March 29, 2017

Hun Hockey Star Brown, PHS Swimmer Tang Earn Nod as Town Topics’ Winter Standouts

MILLER TIME: Princeton High boys’ hockey head coach Terrence Miller surveys the action in a game this season. Miller led PHS to one of the greatest seasons in program history as the Little Tigers went 19-4-4 and made its first-ever appearance in the state Public A semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

During his freshman season with the Hun School boys’ hockey team in 2013-14, Blake Brown made an immediate impact as a star on the squad’s so-called “Killer B’s” line.

Combining with classmates Evan Barratt and Jon Bendorf, the trio’s skill and productivity helped Hun become a powerhouse.

The high-powered Raiders won the Mercer County Tournament and the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title that winter, posting a final record of 20-7.

In their sophomore year, the Killer B’s helped Hun enjoy one of the greatest seasons in program history as the Raiders went 22-3-4, winning a second straight county crown and the program’s first state Prep title since 1996.

With Barratt leaving before the 2015-16 season to join the USA hockey development program, Brown and Bendorf soldiered on, helping Hun to a third straight MCT crown and a 17-8-2 record.

But this winter, Brown was the last of the trio remaining on the team as Bendorf headed to the junior ranks.

Serving as team captain along with classmate and star defenseman Tanner Preston, Brown helped hold an undermanned Hun team together as it took its lumps, including a 0-8 January.

Although the Raiders came into the MCT with a 4-15 record and seeded seventh, Brown and his teammates were undeterred as they went after a fourth straight county crown.

“Some of the other teams had a lot more guys than us,” said Brown, reflecting on the rough regular season.

“It got us ready for this tournament. Without a doubt, we have had this on our minds since last year.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally credited Brown with playing a key role in keeping Hun’s minds on the end game.

“Almost every game for long stretches we were right in it and to their credit, they thought that too,” said McNally.

“No one was ever like ‘this season is terrible’ or ‘we are bad;’ everyone was in it the whole time with this being the light at the end of the tunnel. When we get to the MCT and we get Notre Dame and PHS, those will be good games and we will be able to score more goals. With Blake and Tanner, we know what we are getting out of them, they are consistent.”

Showing its class, Hun topped Pennington 7-1 in the first round of the MCT, Lawrence 7-0 in the quarters, and Notre Dame 6-3 in the semis to earn a shot at top-seeded Princeton High in the title game.

Coming through in the clutch against the Little Tigers, Brown had two assists in the title game to help Hun earn a thrilling 4-3 victory over PHS and a fourth county crown in his high school finale.

“It is the perfect way to end my high school career, I couldn’t imagine a better way to finish it,” said a grinning Brown, who led Hun with 38 points on 21 goals and 17 assists and ended up with 191 points in his career on 89 goals and 102 assists.

“I love everyone I have ever played with, especially these boys. We were just able to bring it out in the last game.”

For sticking with the Hun program and saving his best for last, Brown is the choice as the Town Topics top male performer of the winter high school season.

Top Female Performer

Over her first three seasons with the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, Melinda Tang quietly took care of business.

Barely saying a word on the deck, Tang starred from her freshman year in the freestyle and butterfly events. She won the 100 butterfly and took fourth in the 400 freestyle at the Mercer County Swimming Championships in her freshman year to help the Little Tigers win a second straight team title.

As a sophomore, Tang placed first in the 100 fly again in the county meet as PHS rolled to another title.

In her junior year, she teamed up with senior stars Brianna Romaine, and Madeleine Deardoff along with sophomore standout Abbey Berloco to help the Little Tigers swamp the competition at the county meet. Tang, for her part, placed first in the 200 free and third in the 400 free.

With Romaine and Deardorff having graduated and Berloco transferring to Notre Dame, Tang knew she needed to make noise in a big leadership role for the Little Tigers in her senior campaign.

“I feel like I have gotten a lot closer with everyone else on my team as a captain this year,” said Tang.

“I got to know all of the underclassmen, all of the upperclassmen and I just thought it was great. I was a really quiet freshman; I feel like I have gotten more vocal.”

PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz has enjoyed seeing Tang speak up as a senior.

“She can’t stop talking,” said Misiewicz. “She has grown into a leader and definitely fills that leadership role on the team.”

Tang showed her leadership and determination at her final county meet, fighting through a bad cold to win the 100 butterfly and set a meet record time of 1:02.80 in the preliminary round.

“This year was my last chance to get it; I have been trying to get it since I was a freshman,” said Tang. “I was really, really happy that I got it this time.”

Tang savored taking part in her final county meet. “I just wanted to be here for the last time; this year everything has been a series of lasts which is making me nostalgic,” said Tang, who also placed fourth in the 200 freestyle to help PHS take fifth in the team standings.

The University of Chicago-bound Tang ended the season by taking sixth in the 100-yard butterfly at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, clocking a time of 56.51 in her finale.

Tang’s consistent excellence and emergence as a leader as a senior earns her the nod as the top female performer this winter.

Top Newcomers

With senior forward Anthony Trainor and sophomore forward Robbie Trainor proving to be solid performers for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, the Trainor family had already made a valuable contribution to the program.

But the addition of a third Trainor, freshman forward Aidan, this winter helped transform PHS into one of the top teams in the area. The shifty Trainor showed he was special from day one, tallying a goal and four assists in a season opening 10-2 win over Nottingham.

With the precocious Trainor skating with classmate Rocco Salvato and senior captain Brendon McCormick on the team’s top line, PHS roared out to a 12-0-1 start, snapping Notre Dame’s 81-game winning streak against Colonial Valley Conference foes in the process.

“Aidan is just a smooth skater,” said PHS head coach Terence Miller, reflecting on the freshman’s quick start. “The thing I like most about him is that his feet never stop moving. He has poise with the puck on his stick.

Trainor showed that poise by coming up big in the Public A state tournament as the Little Tigers advanced to the semifinals for the first time in program history.

In the opening round, Trainor contributed two goals as the ninth-seeded Little Tigers posted a 6-3 win over 24th-seeded Ridgewood. Trainor scored the game-winning goal in overtime as PHS prevailed 3-2 in a second-round contest at eighth-seeded Southern.

Trainor’s signature performance of the season came when he scored four goals as PHS stunned top-seeded Morris Knolls 5-2 in the state quarters.

“Aidan once again comes through in the clutch for us,” said Miller of Trainor’s performance in the states. “He really doesn’t play like a freshman. He and Brendon have a chemistry that is undeniable.”

Trainor added an assist in the state semis as PHS fell 6-3 to 13th-seeded Watchung Hills, ending the season with 61 points on 22 goals and 39 assists.

For his productivity and clutch play, Trainor is the pick as the top male newcomer of the winter.

Before Gia Massari even played her first game for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team, it was clear that she was going to be a force.

“Gia Massari stands out all over the ice, she is going to come in and infuse our offense right away; she plays for the Tiger Lilies U14s and is their captain,” said PDS head coach Lorna Cook as she looked ahead to the 2016-17 campaign.

Massari got off to a fast start, tallying a goal and an assist in season-opening 8-1 win over Pingry.

The prolific forward kept firing away, leading PDS in scoring with 35 points on 22 goals and 13 assists, helping the Panthers go 15-11-1 as they advanced to the state Prep final and took third in WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) Hengerer Division playoffs.

In the view of Cook, Massari provided more than scoring to the Panthers.

“Gia gives everything she has and I think she sets an example there but then she is also so skilled and so smart,” said Cook of Massari who ended being named the state girls’ hockey Rookie of the Year by

“She is very selfless on the ice too, she is always looking to make the right play so I think, especially as a freshman, she gives everyone that confidence of having a player who is just giving it everything. She has a lot of composure too and even though she is only a freshman, she has a mature way about her.”

Massari’s brilliant play in her debut campaign earns her the nod as the top female newcomer.

Top Coaches

Terence Miller had the sense that the Princeton High boys’ hockey team could do some special things this winter.

