekend, we’ll see.”

Cooke, for her part, believes that the Tigers have the spirit to force their way into the playoff picture.

“We all brought it tonight and the will was just to compete with a team that is fourth in the country like that; it shows a lot about our team’s will,” said Cooke.

“We have definitely hit rock bottom at times but we have always managed to come out of it. We had great games against Yale and Brown last weekend; we were really flowing well. I definitely think that if we play this way next weekend and the weekend after, we are good to be in the playoffs.”

No matter what happens, Cooke is enjoying the way she has played in her final campaign.

“I guess we have been appreciating it all year, we knew it was going to come to an end so we definitely savor our moments,” said Cooke, who now has 44 points in her Tiger career on 24 goals and 20 assists. “Corey and I are having the seasons of our life so it has been a pretty fun ride so far.”

TOURNAMENT RUN: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last week, senior guard Bechler scored a game-high 15 points to help PHS rally from a 19-5 deficit to pull out a 53-45 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers, now 10-8, host Hamilton on February 14 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded eighth and will host No. 9 Nottingham in an opening round contest on February 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOURNAMENT RUN: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last week, senior guard Bechler scored a game-high 15 points to help PHS rally from a 19-5 deficit to pull out a 53-45 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers, now 10-8, host Hamilton on February 14 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded eighth and will host No. 9 Nottingham in an opening round contest on February 16.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, last week proved to be a good preview of the challenges it will face in postseason play.

PHS started the week by rallying from a 19-5 deficit to defeat Nottingham 53-45 on February 4. Three days later, the Little Tigers took on a powerful Hillsborough squad and fell 55-39.

In the view of PHS head coach Mark Shelley, his team displayed the fortitude it will need to make a deep playoff run with its comeback win against the Northstars.

“We showed a lot of character,” said Shelley, whose team outscored Nottingham 20-9 in the second quarter to take a 23-22 halftime lead and then sealed the deal with an 18-7 fourth quarter.

“We told them they don’t have to do it all at once and that to focus on just winning that quarter. We got hot, Scott [Bechler] hit a couple of threes and we got back into it pretty fast.”

The Little Tigers also produced the scoring balance necessary to thrive in tournament time as senior guard Bechler tallied 15 points with Elliott Golden adding 12 and Lior Levy and Cal O’Meara chipping in eight points apiece.

“That’s when we play our best; that is when we are harder to guard and we are passing well,” said Shelley.

Against Hillsborough, PHS got to test its skills against a high level foe. “My thought when we played Hillsborough is that it is as good a team as we will see,” said Shelley.

“They are not as dynamic as Notre Dame in the sense that don’t have three quality players like them. They have a bunch of really solid players and they play a really good zone. They are long and athletic. We only had 15 points at halftime and we were running good offense. We just couldn’t get shots to fall and we had a few too many turnovers. It was nice to play them at this point of the season, it had zero bearing on the state tournament and it didn’t affect our division.”

It will be nice for PHS to end the regular season with a home game against Hamilton on February 14 as it prepares for the postseason push.

“We are going to come out hard in practice on Tuesday and have a lighter day on Wednesday,” said Shelley, noting that the team lost practice time and had a game with Florence cancelled due to the snow storm that hit the area last weekend.

“It is good to have a game on Thursday and get tuned back up. Hopefully we can have a good game.”

Having been seeded eighth in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament, Shelley believes the Little Tigers can do some damage against its local rivals.

“I do [think we can make a good run] but we have to take it one game at a time,” said Shelley, whose team has a 10-8 record and will host ninth-seeded Nottingham on February 16 in the opening round of the MCT.

“There is Notre Dame (No. 1 seed) out there, that makes it tough. We played Trenton, WW/P-S, Ewing, and PDS, we were competitive with all of them. Notre Dame is the only team where the guys have been wide-eyed so it is a challenge.”

In the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional, PHS has been seeded fourth and will host No. 13 Hopewell Valley on February 26 in an opening round contest looking to turn the tables on a Bulldog squad that beat PHS in the first game of the season.

“We love our seed in the state; HoVal is better now but so are we,” added Shelley.

“We didn’t play good defense that night and it was the first game under my system. We know we are going to have at least one home game and maybe two.”

In order to do well in the playoffs, PHS needs to stick to its system. “I think it comes down to fundamentals and sharing the ball,” said Shelley.

“We have to do what we do and do it well. If we are playing our matchup zone well, we should be able to contain anybody. We are leading the CVC in defense (giving up 51.9 points a game), which we are very proud of.”

The Little Tigers will also need to play with the resolve it displayed in the comeback win over Nottingham.

“The mindset has to be confident but calm,” asserted Shelley. “We can’t get too hyped up or nervous. There is a certain element in the postseason of physical and mental toughness. The basketball is more rugged.”

BELL CURVE: Princeton High wrestler Victor Bell, left, takes on a foe in recent action at 195 pounds. Sophomore Bell is one of the young wrestlers who has been gaining valuable experience this winter for PHS.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BELL CURVE: Princeton High wrestler Victor Bell, left, takes on a foe in recent action at 195 pounds. Sophomore Bell is one of the young wrestlers who has been gaining valuable experience this winter for PHS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Undergoing a youth movement and being hit with a number of injuries, the Princeton High wrestling team has taken more than its share of lumps this winter.

As PHS head coach Rashone Johnson has guided his team through its rocky road, he feels that this year’s struggles will pay dividends in the long run.

“These growing pains will help us for the future,” said Johnson. “We have gained toughness; we have had to build and rebuild. I am hoping that by going through this now we won’t have to go through this in the future. Some of the injuries are out of your control, that is the nature of the sport. But what you can help is the readiness for the season. They need to train to start, believing that they will be one of the guys whose number is going to be called.”

The numbers worked out well for PHS last week as it posted a 50-20 win at WW/P-N in improving to 3-12.

“I definitely feel like that was a good step; we needed it,” said Johnson, reflecting on the February 5 victory which saw Will Meisel (138 pounds), David Klinges (170), and James Gate (182) each win by pin with Patrick Sockler (126) posting a technical fall. “With the injury-laden season, we have had a run of just falling short.”

In Johnson’s view, senior star Klinges, who has wrestled most of the season at 160, is putting together a fine last run and should be a factor at the upcoming district competition.

“Klinges has given everything he has, he is battle-tested,” said Johnson. “This year, 160 has been a wide-open weight class. He took fourth in the districts last year so he has a better idea of what to expect. I am looking for him to be at regionals, I think he is picking it up and peaking at the right time.”

Another senior, Will Harrison, has picked things up considerably over his PHS career.

“If you had the opportunity to see him as a freshman and what he is like now, it is night and day,” said Johnson of Harrison, who was recently named as the winner of the Gary Dambro Excellence Award, which goes to a county wrestler who shows courage and determination throughout the season.

“He couldn’t chew gum and walk straight at the same time. The biggest area of progress is confidence. His confidence has been a huge area of progress. I don’t mean on the mat but how he carries himself in school and in his life.”

Johnson is looking for a trio of sophomores, Patrick Sockler, Thomas Miers, and Victor Bell, to carry the team in the future.

“Patrick and Thomas have both done well, they have had their moments,” said Johnson.

“I feel they both just need to be more consistent. Unfortunately Bell had to sit out last week due to injury. He is going to be solid; I am expecting big things from Victor Bell.”

In Johnson’s view, PHS could do some big things over the next few years.

“We have been a senior, upperclassmen team and the underclassmen could enjoy life and have a good time on JV,” said Johnson, whose team hosts Burlington Institute of Technology on February 13 before competing in districts.

“The upperclassmen now are sophomores and juniors. These guys are still learning how to wrestle. They know a lot of wrestling moves, they just have to put things together. We are going slow and steady as we try to improve.”

BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball senior star Grant ­Mackay takes the ball to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, 6’7 senior forward Mackay came up big, scoring a game-high 12 points as Hun defeated Lawrenceville 46-31 in the championship game of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 19-5, will wrap up their season by competing in the state Prep A tournament where fifth-seeded Hun will play at No. 4 Peddie on February 13 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball senior star Grant ­Mackay takes the ball to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, 6’7 senior forward Mackay came up big, scoring a game-high 12 points as Hun defeated Lawrenceville 46-31 in the championship game of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 19-5, will wrap up their season by competing in the state Prep A tournament where fifth-seeded Hun will play at No. 4 Peddie on February 13 in an opening round contest.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Trailing the Hill School by 10 points entering the fourth quarter last Saturday in the opening round of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament, the Hun School boys’ basketball team didn’t appear to be heading to a title.

But outscoring sixth-seeded Hill 19-7 over the last eight minutes of the contest, third-seeded Hun pulled out an improbable 37-35 win as Hashim Moore hit a lay-up with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.

Hun head coach Jon Stone acknowledged that his mind was on survival, not trophies, as the teams headed into the waning moments of the contest.

“I was thinking how I am getting out of this with a win,” recalled Stone, who got 15 points from senior star Fergus Duke in the win including a three-pointer to tie the score at 35-35.

“We were a couple of seconds and a basket away from not winning. You have to make your breaks, sometimes you are lucky and sometimes it comes from hard work.”

Building on the momentum from that narrow escape, Hun kept winning as it topped host and No. 2 seed Peddie 49-38 on Sunday in the MAPL semis and then defeated No. 1 Lawrenceville 46-31 on Monday evening to win the title.

The victory over the Big Red in the championship game was particularly sweet since Hun had dropped a 47-45 overtime thriller at Lawrenceville on January 22 in the regular season meeting between the rivals.

“We knew that they were a very good team; we were hoping for a different result,” said Stone, reflecting on the earlier loss.

In Stone’s view, achieving a better result on Monday came down to mental toughness.

“We were focused today,” said Stone, who got 12 points from Grant Mackay in the win with Duke and Moore chipping in 11 apiece.

“We came out with a goal in mind and we made big plays. It was a big team effort. I told the guys in the locker room afterward that everybody was a part of it. The guys that didn’t play, work hard everyday in practice and push the other guys. The guys that did get in each made big plays.”

The Raiders have been getting big plays from senior stars Mackay and Duke all winter. “Grant is so good and so tough,” said Stone, whose team outscored the Big Red 14-4 in the fourth quarter to pull away to the victory.

“He doesn’t fill the scoreboard but he always fills the scoresheet. He does so much. He hit four 3’s tonight, he is playing so well. When they got close tonight, Fergus hit a couple of 3s and had an assist. They have hit big buckets all year long for us.”

It was a big moment for Stone as the Raiders celebrated their first MAPL crown since 2009.

“It is fantastic; I am very happy,” said Stone, whose team improved to 19-5 with the victory. “You play for winning this and the states. It is all the hard work paying off.”

In addition to putting in a lot of hard work, Hun’s players have developed bonds that helped them get through the ups and downs this winter.

“I think we had good chemistry from the beginning but it has grown and deepened,” said Stone. “This team has learned from its losses and gotten better.”

Stone is hoping his team can play even better as it wraps up its season by competing in the state Prep A tournament where fifth-seeded Hun will play at No. 4 Peddie on February 13 in an opening round contest.

“We have a hard game on Wednesday to come back here against Peddie,” said Stone.

“We have to build on this. I think we just need to stay focused on the task at hand and keep getting the leadership that we have had from the veterans.”

