January 27, 2016

Exuding Confidence at Both Ends of the Ice, Vitucci Emerging as Force for Hun Boys’ Hockey


VITAL COG: Hun School boys’ hockey player Frank Vitucci, right, tangles with a foe in a game last season. Last Wednesday, sophomore forward Vitucci tallied a goal and an assist to help Hun defeat Gloucester Catholic 5-2. The win, which was Hun’s fifth straight and 10th in the last 11 games, improved the Raiders to 11-5-2. Hun is slated to play at St. Joseph’s (Metuchen) on January 27 before starting play in the state Prep tournament where the third-seeded Raiders will play at No. 2 Princeton Day School in the semifinals on February 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Frank Vitucci was primed to make a bigger impact this winter in his sophomore season with the Hun School boys’ hockey team.

“I am more confident with the puck,” said Vitucci. “Last year I was a little more timid, I grew as a player over the summer.”

Last Wednesday, Vitucci showed his growth as a player, tallying a goal and an assist to help Hun defeat Gloucester Catholic 5-2 as the Raiders improved to 11-5-2, posting their fifth straight win and 10th in the last 11 games.

“It was a good one for us, Diesel (senior goalie Diesel Pelke) played well on the back end and we had some good efforts from the forwards, getting pucks in and out,” said Vitucci.

“We played great on the defensive zone. We did what we had to do and we capitalized on a couple of power plays, which is always nice.”

Vitucci helped trigger Hun’s first power play goal as he set up a Jon Bendorf tally with 6:03 left in the first period.

“Tanner (Preston) made a great face-off and slid it over to me,” said Vitucci. “I just saw Jon wide open back door and he was able to finish it.”

Late in the third period, Vitucci scored a goal to make it 3-1 Hun as he swooped up the ice and fired a top-shelf blast past the Gloucester goalie.

“I was able luckily to jump up into the play, I picked it off,” said Vitucci.

“Justin Grossman was standing right in front, it was a good screen. I just found a way to get it through.”

Playing with junior stars Bendorf and Blake Brown has helped Vitucci’s play.

“It always helps, they are great players,” said Vitucci, who has been taking shifts at defenseman with Bendorf in addition to playing on a forward line with the the junior standouts.

“They find me when I am open and I find them. It is great playing with them, they open up the ice. We do what we have to do in the defensive zone and we capitalize when we have to.”

Reflecting on Hun’s great run of recent form, Vitucci believes the team is clicking on all cylinders.

“We are playing together and coming together as a team, which is always great,” said Vitucci.

“We are moving the puck and we are finishing when we have to and Diesel is playing big in net. Winning that many games in a row always feels good; it boosts our confidence a little more.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally is pleased with how things are coming together for his squad.

“We just feel like we are going to win all the time; once you get to that place mentally, things start to work out no matter what,” said McNally, who got two goals from Bendorf and one apiece from Brown, Vitucci, and Griffin Moroney in the win over Gloucester Catholic.

“This wasn’t the best game, we are on a trend right now where we score a fair amount of goals and it is always different guys scoring. Tonight four guys scored the five goals and the other night (a 6-1 win over Bishop Eustace on January 18) six scored six.”

Against Gloucester, the Raiders went into overdrive after the Rams knotted the game at 1-1, scoring two unanswered goals in the last 2:46 of the second period to regain control of the contest.

“We are up 1-0 and it was pretty stale I thought; all of a sudden the shots went the other way from it being tilted in our direction,” said McNally.

“Their goal woke us up a little bit which you hope isn’t the need. They were comfortable and then all of a sudden it is 1-1 and they had to dig in and it went to 3-1.”

Vitucci has been digging in at both ends of the ice for Hun. “Frank has been absolutely awesome; we are asking him to do something he doesn’t know how to do, playing defense for basically half the game,” said McNally.

“The first time we put him back he said ‘coach I don’t know what I am doing’ and we said ‘don’t worry about it, do what you think is right.’ He is able to pick off passes and jump up into the play, that is what we are trying to do if we have those guys back. When we do have a chance, let them take it.”

Cashing in on his chances has helped Vitucci become more assertive this winter.

“He grew and he has more confidence” added McNally of the 6’0, 170-pound Vitucci.

“The way he holds himself at the rink during games, he acts like he has been here four years and it is his show. He does it in a very positive way.”

McNally is hoping that his team can maintain the positive mindset it has developed in its recent surge.

“We go into intermission at 2-2 and we think we are going to win,” said

“We have that mentality that it is eventually going to happen and that is dangerous. Losing is contagious too. Right now winning is contagious for us. It is addictive, once you get a little bit you want more and more. There have been a couple of teams we have played in the past five games that could have feasibly won the game. If you’re not used to winning maybe you can’t pull that out but right now we are used to winning.”

With Hun slated to play at St. Joseph’s (Metuchen) on January 27 before starting play in the state Prep tournament where the third-seeded Raiders will play at No. 2 Princeton Day School in the semifinals on February 2, McNally knows it is crunch time for his squad.

“That is what you have your eye on, even when you play these games you are talking about those tournaments at the end of the year,” said McNally.

“The win on Wednesday night isn’t the most important thing. You take this, even when you are up 5-1, you are playing in a way where you are getting ready for the prep, for the county, for the Hill tournaments.”

Vitucci, for his part, believes the Raiders can come through in a big way in postseason.

“We have to keep our heads right, keep winning games, and get some more confidence going in,” said Vitucci. “It is coming up and we will be ready.”