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Vol. LXIII, No. 10
 
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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ALMOST THERE: Princeton High boys’ hockey sophomore forward Fraser Graham closes in on the puck in a game this season. Graham and the Little Tigers just missed out in a state tournament berth this winter as they went 7-10-2, a marked improvement on the 4-17 record posted in 2007-08. With a strong group of returning players, PHS has the foundation in place to make further strides next season.

PHS Boys’ Hockey Just Missed States but Laid Foundation for Future Success

Bill Alden

One of the most frequently voiced hockey maxims states that every shift is important.

The Princeton High boys’ hockey team learned the truth of that principle the hard way this winter.

In the last week of the regular season, PHS held a 2-1 lead over WW/P-S late in the third period only to see the Pirates score a late goal to pull out a tie.

Earlier in the season, the Little Tigers saw a 6-5 lead over Lawrence turn into a 6-6 tie by virtue of surrendering a goal in the waning seconds.

If PHS had taken care of business in those late shifts, the Little Tigers would have been in line to achieve the .500 record required to qualify for the state tournament.

Instead, PHS ended up at 7-10-2 and was on the sidelines last week when the state tourney got underway.

While just missing a trip to the postseason was disappointing, PHS still made big strides as it improved markedly on the 4-17 record posted in 2007-08.

PHS head coach Tim Campbell viewed the tie with WW/P-S as a microcosm of his team’s 2008-09 campaign.

“That game kind of symbolized our season, we fought hard in that game and came up just short,” said Campbell.

“We still took positive things from the game, that was a team that had annihilated us last season. To come out and compete with teams like that and Robbinsville and WW/P-N shows a lot.”

The WW/P-S contest showed Campbell’s players how important it is to play hard all 45 minutes of the game.

“We have meetings and I go through the score sheets with them and we were 24.5 seconds away from making the states,” lamented Campbell.

“They just need to realize how important it is to go full speed every game. I can tell them that but now they have gone through it themselves. I think that sets us up well for next year.”

With several key players returning, Campbell is optimistic about the program’s future.

“We are a young team, with a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” said Campbell, who got good production this season from sophomores Peter Twining, Fraser Graham, Dean DiTosto, Michael Irving, and Griffin Peck together with freshmen Will Greenberg, Josh Berger, and Kirby Peck.

“People don’t realize how young this team is. I put a lot of pressure on them and they don’t have a lot of experience. But I expect a lot out of them and that is the only way they are going to improve. We have a wonderful foundation. If we can get four or five good skaters coming in like we have the last two years, we should be very good.”

The younger players benefitted from the tutelage that they got from PHS’s veterans.

“Jeff Goeke took Fraser Graham under his wing the last two years and really helped him,” said Campbell.

“I expect guys like Fraser and Dean DiTosto to do that for the younger guys coming along.”

The graduation of senior stars Goeke and Billy Ward will leave a void for the guys coming along.

“Those are big skates to fill, they are great leaders on and off the ice,” said Campbell.

“They have seen a lot of ice time over the last two years, I am fully confident in the guys we have stepping up.”

Campbell likes the way his guys stepped up this winter as they earned respect around the Colonial Valley Conference.

“Overall, the attitude was much better,” said Campbell, noting that PHS went 6-6-2 in CVC games.

“The guys that had been with us last year had to learn that just because we were down a goal or two doesn’t mean that we are out of the game. We became a comeback team. We had more confidence. Even the losses were respectable losses. Last year we had a lot of blowout losses and it was hard to take anything positive from that.”

The returning players are taking a positive attitude into the offseason as they look to get over the hump and gain the elusive state tournament berth.

“A lot of them are going to hockey camps in Michigan and Minnesota, they also play in spring and summer leagues,” said Campbell.

“We have a lot of athletes, they play other sports in the spring. We will also be doing some workout routines in the weight room.”

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