Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 49
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
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SHIFT CHANGE: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Jon Naylor controls the puck in a game last winter. The Little Tigers will need senior star Naylor to handle the puck a lot this winter as the program deals with the void left by the graduation of its sterling Class of 2007 and the departure of longtime head coach Paul Merrow. Last Monday, Naylor scored a goal as PHS fell 12-2 to Steinert in its season opener and the debut of new head coach Tim Campbell.

PHS Boys’ Ice Hockey Ushering in New Era, New Coach Campbell Promises Total Effort

Bill Alden

The group of seniors that graced the ice for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team last winter won’t be soon forgotten.

The players in the PHS Class of 2007 made three trips to the Final 16 of the state tournament, they won a Mercer County Tournament title (MCT) and took second in another MCT, and they advanced to the finals of the Titans Cup.

That stellar group included the program’s all-time leading scorer, John Ryan, a four-year starter at goalie in Shane Leuck, a star defenseman in Christian McCracken, and Peter Teifer, who starred for three years at forward and then became a top-notch defender last winter by necessity.

In addition to losing all that talent to graduation, the program is absorbing the loss of its longtime head coach Paul Merrow, who has moved on to head the Hopewell Valley squad after 12 years guiding PHS.

While new head coach Tim Campbell knows the departure of the Class of 2007 and Merrow leaves a big void, he is excited about ushering in a new chapter for the program.

“It’s a huge loss; we had so many high quality players,” said Campbell, a Michigan native who served as the program’s assistant coach last season when it went 14-9-3 and made it to state’s Sweet 16.

“They were also very good leaders. We are starting from the ground up. It’s good because I can grow with the players.”

The Little Tigers got off to a rough start in that process as they fell 12-2 to Steinert last Monday in the season opener for both teams.

Campbell believes the team’s group of freshmen can provide the foundation to keep the program moving in the right direction.

“We have six quality freshmen, said Campbell, who is welcoming forwards Fraser Graham, Peter Twining, and Michael Irving together with defensemen Dean DiTosto, Griffin Peck, and Adam Millar to the program

“They have all played at high level clubs. It gets them on the ice a lot. They will all be contributors. If we can keep getting five or six quality freshmen like this every year, we will continue to have a very good program.”

PHS is looking for big contributions from its two senior forwards Jon Naylor and Kyle DeBlois.

“Both are very skilled players,” said Campbell of Naylor and DeBlois. “Naylor has some of the best hands I have ever seen in hockey. Nobody has more heart than DeBlois. He is a great leader who leads by example.”

Also in the mix at forward for PHS will be juniors Billy Ward and Jeff Goeke together with freshmen Graham and Twining.

The Little Tiger defensive unit will be spearheaded by freshmen. “I think Peck and DiTosto are two of our top defenders,” added Campbell. “I may have Ward and DeBlois take some shifts on defense. Millar should also see action.”

The formidable challenge of replacing Leuck in goal will be handled by seniors Dmitri Yukubov and Patrick Long.

Campbell knows he faces a formidable task in following in the steps of the highly respected Merrow.

“Paul was a great mentor for me, nobody is a better student of the game,” said Campbell, who played in juniors while at Central Michigan and coached at his high school alma mater in Grand Ledge, Mich.

“I talked a lot with him last year. Paul and I complement each other in terms of coaching philosophies.”

Campbell’s philosophy centers on staying positive and working hard. “The CVC is up for grabs,” asserted Campbell, whose club is next in action when it plays Hopewell Valley and former mentor Merrow on December 6 at Mercer County Park.

“I’m looking at every game as a possible win. There is no reason in high school hockey why the players shouldn’t go into any game thinking they don’t deserve to win. We may not have the best talent but we are going to be the hardest working and best conditioned team around.”

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