NET GAIN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Connor Walker guards the net last Thursday in the state Prep title game against visiting Morristown-Beard. Senior star Walker made 24 saves, including a point blank stop with a second left in overtime, as the teams skated to a 2-2 tie and shared the title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET GAIN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Connor Walker guards the net last Thursday in the state Prep title game against visiting Morristown-Beard. Senior star Walker made 24 saves, including a point blank stop with a second left in overtime, as the teams skated to a 2-2 tie and shared the title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team skated to a 2-2 deadlock with Morristown-Beard through regulation and a 15-minute overtime in the state Prep championship game last Thursday, Connor Walker banged his stick on the ice in frustration.

The PDS star senior goalie’s reaction reflected the disappointment the Panthers felt in sharing the title after outshooting the visiting Crimson 49-26 and dominating long stretches of the game.

Minutes earlier, though, Walker had frustrated Mo-Beard when he made a point blank save with a second left in overtime to preserve PDS’s piece of the title.

While Walker desperately wanted the Panthers to have sole possession of the trophy, he had no qualms with how hard PDS went after the title.

“We only had it once in our four years and we felt that this was our year,” said Walker, who made 24 saves on the evening as the Panthers moved to 18-2-1.

“But coming out as co-champions, you can’t put that game on anyone. It was hard fought by both of us. We are proud, there is nothing to be upset about. I am very proud of everyone else on the team and we are proud that we tried our hardest.”

Walker fought hard to keep the puck out of the net in the waning moments of overtime as Mo-Beard furiously pressed forward.

“It was a flurry and I just tried to make myself as big as possible, that’s all I could do at that point,” recalled Walker.

“I did have the puck. My nerves were no different than the whole game, there was nothing to worry about. I have got a lot of confidence.”

With PDS having dominated many of its foes this winter, Walker has learned how to keep his head in the game when the action is across the rink from him.

“There have been a lot of games this year where they are down there and then there are a couple of flurries back,” said Walker.

“It is the same focus, anticipating the play. I have gotten used to it, earlier in the year it was a bit of a problem. I have conditioned myself to stay focused. I skate around when there is nothing going on at my end.”

In addition, Walker has improved his stick skills and has triggered the offense when the opportunity has presented itself.

“Throughout the four years, that is one thing I have been prided myself on, being able to move the puck, being a third defenseman and being able to make plays,” said Walker.

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli believed that his team made enough plays to win the game.

“We deserved to win, no question,” asserted Bertoli, who got goals from freshman Kyle Weller and junior Sean Timmons in the title game as the Panthers battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

“We outplayed them, we outchanced them. At times, we completely dominated. We have had a lot of bounces go our way this year and deservedly so because we are the better hockey team 95 percent of the times we have suited it up. It just didn’t work out. I give credit to them, they hung in there. They were out manned and they were outplayed. They bent but they didn’t break. It was really two contrasting styles and unfortunately we weren’t able to get that goal to put us over the top.”

Bertoli credited his players with showing commitment and effort. “You could tell by watching the game that it meant a lot to them and that is why the disappointment is so great that we weren’t able to finish the job,” said Bertoli.

“I look at Cody Triolo’s line with Johnny Egner and Lewie Blackburn; they had their best game of the year to this point and they have been really good. They were unbelievable, that is a line that deserves to score a goal and feel really good about themselves. One of those guys deserves to be a hero. The guys that score goals had plenty of chances.”

In Bertoli’s view, Walker has been an unsung hero this winter for the Panthers.

“The kid has been unbelievable; he makes every big save that you need him to make,” said Bertoli.

“There are games where we win 5-0 and you think he wasn’t a big contributor in the game. At certain points in games, it is a one or two-goal lead and he makes the big save, he stops the breakaway, he does the little things that just keep that momentum moving in our favor. Tonight he did the same thing, we are down a goal and if we go down two goals we start to clench our fists. He makes the big saves time after time and he has done it all four years. His record in his four years here is something like 45-7. He is a competitor, he is more angry than anyone that we didn’t win because it means that much to him and I love that about that kid.”

While PDS didn’t get the win in the title game, there is much to love about the squad’s accomplishments and approach.

“This is a great group; it is arguably one of the best teams that has played at this school in any sport and their record is very indicative of that,” maintained Bertoli, whose team will wrap up the season by competing in the Hill School (Pa.) tournament this weekend.

“Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they show it every time out there. We will never get outworked. We are not going to win every game because sometimes a team might be a little better or the bounces might go against us. I love the fact that this tournament and having 2013 going up on that banner, which it will, means an awful lot to them. Being successful is very important to them. They are a proud group and they deserve to be because they have had an excellent year and not winning this hockey game takes nothing away from that.”

For Walker, it has meant a lot to be part of the program over the last four years.

“We are just a really tight group,” said Walker. “Rob [Colton] came in junior year and there were no problems, he melded right into the team. A lot of us have been on this team since freshman year. A couple of us had to work on it, like me Grahame [Davis] and Eddie [Meyercord]. I think it is great that we all play on the same club team as well.”

HAMMING IT UP: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Tavante Brittingham goes in for a lay-up in recent action. Last Sunday, senior Brittingham and second-seeded PDS topped No. 7 Golda Och 71-51 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, now 15-6, will host third-seeded and defending champ Rutgers Prep on February 17 in the Prep B semis. In addition, PDS will be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it has been seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Robbinsville in a first round contest on February 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAMMING IT UP: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Tavante Brittingham goes in for a lay-up in recent action. Last Sunday, senior Brittingham and second-seeded PDS topped No. 7 Golda Och 71-51 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, now 15-6, will host third-seeded and defending champ Rutgers Prep on February 17 in the Prep B semis. In addition, PDS will be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it has been seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Robbinsville in a first round contest on February 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The gym was packed as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team hosted archrival Pennington last week.

But the crowd grew restless as PDS fell behind 9-0. The Panthers did get their fans going as they went on a 14-6 run to narrow the gap to 15-14.

PDS head coach Paris McLean acknowledged that his team might have been too fired up at the outset.

“It felt like we got caught up in the moment; it was a huge crowd,” said McLean.

“Pennington is a good young team and they are a transition team so to dig a hole like that, it is going to be tough to get out of.”

Getting outscored 22-8 over the rest of the half, PDS found itself trailing 37-22 at intermission. McLean, though, still felt his team could produce some big moments in the second half.

“We said we are right in it,” said McLean, recalling his halftime message.

“We stressed that we needed to play better help defense and communicate better. We said that there is no 15-point shot; that we have to go on defensive runs, to get a stop and a bucket, a stop and a bucket.”

But things went from bad to worse for PDS in the third quarter as it got outscored 25-13 on the way to a 77-55 loss.

In assessing the defeat, McLean acknowledged that it was a Murphy’s Law evening for his team.

“We got two or three stops but then we let them get two or three buckets and the bleeding continued,” said McLean, who got 28 points from senior star and Miami-bound Davon Reed in the loss with junior guard Langston Glaude adding 11.

“We played uncharacteristically poor at both ends of the floor. We played out of character. We were doing things that we don’t do. It just wasn’t a good night. These nights happen sometimes; it was one of those nights. They were shooting well and we didn’t shoot particularly well. We didn’t play well.”

In McLean’s view, the setback could serve a valuable purpose heading into postseason play.

“We lost and you need that wake-up call sometimes,” said McLean. “I told our guys we have won a heck of a lot more than we have lost. We need to rebuild from this. There are teachable moments all throughout there. You have got to learn from it. We’ll talk about it but we are not going to dwell on it and we will move forward.

On Sunday in the state Prep B quarterfinals, the Panthers did move forward as second-seeded PDS topped No. 7 Golda Och 71-51 in improving to 15-6 and earning a spot in the semis where it will host third-seeded and defending champ Rutgers Prep on February 17.

In so doing, the Panthers heeded McLean’s advice in his post-game message after the Pennington game.

“I told them to just come back to practice and remember the body of work that we have and our resume and what got us there — hard work, effort, and focus,” said McLean, whose team will also be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it has been seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Robbinsville in a first round contest on February 16. “We talk about playing hard, playing smart, and playing together.”

COLD PLAY: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Zeeza Cole enjoys the moment in a game earlier this season. Senior tri-captain Cole has contributed offense and an upbeat mentality this winter as PDS has gone 9-6. The Panthers host Summit on February 13 in their regular season finale before competing in the ‘A’ bracket in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament from February 16-17. The tourney will be played at PDS’s McGraw Rink.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COLD PLAY: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Zeeza Cole enjoys the moment in a game earlier this season. Senior tri-captain Cole has contributed offense and an upbeat mentality this winter as PDS has gone 9-6. The Panthers host Summit on February 13 in their regular season finale before competing in the ‘A’ bracket in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament from February 16-17. The tourney will be played at PDS’s McGraw Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Zeeza Cole enjoyed contributing two goals for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team as it topped Princeton High 10-0 last Wednesday, she was happier for her teammates who also found the back of the net.

“In this game, we were able to focus on some things that we were working on in practice, like getting everyone playing and getting everyone shooting,” said PDS senior forward Cole, who was joined on the scoring sheet by Robin Linzmayer, Carly King, Anna Williams, Colby Triolo, Lexie Fairman, Daisy Mase, and Louise Hutter. “That obviously boosts everyone’s morale.”

Serving as a tri-captain this winter for the Panthers along with classmates Hutter and Mase, Cole has focused on getting everybody in the act.

“You are not always the leader on the scoreboard,” said Cole, who has helped PDS produce a 9-6 record. “It is not really important to me as long as everyone is playing well and everyone is happy. I think that is a really big thing.”

The Panthers have achieved a big thing for the program this season as they will be making their first appearance in the ‘A’ bracket of the upcoming Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament, which includes the top four finishers in the league standings.

“Ever since my freshman year, that is what we have been working towards each year,” said Cole.

“We have been getting closer and closer so this year we just want to go as hard as we can and not leave anything back. I am really hoping to make some memories and just know that we put everything on the ice.”

As an added bonus, PDS will be hosting the tournament. “That is awesome,” said Cole. “We can have a crowd and all of our parents can come. It is really nice having that support from the school and our parents.”

PDS head coach Lorna Cook was happy to see Cole have a nice game in the win over PHS.

“Zeeza started out so strong this season,” said Cook of Cole who has 16 points this season on nine goals and seven assists.

“In the middle of the season, she was not putting as many in the net but she never stopped working to set up her teammates. I am hoping the PHS game will give her confidence.”

With PDS hosting Summit on February 13 in its regular season finale before competing in the WIHLMA tourney from February 16-17, Cook is looking for the team to focus on keeping the pressure on in the offensive zone.

“I think at the beginning of the year, we were doing a good job of putting the pucks in the net,” said Cook, who got a shutout from sophomore goalie Katie Alden in the win over PHS as she handled duties between the pipes with senior star netminder Mase playing out.

“As of late, we have not been getting as many shots. I am hoping for more of the same on Wednesday against Summit and in the WIHLMA tournament.”

In Cook’s view, making the ‘A’ bracket in the WIHLMA tournament shows strong progress.

“That is a huge confidence boost for the program beyond this year,” said Cook. “Hopefully it is somewhere we will be year after year.”

