January 3, 2018

With Sophomore Star Trainor Triggering Rally PHS Boys’ Hockey Tops Cranford, Moves to 6-1-2

A-TRAIN: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Aidan Trainor controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Sophomore forward Trainor scored two goals to help PHS rally from a 3-0 deficit as it defeated Cranford 5-4 on December 22. The Little Tigers, who improved to 6-1-2 with the win, start the 2018 portion of their schedule when they face Steinert on January 3 and Notre Dame on January 5 at the Mercer County Skating Center and then play at Wayne Valley on January 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High boys’ hockey team fell behind Cranford 3-0 in the first period of its final game in 2017, Aidan Trainor wasn’t fazed.

“That was kind of rough falling down early,” said PHS sophomore forward Trainor, reflecting on the December 22 contest played at Baker Rink. “We knew we had the offensive power to come back.”

Trainor started the comeback by finding the back of the net with a blast from the point with 3:43 left in the first period.

Patrick [McDonald] did a good job carrying the puck down the ice and I was hopping off the bench and coming into the zone and he just gave me the puck,” said Trainor. “The goalie kind of gave me that upper corner, so I just fired it and I was lucky enough to score.”

Trainor’s tally changed the tone of the contest as PHS closed the gap to 3-2 with by Ben Drezner in the second period.

“Hockey is a game of momentum so that was a good one to get and get our offense going and know what we need to do to be more successful in the offensive end,” said Trainor.

The Little Tigers kept things going, scoring three goals in the third period to pull out a 5-4 victory and take a 6-1-2 record into the holidays.

“Going into the third we knew what we had to do. We knew we had to lock down on defense and play hard, strong offense,” said Trainor. “It felt it was going our way to so we were happy to see that.”

After his younger brother, freshman forward Colm, scored to make it 3-3 early in the third period, Trainor notched the go-ahead goal with 4:11 remaining regulation on an assist by classmate Rocco Salvato.

“Rocco carried it all the way down the ice; we have had a great partnership since last year,” said Trainor.

“Rocco dropped me the puck at the top; I was shooting to get a rebound for him to get but the defenseman made a screen.”

In Trainor’s view, the rally was a great display of character by the Little Tigers.

“It just shows that we can fight through anything,” said Trainor. “That is a pretty big hole to dig ourselves out of; it was good to see that we came back after that. I think we came out a little flatfooted but to be able to climb out of that was great.”

After a big postseason run last year that saw PHS make the program’s first-ever appearance in the state Public A semifinals, the returning players are bringing a greater self-belief into this winter.

“Going into this season, we know we should be at the top of our division,” said Trainor. “We had a lot of momentum coming out of last year; it was good for us. We gained a new sense of confidence.”

PHS is gaining confidence in new head coach Tim Chase, the successor to Terence Miller.

“It is different playing and coaching styles,” said Trainor. “It was a big adjustment for all of us but I think coach Chase is doing a great job with us. If we just listen him we are going to get better each game and each practice.”

PHS head coach Chase, for his part, was proud of how his players adjusted in the win over Cranford.

“When you get some bad bounces at the beginning of the game and things aren’t going well, it is nice that the guys didn’t quit,” said Chase.

“You find out what the character of your team is. That was the good point, we kept plugging away and eventually got the goals in.”

Chase credited Trainor with playing a major role in sparking the rally. “Aidan is a good player, he reads the play, he is strong on the puck and he cycles well,” said Chase. “The other guys feed off of that. On the bench, they see that and it gets the other guys fired up so that is a big part of our game.”

In Chase’s view, spreading the wealth offensively is a major strength of the PHS squad.

“Each line did a pretty good job of keeping the pressure,” said Chase, who also got a goal from Stephen Avis to put PHS up 5-3 before it surrendered an extra attacker goal with 1:15 left in the game.

“We have balanced scoring, we have balanced pressure. Each of our three lines was able to pressure the puck, which is going to be important if we want to go anywhere in the states.”

Although Chase is pleased with his team’s superb 6-1-2 start, he sees room for improvement.

“In our zone we are still a little sloppy. I am a little frustrated that we haven’t quite figured some of that out,” said Chase, noting that defenseman Augie Preziosi is sidelined by injury and Ryan McCormick was unavailable for the Cranford game

“Defensively, it is focusing a little more on our roles, not doing someone else’s job and running around. It is keeping that pressure and that balanced attack. We are pretty good where we are at right now. If we can build on that and get a little more cohesiveness in our zone, we will be fine.”

Trainor, for his part, is confident that the Little Tigers can go on a good run as they head into the homestretch.

“I am happy with our record, we won the games we should have,” said Trainor. “We need to learn from our loss and our ties and see what we need to do moving forward. I am looking forward to the rest of this season.”