PDS Boys' Hockey Wins 7th Prep Title As Its Senior Leadership Proves Crucial
By Bill Alden
Even though the Princeton Day School boys' ice hockey team came into the season having won six straight Prep B titles, PDS senior defender Mike Crowley knew that the squad would have no cakewalk as it looked to keep the championship streak alive.
"At the beginning of the year, I was saying to the other seniors that we don't necessarily have the individual skill levels that the we used to have," recalled Crowley. "I think this year the team definitely bonded very well together. We all played for each other. I think this year we were definitely a more closer-knit unit than in the past."
The Panthers needed all that unity and team focus last Wednesday as they found themselves locked in a 2-2 tie with visiting Morristown-Beard late in the second period in this year's state title game. Showing why it has created a dynasty, PDS responded with a Derek Mayer goal that gave it a 3-2 lead at the end of the second period with Crowley adding an insurance goal as the Panthers won 4-2.
The triumph set off a raucous celebration as senior defender and captain Peter Rossi skated with championship trophy to the glass in front of the throng of student fans who had lent PDS vociferous support all night and all season long.
While Crowley admitted that there were some butterflies when the game was knotted at two, he maintained that PDS was confident it could send its fans home happy.
"It was nerve-wracking," said Crowley. "When it was 2-2, we were nervous but that's what makes for a good hockey game. It's no fun to watch a complete blow-out. When we came out, we knew what was on the line. I'm happy that we go out with a tough game. Our fans enjoyed it, it was a great game."
Crowley certainly enjoyed netting the insurance goal. "It was a good goal, I was happy with it," said a grinning Crowley. "It was somewhat lucky, it bounced off a skate and somehow got back to my skate. We'll take the goals any way we can get them."
For PDS head coach Chris Barcless, it is that kind of scrappiness that epitomized the Panthers' latest championship campaign. "We haven't had an easy win all year so it was a good win for the team," said Barcless, who has now guided the team to a state crown in each of his seven seasons at the helm.
"It doesn't matter whether we're playing Seton Hall Prep, Bergen Catholic, Portledge or a Cranford, Montclair-Kimberley or Mo-Beard, they're all the same scores. We win by one, two goals. It's the way we win the game."
With such a thin margin of error, everybody on the squad has to reach his potential. "It's the team, everybody doing their job, knowing their job," added Barcless, whose club ended the season at 17-4-1 after topping Wyoming Seminary 2-1 in overtime last Sunday to win the annual PDS Invitational.
"We have guys that just go out against top lines from other teams and they know their job is to shut 'em down. We have guys out there to score and they know they need to put the puck in the net for us. Our defense and goalies need to play solid. It's just the team, no one is better than the next guy."
Barcless did acknowledge that the win was maybe a bit sweeter for his seniors since it left them at 4-for-4 in their career in state Prep B title games.
"It's good, especially for the seniors," added Barcless whose Class of 2004 includes Sean Rochford, Laddie Sanford, T.J. Krall, Mitch DePace and John Siemann in addition to Crowley and Rossi. "They are the third graduating class here to have won it all four years. I think it's going to be more of a challenge next year because we lose seven guys. Next year is going to be pretty tough."
Crowley and his classmates have enjoyed the ride. "These four years, they mean a lot to us," said Crowley. "I know that right now all the seniors really appreciate it. We had a very strong senior core, I think that helped us tremendously this year. We had that goal. We all played together and we all respect each other."
And in the end, they have earned PDS another healthy dose of respect in New Jersey prep hockey circles.