Cook is hoping her team can come up huge as it faces Portledge (N.Y.) in the WIHLMA semis on February 16. Even though PDS fell 8-0 and 6-1 to the New York school earlier this month, Cook isn’t daunted by the matchup.

“We improved between the two games with them and we are looking to improve even more in the third game,” said Cook.

“We are looking at this as our championship. If we win it, then we will be in the title game for the first time and we can take it from there.”

In Cook’s view, showing improvement against Portledge will come down to work ethic and execution.

“Our biggest strength is the effort that we put out there,” said Cook, whose strongest offensive player has been junior defenseman Linzmayer with 22 points on 17 goals and five assists. “Our best players have to play well.”

With Cole heading across town to Princeton University this fall, where she isn’t planning to play any sports, she is ready to make a big effort in the final days of her hockey career.

“It definitely happened pretty quickly,” said Cole, who has also starred in field hockey and lacrosse for PDS.

“I am definitely trying to make the most of it, trying to enjoy every practice, every game. I am really sad. It is one thing on the ice, it is another just being with everyone. We are trying to get in some team dinners, we are trying to hang out with everyone. I am pretty sad that my hockey career is ending, but I am also sad to leave the team.”

February 6, 2013

 

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SALLYING FORTH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sally Butler skates up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, junior forward Butler contributed a goal and an assist as Princeton rallied from a one-goal third period deficit to top Yale 3-1. A day later, the Tigers scored early and often as it defeated Brown 6-1 in improving to 9-12-2 overall and 4-10-2 in ECACH play, good for eighth place in the league standings. Princeton hosts Colgate (8-16-3 overall, 3-10-3 ECACH) on February 8 and Cornell (19-4 overall, 14-2 ECACH) the next day in its final home games of the regular season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s hockey team having lost six of seven games heading into exam break last month, the players needed to recharge their batteries.

“I definitely think we had time to refocus,” said Princeton junior forward Sally Butler.

“Things weren’t necessarily going our way before the break and we spent time together training, practicing, and getting ready. Our coaches definitely got us refocused for the end of the season.”

In returning to the ice last week, the Tigers showed a renewed focus as they topped Penn State 3-0 in a non-league contest on January 29 before resuming ECAC Hockey play by topping Yale 3-1 on Friday and routing Brown 6-1 a day later.

Starting the weekend in 10th place in the ECACH standings, two spots away from the top 8 and a playoff berth, Butler and her teammates knew they had to pick it up, starting with the Yale game.

“It was definitely a must win and the coaches got us pumped before the game and ready to go,” said Butler. “We know they are all teams we can beat so we just have to bring it.”

Against the Bulldogs, Princeton brought it from the beginning, generating a number of good scoring chances in the first two periods. But a Yale goal late in the second period left the Tigers trailing 1-0 going into the third and in danger of falling further behind in the race for a playoff spot.

“It is a little frustrating because we were all over the net; their goalie played very well, I thought,” said Butler.

“We definitely needed to reduce the turnovers at the blue line because that was something we weren’t doing too well. Beyond that, coach [Jeff] Kampersal was telling us to just keep going hard on them and get shots to the net and things will go in.”

Minutes into the third period, Butler helped get things going for the Tigers as she rushed the net and fed classmate Denna Laing, who banged home a goal.

“Our line has been jelling a little bit recently, I got back together with Laing and [Olivia] Mucha,” said Butler, a 5’9 native of Etobicoke, Ontario.

“It was a great forecheck by Mucha. Laing shot it down low to me and I was able to get it back out to her and she just buried it.”

Just over three minutes later, freshman Cristin Shanahan tallied on a superb diving effort to put the Tigers ahead.

“Oh my goodness, that was a big goal,” said a grinning Butler. “It was a great pass by [Alex] Kinney. Shanny just dove in there, no mistaking that one, it was a beautiful goal.”

Butler added an insurance goal, tallying an empty netter with 1:12 left in the contest to make the final margin. “It was nice to finish them off,” said Butler, who now has 14 points on the season with seven goals and seven assists.

Princeton head coach Kampersal was exhorting his players to finish better as they headed into the third period of the Yale game.

“I thought we controlled most of it early; there were a couple of times when Kim [goalie Kimberly Newell] bailed us out big time and that’s what we need from her,” recalled Kampersal.

“The message after the second period was that we need to bear down on our chances and that if we get one on that goalie, we can get a couple. She is real good but you have to get that first one.”

Sure enough, breaking through early in the third period helped lead to a three goal outburst.

“The first one ignited us,” said Kampersal, reflecting on the Butler to Laing combination. “It wasn’t pretty. It was just getting the puck in the net and good things happen when you do that.”

A day later, the Tigers got the puck in the net a lot against Brown, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after two periods on the way to the 6-1 triumph. Freshman Molly Contini led the way with three goals, her first college hat trick, with senior star and assistant captain Kelly Cooke chipping in a goal and two assists and sophomore Brianna Leahy notching two goals.

The big weekend improved Princeton to 9-12-2 overall and 4-10-2 in ECACH play, good for eighth place in the league standings. With Princeton hosting Colgate (8-16-3 overall, 3-10-3 ECACH) on February 8 and Cornell (19-4 overall, 14-2 ECACH) the next day in its final regular season home games, Kampersal doesn’t want his players dwelling on league playoff scenarios.

“We do think of games but we literally think of shift to shift and battling for that shift,” said Kampersal.

“I think they know exactly what is going on but you can’t think about clumps of games. There is so much that can happen so you really need to focus on the immediate present and doing your job because if you don’t then nothing else really matters.”

Butler, for her part, feels that the team has bought into Kampersal’s stay in the moment approach.

“We are trying to get each other pumped up and staying focused is definitely part of it,” said Butler. “We only have a few games left and every single game is crucial so we have to stick with this.”

BENCH STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly drives to the basket in Princeton’s recent win over Bucknell. Last Saturday, 6’11 senior center Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes off the bench to help the Tigers edge visiting Columbia 72-66. Princeton, now 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

BENCH STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly drives to the basket in Princeton’s recent win over Bucknell. Last Saturday, 6’11 senior center Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes off the bench to help the Tigers edge visiting Columbia 72-66. Princeton, now 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

On Friday night, Brendan Connolly hardly left the bench as the Princeton University men’s basketball team topped visiting Cornell 76-59.

The 6’11, 255-pound senior center played one minute and had only a foul to show for his limited appearance.

A day later, though, Connolly played a critical role off the bench as Princeton held off a gritty Columbia team in posting a 72-66 win before 3,180 at Jadwin Gym.

Coming through down the stretch against the Lions, Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes of action as he helped Princeton improve to 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.

Connolly’s two hoops helped swing the game in Princeton’s favor. With just over eight minutes left in regulation, he hit a reverse layup to give the Tigers a 54-52 lead. Then with 1:56 remaining, he lofted a hook shot from 12 feet out to put Princeton up 66-61.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson had a feeling that Connolly could excel against Columbia based on favorable matchups against Lions’ centers Mark Cisco and Cory Osetkowski.

“I think it was a good game for him,” said Henderson. “I thought that it was a better game with Mark Cisco. I think Osetkowski was a big factor tonight; he finished with seven but he had a lot of low touches and Brendan really changed that for us. He is just such a big defensive presence for us.”

Henderson liked the way that Connolly made an impact at both ends of the court.

“Brendan is highly skilled offensively; I think when given the opportunity, he came through for us big tonight,” said Henderson of the Brentwood, Tenn. native who is averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds a game this season.

“I thought he did a really nice job changing the tone. [Steven] Frankoski got loose and Brendan switched up on what could have been a 3 from the corner and that was a huge defensive switch for us. He plays a very important role.”

Although Connolly’s role had lessened over the last month as he went from a starter to a reserve who averaged six minutes a game in his previous four appearances before Saturday, he wasn’t hanging his head.

“I am in here everyday with the guys like I should be,” said Connolly. “I just look for the opportunities when given and I will take what I can get with those.”

Connolly took everyone by surprise with his hook shot, which Henderson referred to as a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar move. “It just felt right,” said Connolly when asked about the shot.

Things were feeling right for Princeton as it hit six straight three-pointers and jumped out to a 27-13 lead, looking like it was going to run the Lions out of the gym.

“We were hot, no doubt about it,” said Henderson. “You just shut up when you are a coach and let them do their thing.

But then Columbia started doing its thing, going on a 23-10 run to trail by just 37-36 at the half.

“I really respect the way Columbia plays,” said Henderson. “That’s a 1-3 team in our league. They have had a tough start here but they don’t play any games that aren’t close. They are young, they are learning how to win and they are going to get there. They play a nice style of ball with some inside presence and some really good shooters on the perimeter. It is a tough team to play.”

Princeton junior guard T.J. Bray showed his toughness when he drained a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down and less than three minutes left in the second half to give the Tigers a 64-59 lead.

“They kind of doubled down on Ian a little too hard with the clock ending and Ian [Hummer] made a great kick out to me,” said Bray, recalling the shot.

“I saw the guy coming so I pump-faked and just shot it and let it fly and luckily it went in.”

A lot of three-pointers went in for Princeton on Saturday as they went 8-of-11 from long distance.

“We shoot everyday in practice and get a ton of shots up,” said Bray, who scored a game-high 17 points, hitting all three of his three-point attempts on the evening.

“It is starting to come. They are coming in the flow of the offense more which is good. There is a lot of inside-out stuff and when you are stepping into shots, they are a lot easier to make.”

Henderson liked the way his squad stepped up when pushed by Columbia.

“We are thrilled; I am very happy,” said Henderson, whose team hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night.

“This is really an important win for our program. I am just really proud of our guys. When you are home, you have to win those games in the league. We can get so much better; I think there is improvement right in front of our eyes right now which I am really happy about.”

In Connolly’s view, having battle-tested guys on the court in crunch time was an important factor in the win for the Tigers.

“Looking around, none of the guys on the floor were afraid of the moment at all,” said Connolly.

“That is a big thing that all of my coaches have talked about over the four years and it is something we have done pretty well. They had some familiar faces and guys we have seen a lot with [Brian] Barbour and Cisco but we were ready for it and we responded to it. I think everyone felt pretty ready for everything they were throwing at us.”

And Connolly proved ready to contribute on Saturday when his number was called.

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange heads to victory in a 100 backstroke race earlier in the season. Last Saturday, Stange won the 100 back and took second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS win its third straight title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. The Little Tigers will now go after a second straight state Public B crown and have been seeded first in the upcoming Central Jersey sectional.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange heads to victory in a 100 backstroke race earlier in the season. Last Saturday, Stange won the 100 back and took second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS win its third straight title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. The Little Tigers will now go after a second straight state Public B crown and have been seeded first in the upcoming Central Jersey sectional. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In cruising to the Mercer County Swimming Championships title last winter, the Princeton High boys’ team rode on the shoulders of a stellar group of seniors.

The senior stars helped PHS dominate the 2012 meet as the Little Tigers won eight of 11 events and outscored runner-up Notre Dame by 356-190 in earning the program’s second straight county crown.

Coming into this year’s country meet last week at WW/P-N, junior star Will Stange and his PHS teammates weren’t sure if they could reach those heights. “We were a little concerned going in with the loss of our seniors from last year,” said Stange.

In Saturday’s final session, Stange didn’t waste any time showing that it was going to be business as usual for the Little Tigers.

