January 11, 2017

PHS Boys’ Hockey Snaps Notre Dame’s CVC Streak As Star Defenseman Garlock Plays Pivotal Role

STREAK BUSTERS: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Max Garlock controls the puck in action last Friday against Notre Dame. Junior defenseman Garlock had two assists in the contest as PHS edged the Irish 4-3, snapping their 81-game winning streak against Colonial Valley Conference foes. The Little Tigers, now 10-0-2, have a rematch against Notre Dame on January 11 at the Mercer County Park rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, last Friday was a date that had been circled on its calendar for a while.

It marked the first meeting this season between PHS and perennial Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) powerhouse Notre Dame, which hadn’t lost to a conference foe since falling to the Little Tigers in the Mercer County Tournament championship game in 2011.

With PHS entering the game with a 9-0-2 record, Max Garlock and his Little Tiger teammates felt that they had what it took to snap Notre Dame’s 81-game winning streak against CVC foes.

“When we played Notre Dame and lost in the county semis last year, that was rough,” said PHS junior defenseman Garlock.

“I think we definitely came back and we knew that we were going to get it.”

With the Mercer County Park rink packed and buzzing for the long-awaited clash, PHS got in an early hole as they fell behind 1-0 just over four minutes into the contest.

Garlock, though, wasn’t concerned by the early deficit. “I knew we would get it right back up,” said Garlock. “It is like when we played Wall last week, we were down 5-2 and we still came back.”

About five minutes later, PHS answered as freshman star Rocco Salvato scored to make it 1-1. In the second period, each team got two goals, with Garlock assisting on a Brendon McCormick goal late in the frame.

With the rivals knotted at 3-3 coming into the third, Garlock came up with another assist, setting up a goal by Aidan Trainor with 8:49 left in regulation. After holding off a valiant charge by a desperate Notre Dame squad, that goal proved to be the difference as the Little Tigers prevailed 4-3, triggering a raucous post-game celebration with the PHS players jumping all over each other on the ice.

“Freshman year, we got smoked, last year we were building it up and we were closer,” said a beaming Garlock, reflecting on the triumph.

“It is unbelievable, I don’t know how to describe it. I have played hockey for 11 years and I have never had a win like this before.”

The PHS defensive unit, which featured junior transfer Nick Ashcroft and senior co-captains Tooker Callaway and Eamonn McDonald along with Garlock, played a key role in the win.

“It was nice with Nick Ashcroft coming back and Tooker (Callaway) off the injury,” said Garlock.

“We were fully loaded. This is the first game we have played with everybody here so definitely that factored into it and I really enjoyed it.”

Garlock enjoyed setting up senior star McCormick for PHS’s third goal.

“I was just sending it to the net,” said Garlock. “I may not have the greatest shot but I get it through.”

On the game-winning goal, Garlock sent the puck through to the team’s top line of McCormick and precocious freshmen stars, Rocco Salvato and Aidan Trainor.

“I saw movement, especially from our top offensive line, they are good,” said Garlock.

“We have two freshmen and a senior. They have played one year together and they definitely have the chemistry.”

In Garlock’s view, team chemistry has been the key ingredient in PHS’s sizzling 10-0-2 start.

“Everybody does something; it doesn’t matter how old, what skill level you are, whether you are in the stands, on the bench or on the ice,” asserted Garlock. “Everyone is coming in together and that is what is special about this team.”

PHS head coach Terence Miller sensed that Friday would be a special evening for his team.

“The atmosphere was great; we had a great turnout from our school, everyone was looking forward to this game,” said Miller.

“Back to our first team meeting in September, we talked about playing Notre Dame. We were certainly looking forward to this and I was happy that we put on a good performance.”

While not wanting to put extra pressure on his players, Miller believed that PHS was primed to derail Notre Dame.

“A lot of people were kind of hyping us up from the beginning of the year but we knew that we were still the underdog in this game,” said Miller.

“These guys have won 81 straight so we know they have a good team over there. We felt a little added incentive to be the team that can knock them off so it is gratifying to get this one.”

The Little Tigers showed resilience, battling back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits over the course of the heated contest.

“It was nice to get that one back, we always try to get the first goal to get ourselves moving,” said Miller.

“We didn’t tonight so it was nice to be able to come back. We fell behind a few times. The second period was wild, back and forth.”

It has been nice for Miller to see the production he has been getting from his top line.

“Aidan and Rocco have the poise and maturity of seniors; they certainly don’t act, play, or behave like freshmen,” said Miller, who got two goals from Salvato in the win with Trainor chipping in a goal and two assists and McCormick contributing a goal and an assist.

“To have them is a luxury. We couldn’t be happier with the way they blend in with Brendon on that line.”

Miller was also happy with the play of his team in the defensive zone as goalie Sawyer Peck made 18 saves and his corps of defensemen, McDonald, Ashcroft, Callaway, and Garlock, used rugged play to help thwart the Irish.

“They were coming strong and Sawyer held it down,” said Miller. “Nick and Max played well. We tried to zero in on a couple of their top scorers. All four defensemen that played tonight were solid.”

With PHS facing Notre Dame on January 11 in a rematch and the county and state tournaments around the corner, Miller believes the Little Tigers can build on the big victory last Friday.

“This is probably the most gratifying regular season win, certainly in my
tenure,” asserted Miller.

“I couldn’t be more happy with the effort; things are coming together. We are thrilled with the win but we are right back to work. We have these guys again in five days and the playoffs is the most important thing.”

In Garlock’s view, the squad will be ready for round two with Notre Dame as it looks to lay the foundation for a postseason run.

“It is going to be another challenge and hopefully we will face it, just like we did this one,” said Garlock.

“We see us building. Last year was a little bit of a bummer, going to Mendham and losing in states. This year we can definitely do some damage. I am looking forward to it.”