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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

ICE STORM: Princeton High senior star Vicki Chen, right, controls the puck on her way to a 5-goal performance against Princeton Day School last month. Chen has scored 26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists to help spark the Little Tigers to a 7-2-1 mark. In upcoming action, PHS plays at Morristown-Beard on February 3 and at Summit on February 6.
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Chen Applying Lessons in Persistence In Taking Lead Role for PHS Girls' Hockey

by Bill Alden

Vicki Chen headed north of the border last summer to help hone her ice hockey skills.

But for the Princeton High senior forward, it was some lessons that she learned off the ice that have had the most impact on her game.

"What was really great about the camp was that it had these Canadian Olympic players and they talked about their experiences getting to the Olympics," recalled Chen.

"I remember really strongly that they talked about people working everyday and never, ever giving up. The Canadian team had lost eight games in a row to the U.S. and then they beat them in the gold medal game. That was a great story."

The prolific Chen is writing a great story in her final season with the PHS program. Through the team's first ten games, Chen has scored 26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists to help spark the Little Tigers to a 7-2-1 mark.

In Chen's view, she is applying the lessons about persistence that she learned from the Canadian Olympians.

"Last year, I tended to have up and down games," acknowledged Chen, after scoring two goals and getting an assist in PHS' 4-1 win over Pingry last Thursday. "I put everything into what I do. I don't give up and I believe in myself."

That self-belief has made Chen a formidable threat on the ice this winter. "I have a self confidence in knowing what to do on the ice," said the soft-spoken Chen, who has formed a productive partnership with freshman star Blair Thompson on the Little Tigers' first line. "Now, I'm able to take it down the ice when I need to and pass it off when I need to. I can hold up better under pressure when a lot of people are on me."

As a result of Chen's ability to produce under pressure, she has naturally taken on more responsibility with the club.

"It's interesting because now I have more of a leadership role," explained Chen. "I really like the role I have on the team, holding it together. I feel like I've improved for the benefit of the team and not just myself."

PHS head coach Matt Becan is proud of how Chen has assumed the mantle of leadership. "Vicki is just an unbelievable skater, she has so much confidence with the puck," declared Becan, whose club skated past Summit 6-0 last Monday in moving to 7-2-1 on the season.

"She's really a go-to player on our team. She's accepted the role as that player. She's worked hard in trying to get better and getting some momentum for the team."

In Becan's view, Chen's approach has rubbed off on her teammates. "The girls are very determined, they never give up," said Becan. "Against good teams, sometimes we'll be on our heels but they keep pushing forward. They keep trying to improve their game and get better."

The Little Tigers needed all of their pluck last week as they came off a 22-day layoff to battle powerhouse Morristown-Beard on Wednesday before taking on Pingry the next night.

Showing some rust, PHS fell 3-2 to Mo-Beard and then started sluggishly against Pingry, leading just 2-0 heading into the third period.

PHS scored twice in the first four minutes of the third period against Pingry to seemingly regain the rhythm they had lost over the lay-off.

"In the Mo-Beard game as well as Pingry for the first two periods, we played as individuals," noted Becan, who acknowledged that he delivered a tongue-lashing to the team in the locker room before the third period of the Pingry game.

"We lost our teamwork; we weren't going as hard after the puck. We needed to be jolted and get focused and working together as a unit. When we finally did, things started to click."

Becan is hoping things continue to click as the Little Tigers head into the stretch drive of their inaugural season in the Mid-Atlantic Girls' Hockey League.

In upcoming action, PHS plays at Morristown-Beard on February 3 and at Summit on February 6.

"I know the girls really, really like it," said Becan, referring to the newly-formed league. "We focus on league teams. We're in the top four [along with Mo-Beard, Princeton Day School, and Hill]. The top four teams are all very competitive with each other, it's great to see that type of competition. It really comes down to who really wants it more."

Chen, for her part, believes the team has developed the kind of chemistry to dig deep in league play. "Now we have a goal, besides playing well and having fun as a team," asserted Chen.

"I've been playing with these girls for three or four years and it's amazing to watch them improve. This team has a really good bond, it's probably our best characteristic. To get up for practices at 5:30 in the morning, that takes character."

And it doesn't hurt to have someone like Chen providing a daily example of persistence.

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