Swimming the backstroke leg of the meet-opening 200 medley relay ‘A’ final, Stange helped PHS to a season-best time of 1:51.17 and a 3.64 second win over runner-up WW/P-N.

“It always helps,” said Stange, reflecting on starting the meet with a win. “I treat every event differently. I go in with a different mindset for everything. You don’t want to be thinking about how bad you did in one event going into the next event; but there is a sense that when somebody does something great, you want to do something great. I think our medley relay did set that tone.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to do some great things over the rest of the afternoon, winning a third straight title, amassing 269 points to easily top runner-up Notre Dame, which had a score of 190.5.

Stange won the 100 backstroke while classmate Peter Kalibat took first in the 400 freestyle to account for the team’s two individual victories. The Little Tigers concluded the meet by taking first in the 400 free relay in a meet record time of 3:39.12.

In the wake of a raucous celebration on the deck, which was even more joyous than usual since the PHS girls’ team won its first title to give the Little Tigers their first-ever county sweep, a grinning Stange was proud of how the boys’ squad followed in the footsteps of last year’s seniors.

“It really just meant a lot to us that we could pull together a great meet,” asserted Stange, who did a leg on the 400 free relay. “All of us were swimming fast today.”

While Stange just missed out on winning the 100 butterfly as he placed second, he produced a fast swim.

“The fly was good, solid second place, it was a lot faster than the prelims,” said Stange.

“Vitablie [Scott Vitablie of Hightstown] was going really fast. I tried to get him on the last wall but it didn’t turn out as I would have hoped.”

Things did turn out as Stange hoped in the 100 back as he jumped out to an early lead and cruised to victory.

“You never count your chickens so I was very happy with that,” said Stange, who clocked a 58.37 time in winning the race, topping runner-up Tyler Gulsby of Steinert by 4.63 seconds.

PHS head coach Greg Hand was very happy to see Stange and his teammates live up to the legacy of last year’s seniors

“It’s all about the guys; to know that this year’s juniors have been a part of all three of those makes me very happy,” said Hand, whose continent of junior stars also includes Matt Purdy, the third place finisher in both the 50 and 100 freestyle at the county meet, and Colburn Yu, third in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 individual medley.

“I love the way they were psyching each other up. To go up to the girls and boys 4 x100 relay teams, just literally to make sure they were there with nothing to say to them and to see that they were just getting an incredible thrill from getting on the deck and were so excited about the last race of the meet; that was terrific.”

Hand knows he has a lot of terrific performers on his boys squad. “We have a bunch of kids who are really good athletes in the sense of their discipline, commitment, and team spirit,” said Hand, whose team went undefeated in regular season dual meets.

“We have some kids who are very talented. No matter where they are on the depth chart, they are always trying to get better. It was great to see the whole team pull this off.”

It was also great for Hand to see Kalibat and Stange break through for individual victories.

“It was a fast meet in the 200, likewise in the fly, so even though we got second in those events, I thought our guys swam very well,” said Hand.

“Pete’s 400 was probably the second fastest swim in that event in 44 years; it was a great effort against a real strong field. Likewise Will just took control of that backstroke race and went substantially faster than he has gone before.”

The Little Tigers will have to go even faster than they did last week if they are to win a second straight title in the upcoming state Public B meet.

“Some of the numbers that we swam today were encouraging,” said Hand, whose team has been seeded first in the Central Jersey Public B sectional.

“If it plays out the way it looks from power points, we would swim against Lawrence in the sectional final and then go against Summit. We are within 50 power points of each other. They have extraordinary quality and depth. It would be a challenge.”

Stange, for his part, believes that PHS will be up for the challenges it will face in the Public B competition.

“Going into states, we are going to get back and just train hard,” said Stange. “We are going to try to figure out from this meet what we can improve on and then hit it hard for whoever we are coming up against.”

FIRST CLASS: Princeton High girls’ swim star Marisa Giglio displays her freestyle form in a race earlier this season. Last Saturday, Giglio placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke to help the PHS girls’ squad win its first-ever title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. In upcoming action, PHS will be competing in the upcoming state Public B tournament where it has been seeded second in the Central Jersey sectional.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRST CLASS: Princeton High girls’ swim star Marisa Giglio displays her freestyle form in a race earlier this season. Last Saturday, Giglio placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke to help the PHS girls’ squad win its first-ever title at the Mercer County Swimming Championships. In upcoming action, PHS will be competing in the upcoming state Public B tournament where it has been seeded second in the Central Jersey sectional.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Despite having advanced competitors to all 11 ‘A’ finals last Saturday at the Mercer County Swimming Championships, the Princeton High girls’ squad realized that didn’t guarantee the program’s first county crown.

“We knew we were strong this year but again, we have never done it before so we really wanted to just try our best and see if we could do it for the first time,” said PHS senior standout Marisa Giglio.

Getting off to a strong start by winning the opening event, the 200 medley relay, and setting a school record in the process, gave the Little Tigers confidence that they could produce a title breakthrough.

“We were a little bit nervous going in,” said Giglio, reflecting on the medley which posted a time of 2:04.58 with Giglio swimming the breaststroke leg. “Once we won it we were like we can do this guys. I think it did set a tone.”

Buoyed by that triumph, PHS went on to do enough to win the meet, tallying 200 points to beat 12-time champion WW/P-S by 36 points.

While the Little Tigers didn’t have an individual winner, they displayed the depth of a champion. Giglio placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke while classmate Serena Deardorff placed third in the 50 freestyle and second in the butterfly. Precocious freshman stars, Briana Romaine and Madeleine Deardorff, Serena’s younger sister, made key contributions with Romaine placing third in the 200 free and second in the 100 free while the younger Deardorff took second in both the 400 free and 100 breast.

PHS did end the day on a high note, taking first in the 400 free relay as Giglio, Romaine, and the two Deardorffs posted a winning time of 4:05.54, another school record.

“We really wanted to get another first in the relays,” said Giglio, reflecting on the quartet’s mindset as they approached the race.

“We weren’t completely confident that we had won. We wanted to break the record again. We were all filled with nervous excitement and energy. We were ready to go.”

Although Giglio didn’t achieve an individual victory, she was excited by her IM and backstroke races.

“I just wanted to go fast in the IM, I know Paige Anderson [of Hopewell Valley] and Taylor Johnson [of Robbinsville] are very fast because I have been swimming with them my whole life,” said Giglio.

“We are all really good friends. It is always nice competition. I felt good in the back. I was racing Paige and I was competitive with her. I was also happy with that race.”

In Giglio’s view, PHS’s nice blend of veteran performers and talented newcomers has paved the way to the county title. “It is a pretty good mix of people this year,” said Giglio.

“We have the young people who are bringing a lot of energy and excitement to their first counties. And then we have a lot of seniors who obviously know what we are doing and try to steer the freshman excitement in the right direction.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand was excited to see his girls’ squad produce its breakthrough moment.

“To win a championship is always going to depend on who else was there that day,” said Hand. “To swim to win it is a very special thing.”

Winning the medley relay set the tone for the special day to follow. “I was amazed by what the medley relay did,” asserted Hand.

“We swam a nice time yesterday and we broke that by six seconds. The girls decided to go back to a lineup that we had started the season with and it sure paid off.”

Seeing his swimmers end the meet with a resounding win in the 400 free provided another amazing moment for Hand.

“To bookend it and come back and swim such a terrific relay which broke a school record was just so impressive,” asserted Hand.

“We have Madeleine coming back right after the breaststroke. Marisa was coming back two events after the backstroke. It is always true at this meet for all teams, everybody was tired. They just really stepped up and I hope they know that the dues they have paid in the pool really show on occasions like this.”

Hand was not surprised to see his swimmers rise to the occasion. “They are athletes in the full sense of the word,” said Hand. “They have great team spirit. They swim to do their best; they don’t worry too much.”

PHS will be hoping to carry that winning spirit into the upcoming state Public B tournament.

“I think that this can really help,” said Hand, whose team has been seeded second in the upcoming Central Jersey Public B sectional with Chatham being moved into the sectional and receiving the No. 1 seed.

“If we swim Lawrence and get through them, we may be swimming against Chatham, who has a 1,000 power point differential on us. I have never seen anybody make that up. If that is in the cards, the only way to end the season is to give everything you can to beat the team you are swimming against.”

Giglio, for her part, believes the county triumph will inspire the Little Tigers to give even more in the state competition.

“I think it gives our team a little bit of confidence that maybe we didn’t have coming into it,” said Giglio.

“We have had some competitive meets but it hasn’t been that hard for us. This is definitely one of the ones we were looking forward to the most. It definitely sets the tone for things to come. The kids on the team are really hard working and willing to put in the extra mile to get as far as we can.”

WELCOME MATT: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Matt ­DiTosto controls the puck in a recent game. The return of senior forward and captain DiTosto from a hand injury helped spark PHS to a 5-1 record in January action. The Little Tigers, who started February with an 8-3 win over Paul last Friday to improve to 9-5-1, face Steinert on February 6 and Notre Dame on February 11 with both games slated to take place at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WELCOME MATT: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Matt ­DiTosto controls the puck in a recent game. The return of senior forward and captain DiTosto from a hand injury helped spark PHS to a 5-1 record in January action. The Little Tigers, who started February with an 8-3 win over Paul last Friday to improve to 9-5-1, face Steinert on February 6 and Notre Dame on February 11 with both games slated to take place at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a victory that exemplified a special January for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

Trailing a bruising Cranford squad 3-2 heading into the third period at Warinanco Park, PHS rallied for a 4-3 victory to give it five straight wins in 2013.

While PHS head coach Tim Campbell was thrilled with the win, he realized that his club expended a lot of physical and mental energy in the process.

“When you play a team that big and fast and beat them, you use adrenaline,” said Campbell, reflecting on a win which saw senior star Matt DiTosto score the winning goal and chip in two assists with junior Spencer Reynolds scoring two goals. “Once you come off that high, it is tough.”

Last Wednesday against rival WW/P-S at Mercer County Park, the Little Tigers seemed to be riding that high in the early going. Outshooting the Pirates by a wide margin, PHS jumped out to a 2-0 lead 25 minutes into the contest.

But running out of gas, the Little Tigers faltered down the stretch. WW/P-S scored late in the second period and then scored off the opening face-off in the third period to knot the game at 2-2. PHS generated some good opportunities down the stretch but it was WW/P-S who cashed in and scored with 2:12 remaining in regulation to pull out a 3-2 victory.

In reflecting on the defeat, Campbell rued his team’s failure to make the most of its chances.

“We just didn’t finish tonight; I don’t how many shots we had in the third period,” said Campbell, who got goals from Connor McCormick and Reynolds in the defeat to the Pirates.

“We had so many opportunities and we just didn’t bury the puck. If we had buried two or three of those, it is a completely different temperature of the game.”

Campbell also acknowledged that his players were dragging in the wake of their recent surge which saw the Little Tigers improve from 3-4-1 to 8-4-1

“At the end of the day, we are just exhausted,” said Campbell. “We have had a long month emotionally, to do what we have been doing to right the ship. We hadn’t lost all month. We came back from the break and we have won every single game against some opponents when you budget out the season, you don’t necessarily count on.”

While the return of captain and star forward DiTosto from a hand injury which sidelined him for much of December has helped the team’s mindset collectively, Campbell acknowledged that the Little Tigers have little margin for error.