With a roster including seven seniors, some key transfers, and a talented freshmen group, Miller saw big things ahead for the Little Tigers.

“For the first time in years, it looks like we are going to have some serious depth,” said Miller.

“PHS has typically been two lines and maybe three defenseman and a scrappy little goalie. I can’t remember the last time that PHS had this kind of depth. We are putting our lines together and I never had so many options to play around with.”

Miller deftly deployed the weapons at his disposal, guiding the Little Tigers to a 12-0-1 start, including a win over Notre Dame which ended its 81-game winning streak against Colonial Valley Conference foes.

After going 14-2-4 in regular season play, PHS was seeded No. 1 in the Mercer County Tournament and rolled to the title game for a clash with three-time defending champion Hun.

Trailing the Raiders 3-1 heading into the third period of the championship clash, the Little Tigers rallied to tie the game at 3-3 before falling 4-3 in a thriller.

That performance propelled PHS to a memorable run in the Public A state tournament with the ninth-seeded Little Tigers turning heads in putting together a string of impressive wins.

PHS started the tourney with a 6-3 victory 24th-seeded Ridgewood. In the second round at eighth-seeded Southern, PHS overcame a 2-1 third period deficit to win 3-2 in overtime. In the state quarters, PHS pulled off a stunning upset, defeated top-seeded Morris Knolls 5-2, earning the program’s first-ever appearance in a state semifinal.

While PHS fell 6-3 to 13th-seeded Watchung Hills in the semis, Miller took great pride in what the team accomplished. “We had a hell of a run,” said Miller. “It stings. We felt this game was there for the taking too; that makes it a little worse.”

In reflecting on PHS’ memorable stretch drive, Miller credited the team’s seniors with leading the way.

“It was the seniors, Brendon (McCormick), Eamonn (McDonald), Tooker (Callaway), and Sawyer (Peck) in net, those four really carried us,” said Miller, whose group of seniors also included Zach Bouchenoir, Pascal Meier, and Anthony Trainor.

“It was kind of the perfect storm for us, we had a great senior class. We had a couple of good transfer students (Meier and Nick Ashcroft). We had a couple of phenomenal freshmen (Rocco Salvato and Aidan Trainor). All of that together equalled a solid team that was able to make some noise this year.”

The team’s inspiring 19-4-4 campaign won’t be forgotten any time soon.

“I told the guys that we took the program to the next level; we hadn’t been in this spot before,” said Miller.

“This is the farthest we have ever gotten. The whole school and the whole town and all of the congratulations I have gotten, you could feel it. These guys made a mark. They it took it up another notch.”

Miller’s role in helping PHS reach new heights makes him the choice as a top coach of a male team this winter.

For longtime Hun School girls’ basketball head coach Bill Holup, the 2015-16 season was a nightmare.

Hun went 1-22, getting blown out on most nights with its one win coming early in the season.

With the addition of such key players as sophomore Jada Jones and freshman Alexis Harvell and Nicole Angelini along with post-graduate guard Anna Maguire, Holup was confident that the Raiders could be much more competitive this winter.

“Our numbers are higher overall; we had a lot more girls interested in coming out for basketball,” said Holup.

“Having more players out there has transformed the whole atmosphere. The kids are all very personable with one another right now. The spirit is very high. The returning girls see that some of the new girls that are here have some more skills than what we saw last year.”

Displaying that new spirit, Hun opened the season with a 37-20 win over Germantown Friends (Pa.) on the way to a 3-3 start. Even with star guard Maguire missing 11 games due to a leg injury, the Raiders hung in there, finishing the season with a 10-14 record and a lot of hope for the future.

“We had 10 times as many wins as last year; I was very happy with how the season went,” said Holup.

“On top of that, it was just a great group of kids. They were competitive, they were just fun to be around. We are back in the upswing with the kids that we have coming back. Hopefully we will have a nice solid season next year and continue the momentum that we ended this season with.”

For getting Hun back on the upswing, Holup is the pick as the top coach of a female team this winter.