“Having guys back has helped but it is also having confidence,” said Campbell.

“Success breeds success and that type of mentality. In all honesty, how long can you keep this going. It is such a short bench with a few guys who are on the ice but they are not healthy. When we are exhausted like this and we have opportunities to finish, you have got to figure out a way to capitalize on it and finish on scoring opportunities.”

In Campbell’s view, DiTosto generated a slew of those chances against WW/P-S as he picked up an assist and displayed his playmaking skill all night long.

“Matt DiTosto played a hell of a game,” asserted Campbell. “I don’t know how many scoring opportunities he single-handedly created on his own with his effort.”

The Little Tigers are also getting good effort from such emerging stars as Reynolds together with sophomores Connor McCormick and John Reid.

“Spencer Reynolds is playing a really good, tough physical game right now,” said Campbell. “Connor McCormick backchecked well. John Reid played well in the neutral zone.”

With PHS starting February by topping Paul VI 8-3 last Friday as Jack Andres scored three goals and DiTosto added two, Campbell is confident his squad can build on its January surge.

“We have been playing well,” said Campbell, whose team plays Hamilton on February 6 and then faces Notre Dame on February 11 with both games slated to take place at Mercer County Park.

“We have got some positive things going. We just need to tie it all together after this game.”

sports6

IN CHARGE: Hun School boys’ hockey goalie Devin Cheifetz controls the crease in a game earlier this winter. Last Wednesday, junior star Cheifetz made 18 saves as Hun blanked Pingry 3-0 in the opening round of the state Prep tournament. The victory earned the Raiders a semifinal matchup at Princeton Day School slated for February 5 with the winner advancing to the title game on February 7 at PDS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In early December, junior goalie Devin Cheifetz came up big as the Hun School boys’ hockey team topped nemesis Pingry 4-1, a win that got the Raiders on a hot streak.

Last Wednesday as Hun prepared to host Pingry in the opening round of the state Prep tournament, head coach Ian McNally was looking for an encore performance from his netminder.

“Devin had his biggest game against Pingry,” said McNally. “He and I had talked before this game and I said why not again.”

Although Cheifetz recorded just three saves in the first period of the playoff contest as the teams were knotted at 0-0 after the first 15 minutes, McNally could sense that Cheifetz was on his way to another stellar performance against the Blues.

“It is not even if he has a bunch of saves in the first period, it is his demeanor,” said McNally.

“You can tell that it is going to be a special day for him when he is playing the puck like that. He had some good stretch passes and caught them on a couple of line changes. Even though he only had three saves in the first period, you could get that feeling that it was going to be Devin’s game.”

That feeling proved justified as Cheifetz posted a shutout with a total of 18 saves as Hun prevailed 3-0.

The victory earned the Raiders a semifinal matchup at Princeton Day School slated for February 5 with the winner advancing to the title game on February 7 at PDS.

Cheifetz was at his best in the third period when he made eight saves, including several key stops when Hun killed back-to-back penalties. The junior goalie wasn’t fazed by being under the gun during the shorthanded situations.

“You just got to stay calm and play the game; you can’t think of it any differently,” said Cheifetz.

“Obviously a lot is on the line but you can’t too put too much pressure on yourself.”

Even though the game was scoreless well into the second period, Cheifetz sensed that a breakthrough was coming.

“I was confident in my team,” said Cheifetz. “We have the players; we pounce when we have to. You have to bring it every game and we brought it.”

With 4:44 left in the period, Alec Karanikolas pounced on the puck and found the back of the net to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.

“That was a huge momentum bounce,” said Cheifetz, reflecting on the goal. “It turned the tide of the game.”

Hun tacked on two more tallies in the third and Cheifetz did the rest, shutting the door on Pingry.

While Cheifetz was proud of his shutout, he was quick to spread the credit.

“It is a good accomplishment for me but it is also not just me back there,” said Cheifetz, who posted another shutout on Saturday when Hun topped the Germantown Academy (Pa.) 7-0 in a regular season game to improve to 12-4-4. “It is also my defense coming back which is a big help.”

As a three-year starter, Cheifetz is going out of his way to help his teammates by exerting more leadership.

“It is a natural process; obviously I am one of the older guys,” said Cheifetz. “I have to guide the younger guys because that was what was done for me when I was a sophomore and a freshman.”

The guidance from this year’s seniors has helped Hun develop a special unity.

“I think this year’s seniors have been really great; the team isn’t separated by upperclassmen and underclassmen,” said Cheifetz.

“The seniors have really stepped up; making friends with everybody and making sure that everyone is together, all of them, not just the seniors. On and off the ice, we always have lunch together it is a lot of fun.”

For McNally, it was fun to see his team come through in a tough tournament contest.

“A win like this reaffirms for me that when it matters and it is on the line and we are playing a good team, we will show up,” said McNally.

As Hun looks to turn the tables on a PDS team that beat it 8-1 a few weeks ago and also make a big run in the upcoming Independence Hockey League (IHL) playoffs, the Raiders are going to stick to their guns.

“Our style is we are going to come very aggressive and we are going to be physical and we are going to try to cause turnovers and go after them,” said McNally.

“We are certainly not going to approach the game in a different way than we would because any success that we have is when we pressure until they turn the puck over. That’s how we do well.”

For Cheifetz, the win over Pingry exemplified Hun’s approach of enjoying each game.

“It is a confidence-builder and no matter what happens we are here for the love of the game,” said Cheifetz. “We will just take it how it is.”

MOORE READY: Hun School guard Hashim Moore heads upcourt in recent action. The Princeton-bound post-graduate scored a team-high 16 points last Friday as Hun rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat Notre Dame 65-52 and improve to 15-5. Hun hosts the Phelps School (Pa.) on February 6 before competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League from February 8-10 at Peddie.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MOORE READY: Hun School guard Hashim Moore heads upcourt in recent action. The Princeton-bound post-graduate scored a team-high 16 points last Friday as Hun rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat Notre Dame 65-52 and improve to 15-5. Hun hosts the Phelps School (Pa.) on February 6 before competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League from February 8-10 at Peddie. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hashim Moore was ready for battle as the Hun School boys’ basketball team hosted Life Center Academy last week.

The post-graduate guard was wearing a long-sleeve padded shirt under his jersey and had black tights covering his legs.

Moore didn’t waste any time going on attack, driving in for a dunk to score the first points of the January 29 contest.

The Princeton University-bound guard scored six more points in the quarter to help the Raiders jump out to a 14-8 lead.

“I talked to my coaches here and the coaches at Princeton and they said you need to be more aggressive,” said Moore.

“So that is what I came out to do. We had to bounce back and come in with a positive attitude getting ready for the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) tournament.”

The Raiders sputtered a bit in the second quarter as they got outscored 7-6 by Life Center.

“The halftime message was to start playing like a team, move the ball around and just be patient on offense,” said Moore, recalling the locker room discussion at intermission.

The Hun players got the message loud and clear as they pulled away to a 50-33 victory.

“I love it when everybody is knocking shots and we are moving the ball,” said Moore, reflecting on Hun’s second-half surge which was keyed by some sizzling shots from Grant Mackay and Fergus Duke, who ended up with 22 and 11 points, respectively.

For Moore, spreading the wealth on the court comes naturally. “I have always played with other scorers,” said Moore, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I had to find something else to do, rebounding, defense, or driving to get them open shots.”

The 6’0 Moore has tried to bring that same approach to the table as he has looked to fit in with the Raiders.

“I am trying to be everything for this team,” asserted Moore, who scored a team-high 16 points last Friday as Hun rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Notre Dame 65-52 and improve to 15-5.

“I look for all of our bigs, especially Josh [McGilvray] and Grant, and our shooters, Fergus [Duke], Jake [Newman], and Mike [Bourke].”

For the most part, Moore has acclimated himself to New Jersey although the recent cold snap threw him for a loop.

“It is my first time away from home,” said Moore, who has been able to make it over Jadwin Gym to see his future team in action.

“Coming here, I have had to get used to the weather. I almost fell three times on the black ice yesterday.”

Moore is confident that the Raiders won’t fall short when it comes to the postseason, starting with the MAPL tournament from February 8-10 at Peddie.

“Our team is so versatile, I think we can stand against anyone in the MAPL,” said Moore.

“We just have to come back and be ready because they are going to be coming. It is going to be a battle.”

With the way Moore has played this winter, he has proven to be ready for battle.

LEVITATION: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Daniella Levitan looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior tri-captain Levitan scored a game-high and career high 12 points to help PDS post a 38-12 victory over visiting Bound Brook and improve to 7-9. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Hamilton on February 7 before starting action in the state Prep B tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEVITATION: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Daniella Levitan looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior tri-captain Levitan scored a game-high and career high 12 points to help PDS post a 38-12 victory over visiting Bound Brook and improve to 7-9. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Hamilton on February 7 before starting action in the state Prep B tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After playing two years on the Princeton Day School junior varsity girls’ basketball team, Daniella Levitan considered giving up the sport last winter.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play last year and coach [Mika Ryan] called me up,” recalled Levitan.

“I was at a friend’s house and she said please play. One of my best friends is on the team so I decided to do it. It is the best thing I ever chose to do.”

Levitan went on to play a key role for the Panthers last season, providing a steadying presence for a team that went with six players for much of the year due to a series of injuries.

This winter, Levitan has assumed a leadership position for the team, serving as one of its captains.

“I am one of the captains which has been a really wonderful experience,” said Levitan.

“Basketball season is the best time of the year and I enjoy being able to help others improve like they helped me last year. I want to give back and want to see them play next year when I visit.”

Last Friday against visiting Bound Brook, Levitan helped the Panthers in a big way, scoring a game-high and career-high 12 points as PDS cruised to a 38-12 victory.

Having lost three straight games coming into the contest, Levitan and her teammates were determined to get back on the right track.

“We knew we have really been struggling; I think we wanted to prove to ourselves and show the team that we were capable of pushing through,” said Levitan, reflecting on the victory which improved PDS to 7-9.

“We had a really tough season last year and we pushed through everything. I think we wanted to relive that.”

The Panthers led 7-4 early in the second quarter but produced an 11-2 run to seize control of the game and cruised from there.

“Sometimes we start out slow but once we are able to get into the groove the game completely changes,” said Levitan.

“It was the most confident we have played in a long time. I think that is what really pushed us.”

Levitan pushed the pace in the fourth quarter, culminating two fast breaks with diving layups and drawing cheers from the stands and the PDS bench.

“That was called a surprise,” said Levitan in assessing her fourth quarter heroics. “Part of it was confidence and me thinking that I am not always going to have a chance to go up for that so do it now.”

PDS head coach Mika Ryan enjoyed seeing Levitan’s show of confidence. “I was so happy for Daniella,” said Ryan, in assessing Levitan’s career night.

“She was instrumental in the great season that we had last year. She came back this year and she had dedicated herself to our team over the summer. I asked her to be a captain and she said yes. It is good to see the way she played today. The best part of that was that she was in the right position defensively. She deflected with the correct hand, just doing the fundamental things that we work on.”

In order to get some better work out of her team, Ryan has shuffled the starting lineup.

“The thinking was to try to get more competition; that particular group started against Abington Friends and even though we lost, they were very competitive,” said Ryan, who got 10 points from junior Emily Goldman in the win over Bound Brook with senior Lauren Johnson and freshman Olivia Okorodudu adding five points apiece.

“It has been my beef all season that we don’t compete hard enough; maybe a change in our lineup got some people thinking and playing a little bit harder. It is not always an easy thing to do but you have to do what you have to do. We don’t talk about wins and losses; we talk about competing and being the best that you can be and the best teammate you can be.”

Ryan acknowledged that she hasn’t been at her best as the Panthers have struggled of late.

“I haven’t been a good coach, I haven’t been a good leader,” said Ryan. “I just need to do a better job myself. I am glad that they played hard and came away with the win. Hopefully I did a better job because I have been down, I have been frustrated. I can’t be that way.”

In Ryan’s view, the win over Bound Brook shows what PDS can do when it has all hands on deck.

“We need everybody to play well; we are hoping to make a little noise down the stretch here,” said Ryan. “We need all 10 players to contribute.”

Levitan, for her part, is confident that PDS can produce a solid stretch run.

“This is exactly what we needed at the right time,” said Levitan. “We only have a few more games left and this will make for a good end to the season.”

January 30, 2013
TAKING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey player Andrew Calof controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Calof tallied a goal and three assists as the Tigers topped Sacred Heart 5-2 in their first action after a lengthy exam break. It was the second straight four-point outing for Calof, who leads the Tigers with 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. Princeton, now 7-8-4 overall and 5-4-2 ECACH, heads to New England this weekend to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey player Andrew Calof controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Calof tallied a goal and three assists as the Tigers topped Sacred Heart 5-2 in their first action after a lengthy exam break. It was the second straight four-point outing for Calof, who leads the Tigers with 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. Princeton, now 7-8-4 overall and 5-4-2 ECACH, heads to New England this weekend to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Calof picked up right where he left off as the Princeton University men’s hockey team hosted Sacred Heart last Sunday in returning to action after a lengthy exam break.

In Princeton’s last game before the hiatus, junior forward Calof notched a goal and three assists to help Princeton top Rensselaer 4-1 on January 12.

Against Sacred Heart, Calof duplicated that one goal-three assist output, sparking the Tigers to a 5-2 triumph over the Pioneers before a crowd of 1,974 at Baker Rink.

The 5’10, 175-pound native of Nepean, Ontario registered his first assist on a Mike Ambrosia tally which gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead after one period. Calof then scored a goal 1:11 into the second period and fed Tyler Maugeri for a tally 1:37 later as the Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead. After the Pioneers narrowed the gap to 4-2 early in the third period, Calof got his final assist of the day on another Ambrosia goal which made the final margin 5-2.

Calof was happy to see the Tigers return on a winning note even if there were some lapses.

“It was a good way to start off the post-exam break,” said Calof, reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 7-8-4 overall.

“It would be nice if we kept it consistent during the whole game instead of giving them some chances. We took it in stride and we ended up winning the game which is the most important thing. We need to work hard and try to sharpen up for next weekend.”

In assessing his sharp play this season, Calof credited his teammates with making his life easy.

“I think it is about who you are playing with,” said Calof, who now has a team-high 28 points on the season with 10 goals and 18 assists, tying him for third in ECAC Hockey in both points and assists.

“I know that the guys I am playing with right now are incredible hockey players when you see Ambrosia with two goals today and Maugeri up there in points too. They are two really offensively creative guys and [Andrew] Ammon as well, when you give him the puck it is going in the net. I know I have way more assists than goals so all you have to do is touch the puck and they are putting it in. It is a lot easier to do better offensively.”

Calof’s exploits have Princeton promoting him as candidate for All-American honors and the Hobey Baker Award given to the nation’s top male player.

Individual awards, though, are the last thing on Calof’s mind. “It is cool and I am honored but at the same time that is not my goal right now,” said Calof, who led Princeton in scoring in his first two seasons and has earned All-ECACH and All-Ivy League honors along the way.

“The most important thing that I want to do is to win the ECAC. If anything comes along with it, that is great. You want to win the ECAC and get a berth to the national tournament and win the national championship.”

With Calof nearing 100 career points, he views the milestone as indication of good fortune rather than individual achievement.

“It is incredible and I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to come in as a freshman and a sophomore and now as a junior,” said Calof, who currently has 92 points on 36 goals and 56 assists.

“The coaches have played me a lot and put a lot of faith in me. It has ended up working out well for me and I hope to deliver something back to the school with a championship.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier likes the way Calof has been delivering for the Tigers.

“His explosiveness has come around a little bit; he certainly has some more leg strength,” said Prier in assessing Calof’s progress.

“You can see that as he changes gears coming up the ice; it looks like guys are standing still when he goes by them. He has always had the poise. I think he is becoming more vocal out on the ice. He is getting the puck more. I think he is doing a lot of good things like that. He is just getting stronger and he has gained some experience. He is certainly an All-American type kid and a Hobey Baker candidate. It is nice to see him perform well consistently here over the last few games.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers performed well as they got back on the ice after exams.

“It seems like it has been a while since we played so I was proud of the guys and the way they came out,” said Prier, whose team outshot the Pioneers 17-7 in the first period and 14-3 in the next frame.

“I thought they came out really hard for not being able to battle against each other and have real good practices here the last couple of weekends. They came  out and they didn’t look like they missed much of a beat. It was nice to see the guys put up some goals. It was a good game, all in all.”

Princeton got a good effort from bruising forwards, junior captain Jack Berger and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum, who combined to set up junior defenseman Alec Rush as he scored the first goal of the game and his career.

“I think Jack Berger and Rob Kleebaum are playing hard; they are playing like leaders,” said Prier.

“Certainly Rob, being a senior, his attention to detail over the last few games has been really strong so it is nice to see that. They had an awful lot of chances tonight as a result of hard work. They generated the first goal and really got us going with their hard work and finishing checks.”

Freshman Ambrosia, who now has five goals, is emerging as a strong performer for the Tigers.

“Coming in, he was a blue chip prospect kind of kid but unfortunately he ran into some injury problems early on,” said Prier of the Chatham, N.J. native.

“He is only eight or nine games into his career and he already is a very good player. He is certainly someone who is going to be an elite type of player in  college hockey.”

With Princeton currently sitting in fifth in the ECACH standings at 5-4-3 in league play, Prier feels the Tigers have the potential to be an elite squad.

“If we limit or eliminate our mistakes, we are as good as anyone,” asserted Prier, whose team has won four of its last five games.

“I think we are getting there. These guys have good habits. We looked strong systematically tonight; I didn’t see much inconsistency.”

The Tigers will need a strong effort this weekend as they head to New England to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day.

“We are going to really prepare hard this week,” said Prier. “We have the ability to have a really strong week of practice here with the guys being out of session a little bit. We certainly want to take advantage of that; we can certainly do a lot of teaching off of the Sacred Heart game in video this week. It can be a real good week to improve in a hurry here, getting ready for our stretch run with 10 games left.”

Calof, for his part, believes the Tigers have improved in the area of consistency.

“It is just mental focus; we have gotten a lot better at it since the beginning of the year,” said Calof, who has already been named ECACH Player of the Week twice this season.

“You saw a lot more lapses at the beginning. We are going over a lot more stuff on video and trying to keep things as simple as possible to make sure that there are no communication errors that lead to good chances against us. The more we limit those, the more chance we have of winning.”

In Calof’s view, Princeton has a good chance to make up some ground on its upcoming trip to New England.

“It is going to be a big weekend; I know they [Yale] beat us early in the season so we are hoping to have a little better showing than the game we had against them in the Ivy Shootout,” said Calof, referring to a 3-2 loss to the Bulldogs on October 27 in a game that didn’t count in the league standings.

“They are pretty hot right now so it is going to be a really good game. I am looking forward to playing it.”

If Calof can keep up his hot play, the Tigers could have a really good weekend.

HOOK AND JAB: Princeton University men’s basketball player Mack Darrow lofts a hook shot in recent action. Last Sunday, senior center Darrow contributed eight points and three rebounds as Princeton topped The College of New Jersey 71-33 in its return from a 15-day exam hiatus. The Tigers, now 8-7 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, get into the heart of their league campaign when they host Brown (7-9 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on Friday and Columbia (9-7 overall, 1-1 Ivy) the next night.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

HOOK AND JAB: Princeton University men’s basketball player Mack Darrow lofts a hook shot in recent action. Last Sunday, senior center Darrow contributed eight points and three rebounds as Princeton topped The College of New Jersey 71-33 in its return from a 15-day exam hiatus. The Tigers, now 8-7 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, get into the heart of their league campaign when they host Brown (7-9 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on Friday and Columbia (9-7 overall, 1-1 Ivy) the next night.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

As the Princeton University men’s basketball team team returned to action after a 15-day hiatus due to exams by hosting The College of New Jersey last Sunday, Mitch Henderson didn’t want to hit his players with too much information.

“I wanted us to be focused on the things that we do well which is just the rules defensively and then offensively we could try to keep it pretty simple,” said Princeton head coach Henderson.

“I thought TCNJ did a nice job; they were playing a bit of a match-up zone which we have played for years. It clogs up the middle and you are not sure which cuts are open and that caused us some trouble. I think we made some nice adjustments.”

It turned out to be a very nice day for the Tigers as they cruised to a 71-33 victory over the Division III Lions before a Jadwin Gym crowd of 2,174.

“We are happy to be back at it after  exams,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 8-7 overall with the victory.

“We really just had the full team on Friday for the first time. Guys came down but we don’t really have an opportunity to be together until exams are over. Exams finished on Saturday so this is a nice opportunity for us to put the uniform on. I was very pleased with how we hit the boards. We are not going to pull any punches, we are going to be what we are.”

Freshman Hans Brase did a lot of the damage on the boards for the Tigers as he posted the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

“I was trying to get low position,” said the 6’8 Brase in reflecting on his  performance. “I happened to miss a bunch of chippies and I just got my own rebounds.”

Brase knows he is going to have to be sharper this weekend as the Tigers get into the heart of Ivy League play by hosting Brown (7-9 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on Friday and Columbia (9-7 overall, 1-1 Ivy) the next night.

“I heard it has been tough,” said Brase, referring to the grind of Friday/Saturday Ivy games over the next six weekends.

“We should be good, though, we are a pretty deep team. We play nine people so we can try to keep our bodies fresh and just grind it out.”

Sophomore guard Denton Koon is confident that the Tigers, currently 1-0 in Ivy play, are primed to make a run for the league title.

“I think we are doing well; there has been a change in the way we have played over the season and we are starting to play better lately,” said Koon, who tallied a game-high 12 points in the win over TCNJ.

“After the break, we had to make sure to maintain what we had going into it. I think this is a good start and we are excited to play next week.”

Henderson believes the league race is going to be an exciting ride. “I am not smart enough to predict what is going on; everybody looks pretty good,” said Henderson.

“Harvard goes up to Dartmouth and plays well and then Dartmouth plays very well at Harvard. Cornell and Columbia split. Everybody has some nice wins. I think everybody is a little imperfect. I do think it is going to be pretty interesting. Everything is going to be pretty much decided in a month; there are a lot of games. We are ready to go here; this is what we have been working for.”

In Henderson’s view, working smart during the week is the key to success on the weekends.

“I think some games look really physical but they really aren’t and some games don’t look like they are that physical and they really are; they wear and tear on you,” said Henderson.

“The way you prepare during the week makes such a difference. Recovery is what it is. I think over the years, we have seen Friday and Saturday games sort of swing. I think the league is close enough that there is going to be no managing of minutes as you go into a Friday night game because the games are just too important.”

Last season, Skye Ettin scored a team-high 15 points as The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team fell 79-68 to Princeton at Jadwin Gym.

This past Sunday, former Princeton High standout Ettin and the Lions were back in Jadwin and even though he tallied only two points in a 71-33 setback to the Tigers, he still enjoyed his homecoming

“It is always great to come and play in a stadium like that and play against a Princeton team,” said the 6’5, 170 pound junior forward who entered the afternoon averaging 11.0 points a game for the Division III TCNJ program.

“It is just really a great experience for us. It helps us work on some things. We have struggled with rebounding at times and to go against them and have to box out some bigger bodies than we usually see definitely helps prepare us for the NJAC [New Jersey Athletic Conference].”

While the game at Princeton got one-sided, Ettin was proud of how the Lions acquitted themselves in the wake of a tough 73-72 loss to NJAC power Ramapo the night before.

“Yesterday was a really tough one; we fought real hard and took them all the way down to the stretch,” said Ettin, who grabbed a team-high five rebounds in the loss to Princeton.

“We didn’t make a play here or there and that cost us the game. I think it is good to take our minds off of it and play Princeton the next day and bounce back and hopefully gain some of the momentum that we had going into the Ramapo game because we did play pretty well.”

For Ettin, playing at Jadwin has deep meaning. “It is definitely always special to come back and play in my hometown; I grew up watching games here,” said Ettin, who scored 915 points in his PHS career and helped the Little Tigers make the Central Jersey Group III finals in 2009 as a junior.

“When I was little, I went to camp here so it is always a special time when I get to come on and actually play against Princeton. It is a special moment; I had some fans in the crowd which is always great.”

TCNJ head coach Kelly Williams is a fan of the matchup against Princeton.

“The benefit of playing a game like this is that it puts ourselves in a competitive situation year in, year out,” said Williams, whose team dropped to 5-15 overall with the defeat to the Tigers.

“As a coach, it is hard for me to say no if the game becomes available with Princeton or any Division I team,” said Williams, who added former PHS boys’ hoops head coach Jason Carter to his staff this season.

“I don’t think our players would like that and I am not built that way. The bottom line is that it does help us from a recruiting point of view, to be able to talk to a recruit going to Division III level and to be able to let them know hey listen we are going to compete and that we are going to try to play teams that are bigger and better. I want our guys to always have that same philosophy and mindset.”

Williams liked the way that his players competed to the final whistle against Princeton not withstanding the lopsided score.

“I love the fact that we are battling, we are fighting,” asserted Williams.

“In many cases we are outsized and things along those lines but my guys play through that so I love the effort that they give me every night.”

Ettin, for his part, wasn’t surprised that the Lions battled to the end. “We always keep fighting; it showed also last night when we played Ramapo,” said Ettin.

“We got an early lead and then in the second half we got down and then we bounced back and took the lead. As far as a team, we never give up. Coach instills that during practice, whether it be finishing sprints or doing down two situational things. I think one thing that this team always does is to fight.”

While the Lions have struggled so far this winter, Ettin sees good things on the horizon for the program.

“We have a good nucleus of a lot of sophomores who are going to be ready to get back at it in the summer and amp up,” said Ettin.

“We still have a chance this year to finish out strong and do something special. I think we are a pretty dangerous team so we are definitely excited about this year and the future looks bright.”

SO SERIOUS: Princeton High girls’ hockey standout Isabelle Sohn heads up the ice in a game earlier this season. Freshman forward Sohn has given the Little Tigers production and intensity this winter. The Little Tigers, who fell to 0-9 with a 6-2 defeat to Shady Side Academy (Pa.) last Sunday, are next in action when they play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SO SERIOUS: Princeton High girls’ hockey standout Isabelle Sohn heads up the ice in a game earlier this season. Freshman forward Sohn has given the Little Tigers production and intensity this winter. The Little Tigers, who fell to 0-9 with a 6-2 defeat to Shady Side Academy (Pa.) last Sunday, are next in action when they play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 31.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the winter, Christian Herzog knew that his Princeton High girls’ hockey team was going to take some lumps as it embarked on a youth movement.

With a lineup containing a number of underclassmen and newcomers to the game, PHS has struggled to a 0-9 start, losing several games by lopsided margins.

But head coach Herzog isn’t discouraged, crediting his players with hanging in there.

“They go into every game with a low percentage of winning but that doesn’t deter them,” said Herzog, who got goals from Merritt Peck and Bea Greenberg as PHS fell 6-2 at Shady Side Academy (Pa.) last Sunday for its ninth straight loss this season.

“That comes from our mantra of head, heart, and hustle. We have made good strides, considering where we have started. I have seen good individual progress.”

Herzog points to a number of players who have made strides as the season has unfolded.

“Hanna Kostenbader has been stepping up on defense; she has been solid,” said Herzog.

“Isabelle Sohn is a finisher; she goes for it on every shift. Kate Sohn is taking more initiative; she is rushing up the puck more this year. Brittney Coniglione has been our most physical player; she gives a hard effort on every shift. She takes the attitude that they are not going to score on my watch. I have had to use Lucy Herring on defense and she has made strides at playing a new position. She did score two goals against Princeton Day School when I put her at forward.”

PHS is going with two new goalies, freshman Callie Urisko and junior Breanna Hegarty-Thorne, and Herzog is proud of how they have handled the pressure of playing between the pipes.

“I like that they are not giving up despite the scores of the games,” said Herzog, noting that his defense has been weakened by injuries to sophomore standout Julia DiTosto and promising freshman Allie Callaway.

“I see potential in both of them, they just need more ice time. We need to give up fewer shots; it is tough on them when we are getting outshot 30-10 every game.”

Herzog likes the way his senior players, Dana Barry, KC Read-Fisher, Brooke Solomon, and Kostenbader, have helped the team through some tough times.

“They have played an integral part in keeping spirits high,” asserted Herzog. “They went through last year so they know how to deal with things.”

Herzog is confident his team can produce a spirited finish to the season. “The one thing I can say about this team is that they have a good attitude and a willingness to work hard and get better even when the odds are against them,” said Herzog, whose team plays at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 31.

“We tend to play our best at the end of the season in the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament.”

LAND ROVER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Taran Auslander goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star defenseman Auslander contributed a goal as PDS topped previously undefeated Notre Dame 4-0. The Panthers, now 15-2, host Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 30 before playing in the state Prep semifinals on February 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAND ROVER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Taran Auslander goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star defenseman Auslander contributed a goal as PDS topped previously undefeated Notre Dame 4-0. The Panthers, now 15-2, host Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 30 before playing in the state Prep semifinals on February 5.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team topped Morristown High 3-0 last week, senior defenseman Taran Auslander displayed how much he has evolved as as a player over his high school career.

Auslander triggered the Panther offense, scoring a power play goal in the first period and assisting on an insurance tally in the third period. Throughout the January 22 contest, Auslander’s steady play on the blue line helped the PDS defense stifle the Colonials.

In reflecting on his performance, Auslander acknowledged that he has come a long way over the last four seasons. “Since freshman year, I have gained a lot more confidence,” said Auslander.

“Playing with these incredible players, my skills have progressed and I have become confident with the puck. I feel like if something doesn’t go right I will have four other people on the ice to back me up and a great goaltender [Connor Walker].”

Auslander credited his teammates with setting up his goal in the Morristown win. “It was pretty much just what we drew up, it was a great play,” recalled Auslander.

“Rob [Colton] is walking across the middle and feeds it back to Conrad [Denise] who throws it to Ross [Colton] on the  goal line. I really have the easiest job; I just get to stand there and put in a beautiful pass from Ross.”

The Panther power play has been a key factor in the team’s success this winter.

“We are clicking very well; we work on the power play a lot in practice,” said Auslander, who got another goal as PDS beat previously undefeated Notre Dame 4-0 last Friday to improve to 15-2.

“We are really good friends and it definitely helps. I feel like we all know where each other is going to be on the ice. We have gone through it so many times, it is becoming natural.”

On the defensive end, PDS is displaying a similar cohesion. “The defense definitely had a good game today, we are moving the puck well,” said Auslander, who also serves as an assistant captain for the Panthers.

“Connor Walker stood on his head like always; he made a couple of big saves in the second period to keep us in there. Our defense has been playing solid, we are coming together as a unit. We are working together on passing and just playing solid in our defensive zone because we know with the forwards that we have, we are going to score.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli is excited by the good work he is getting from Auslander.

“I think with Taran it is all about confidence and he is playing with a ton of confidence,” said Bertoli.

“He is playing with that first power play group for a reason. I think he finally believes that he belongs out there. He scores a gorgeous goal tonight on the first one and he has an unbelievable assist to Ross [Colton] on the second one. I would argue that he didn’t make those plays two months ago and he definitely didn’t make that play last year. All the credit to him.”

Bertoli credits Auslander with growing as a person as well as a player. “He is captain, he is a leader back there,” added Bertoli.

“He has really embraced that role. He is the guy you want out on the ice in every situation and at the end of games. Good for him, he is a senior and he deserves to be in that situation. As coaches, you are just happy to see a kid and watch his game evolve and play at the level he is playing at this year.”

The Panthers displayed a high level of hockey against Morristown as they produced a brilliant start.

“That was one of the best first periods we played all year; we were dominant at times,” said Bertoli.

“They were lucky it wasn’t 3, 4, or 5 to 0. We had the chances, the puck movement, and the support in the offensive zone was there. As a coach, you sit back and just roll the lines in a situation like that.”

While PDS hit a bump in the road with a 5-4 loss to Lawrenceville on January 16, the Panthers are not looking back.

“You are not going to win every hockey game,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 30 before playing in the state Prep semifinals on February 5.

“I like the fact that we put the Lawrenceville game behind us and that we had a good effort against Hun [an 8-1 win on January 18] and we had a pretty good effort here tonight. I think we have moved on and we are ready to look forward now.”

Auslander and his classmates are ready to make some history in their final weeks with the program.

“I definitely want to savor everything,” said Auslander, one of 10 seniors on the PDS roster.

“We only have 10 or 12 games left and that is sort of surreal. I don’t want this season to end. We know that it is ending very soon and we seniors want to leave our mark on this team and this school. We want to go down as one of the best teams in history. We know that if we continue to win and we win tournaments, that’s a great way to leave our mark.”

No matter what happens over the homestretch, Auslander will be leaving the program with memories that will last a lifetime.

“This is the last real competitive hockey for me,” said Auslander, who also stars for the PDS boys’ soccer and lacrosse teams.

“Talking to the alumni that come back and have played over the years, they just say to soak it in because you don’t get another opportunity like it. I am never going to play on a team as close as we are. We have a ton of seniors and juniors so we have been playing together since freshman year and most of us have been playing together since before then with travel leagues and things like that. I have been playing with a bunch of these guys since I learned to skate. I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else; it is definitely a very close team.”

DECKHAND: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player B.J. Dudeck heads to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Dudeck contributed 10 points as the Panthers topped Hightstown 71-44 to improve to 12-5. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Life Center Academy on February 1 before hosting Pennington on February 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DECKHAND: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player B.J. Dudeck heads to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Dudeck contributed 10 points as the Panthers topped Hightstown 71-44 to improve to 12-5. In upcoming action, PDS plays at Life Center Academy on February 1 before hosting Pennington on February 5.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team leading visiting Morrisville High (Pa.) 31-14 heading into the second half last Wednesday, there wasn’t much of a buzz permeating the gym.

PDS senior forward B.J. Dudeck sensed that the Panthers needed a jolt. “When the environment isn’t as electric as it may be on a typical basis, it takes you a while to get going,” said Dudeck. “You have to say ‘alright, let’s get going.’”

The gritty Dudeck helped provide some electricity in the second half, hustling all over the court, making a steal and an assist on consecutive possessions in one stretch as the gym came to life and the Panthers pulled away to a 57-35 victory.

“I think our defense predicated our offense,” said Dudeck, reflecting on a third quarter that saw PDS outscore Morrisville 22-8.

“We got a bunch of stops, we got some turnovers, and we got some easy transition baskets. That is the best way to get a run started.”

Acknowledging that basketball is not his main sport, Dudeck is happy to do the dirty work for the Panthers.

“I am not a big, huge basketball guy, I play a lot of baseball,” said Dudeck, who is headed to Virginia Military Institute where he will be playing for the school’s baseball team.

“I scrap as hard as I can so if that is the easiest way for me to get on the floor, I will take it. It is a lot of fun.”

Dudeck’s scrappiness, though, has led to some nice offensive nights as he scored 20 points in a recent loss to Hun and tallied 10 points to help PDS top Robert Vaux (Pa.) in the opening round of the PrimeTime Shootout in late December.

“I feel like my teammates are finding me in the right spots on some days,” said Dudeck.

“They will just hit me in a perfect spot and I can lay it off the glass easy. They do a great job of setting me up.”

For Dudeck, spending his winters playing hoops gives him a chance to enjoy a different competitive experience than what he sees on the diamond.

“Baseball is a sport where you are 60 and 90 feet away from guys,” said Dudeck.

“This is a sport where you are competing up close. It is physical, it is a good change of pace.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean liked the way his team competed against Morrisville as it bounced back from a tough 62-58 loss to Curtis (N.Y.) two days earlier in the Big Apple Classic.

“I thought we played really well on Monday and I think that carried over into today,” said McLean, who got 25 points from senior star and Miami-bound Davon Reed in the win over Morrisville with junior standout Langston Glaude contributing 14.

“On Monday we were down early and we went on a 22-4 run. We are capable of strings and spurts of play but we need to string those together. If we can string those together for 32 minutes or even the majority of the 32 minutes, we could be special.”

The Panthers showed how special they can be as they produced the second-half spurt that put the game away.

“I said we have to bring our own energy,” added McLean. “Thankfully we found that in the late second and early third. If we can force turnovers and get out in transition and slow the other team down and get some easy buckets, we are going to be good. We haven’t been shooting particularly well from the outside. I think the guys realize if that is not falling, we have to get to the rim and get to the hoop.”

In McLean’s view, Dudeck provides a lot of positive energy for the Panthers. “Every team needs a player like B.J. Dudeck,” asserted McLean.

“He is going to leave it on the floor. He’s diving for the loose ball; he’s going to box out. He’s going to do the little things and those things can be the catalyst to spark your team.”

With PDS topping Hightstown 71-44 last Friday to improve to 12-5, McLean believes his team is well positioned for a big stretch drive.

“It is a great spot to be in,” said McLean, whose team plays at Life Center Academy on February 1 before hosting Pennington on February 5.

“We have played some tough teams this year. To be sitting where we are, we are lining ourselves up great for preps and for counties. We have to finish strong. We kind of sputtered down the stretch last year and I think that is kind of lingering in the back of our minds. We are using that as motivation to get started.”

Dudeck, for his part, believes that the Panthers are motivated to end the season with a bang.

“I think we can put together something special at the end here with our county and our prep tournament,” said Dudeck.

“It will be something special to see Davon get 2,000 points. It has been a heck of a ride for PDS basketball here.”

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown dribbles up court in recent action. After being sidelined recently due to a knee injury, junior star Brown is back at full speed for the Raiders. Last Saturday, Brown scored a team-high 19 points in a 65-62 double overtime loss at the Freire Charter School in Philadelphia as the Raiders moved to 10-7. In upcoming action, Hun plays at Padua Academy (Del.) on January 31 and at North Brunswick High on February 2.

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown dribbles up court in recent action. After being sidelined recently due to a knee injury, junior star Brown is back at full speed for the Raiders. Last Saturday, Brown scored a team-high 19 points in a 65-62 double overtime loss at the Freire Charter School in Philadelphia as the Raiders moved to 10-7. In upcoming action, Hun plays at Padua Academy (Del.) on January 31 and at North Brunswick High on February 2.

For the Hun School girls basketball, its game at the Freire Charter School in Philadelphia last Saturday presented challenges on several levels.

“The whole situation was a little different,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup. “They didn’t have a regulation size court; that was a little surprise for us. They beat us last year so we knew we were going to have our hands full.”

As the game Saturday headed into the second half, it looked like things might get out of hand for the Raiders.

“We were down 11 at half and we chipped away and had it at nine going into the fourth quarter,” said Holup.

But showing character, Hun outscored Freire Charter 22-13 in the fourth quarter to face overtime with the teams locked in a 54-54 tie at the end of regulation.

“We stepped up the pressure in the fourth quarter,” said Holup. “We went with our full court press and we made things hectic for them. We got some steals and made some shots. But then we had a lot of foul trouble, Johnnah [Johnson] fouled out, Carey [Million] fouled out, [Erica] Brown fouled out and [Erica] Dwyer fouled out.”

Although the Raiders ended up falling 65-62 in double overtime, Holup believes his team will benefit from the jaunt to Philadelphia.

“It was a huge team building experience,” said Holup, who got 19 points from Brown in the defeat with Janelle Mullen adding 15 as Hun moved to 10-7.

“It was a difficult game. We stuck together as a team and fought through adversity. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get the win.”

In Holup’s view, a 68-48 loss to Blair on January 16 helped refocus a Raider squad which has posted a 3-1 record since that defeat.

“After the Blair game, they are the cream of the crop in the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) and undefeated in the league, we started looking at things differently,” asserted Holup.

“We are playing more unselfishly. We are bringing a different mental approach to the game. The girls know they have to be ready to play whether they are playing a talented team or someone they might underestimate because we have had our hands full with those teams.”

Junior forward Johnnah Johnson has been a handful for Hun’s foes as she scored a total of 68 points in the Raiders’ three wins last week, including a career-high 33 points in a 65-51 victory over Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 19.

“She has the potential and ability; if she had made her foul shots and finished better, she would have been getting those point totals earlier,” said Holup.

“She was fading on her shot instead of taking it straight to the basket. We made it one of our objectives to establish her early in the game and establish an inside presence. She has been working on her inside moves.”

The presence of junior star Brown in the lineup is making a difference for the Raiders.

“Erica is pretty much full steam now; she played almost the whole game on Saturday,” said Holup of Brown, who injured her right knee in a loss to Lawrenceville on December 11 and didn’t return to action until a win over the King Low Heywood School (Conn.) on January 5.

“She has been able to get offensive rebounds for us. She can get a defensive rebound and start a fast break. She gives us a dimension we haven’t had in years. She can put the ball on the floor and go to the basket or she can post up. She is a versatile player.”

Junior guard Anajha Burnett has become a more valuable player for the Raiders.

“Anajha has stepped up,” asserted Holup. “She had nine assists in the win over Mercersburg. She is always looking to get the ball inside.”

Hun is looking to sharpen up for the postseason with some challenging non-league contests this week.

“The next three games are going to be a challenge and should help us better prepare for the MAPL tournament,” said Holup, whose team was slated to host Life Center Academy on January 29 before playing at Padua Academy (Del.) on January 31 and at North Brunswick High on February 2. “We need to stay healthy, play hard, and continue to get better.”

Even though Hun lost regular season games to MAPL foes Hill, Blair, and Lawrenceville, Holup believes his team could be hard to beat at tournament time.

“We need to work on playing our game,” said Holup. “I have been preaching since day one that if we are going against a team that has one or two scorers, we can compete if we play unselfish and play smart.”

SUMMER TIME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Summer Ramsay-Burrough, right, looks to pass the ball in recent action. Senior star Ramsay-Burrough contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds as Stuart posted a 32-24 victory over Bound Brook on January 18. The Tartans, who fell 55-18 to Nottingham last Monday to drop to 2-8,  play at Hamilton on January 31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SUMMER TIME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Summer Ramsay-Burrough, right, looks to pass the ball in recent action. Senior star Ramsay-Burrough contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds as Stuart posted a 32-24 victory over Bound Brook on January 18. The Tartans, who fell 55-18 to Nottingham last Monday to drop to 2-8, play at Hamilton on January 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After losing its first three games in 2013, the Stuart Country Day School basketball broke through with a 32-24 victory over Bound Brook on January 18.

For first year head coach Dana Leary and her youthful squad, the triumph was an important step forward.

“That was a great win for us as a team,” said Leary, who got 11 points and six rebounds from junior Maggie Walsh in the victory with senior Summer Ramsay-Burrough contributing 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“Every game, we are seeing a lot of positives. I would say the girls needed that game. They see that they can go out there and they can compete.”

The Tartans showed some flashes of competitive spirit as they hosted Solebury School (Pa.) last Wednesday. The Tartans fell behind 11-4 after the first quarter but then played Solebury to a standstill in the second as they were outscored only 9-7.

“We were definitely off to a slow start there,” acknowledged Leary “[The second] was a much better quarter.”

While Stuart ended up losing 45-22, Leary liked the effort she got from her players in the second half.

“At halftime, I talked to them, I just felt there was a lack of intensity and fire out there today, especially on the defensive end,” said Leary.

“We weren’t really communicating with each other, no one was talking so I think that definitely picked up coming out of the half. I saw a lot more energy out there. What we talked about at halftime, they came out and did that.”

The Tartans have been energized lately by the play of freshman guard Harley Guzman and senior standout Ramsay-Burrough.

“Harley has been stepping up for us big time, especially in the last few games,” added Leary.

“I have also asked her to step up and be my point guard. She has been playing a 2 and a 3 for us for most of the season. Last week, I started her off at point and she has been doing a great job at it. Summer is on the boards and plays well defensively. She also brings senior experience which is very helpful to us.”

With Stuart averaging around 20 points a game, Leary is looking for her team to help themselves more at that end of the court.

“One of our goals is to at least put up points in all four quarters,” said Leary, whose club fell 55-18 to Nottingham last Monday to drop to 2-8.

“I see that in past games when we get shut out in a quarter, that’s when we really dig ourselves a hole and that is where teams are really able to extend their lead. We need to just cut down on turnovers and take care of the ball. That’s our main focus and something we continue to emphasize.”

Leary is confident that the Tartans will continue to progress as the season goes on.

“I think as we play more games and gain more experience, it is going to get better for us,” said Leary, whose team plays at Hamilton on January 31.

“We are a very young team but I tell them it is good that you are making mistakes because that is what we learn from and that is how we get better.”