Enjoying Big Opening Weekend at Shady Side Classic, Hun Boys’ Hockey Displays Potential As It Goes 3-1
BREAKING THE ICE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Nick Dimatos skates in a 2019 game. Post-graduate defenseman and co-captain Dimatos will be leading the blue line unit for the Raiders this winter. Last weekend, Hun started its season by going 3-1 in the Shady Side Academy Thanksgiving Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Princeton Day School on December 1 and St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.) on December 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Things were pretty bleak last winter for the Hun School boys’ hockey team as it only got to play three games due to COVID-19 concerns.
“There was a lot of anticipation for last year; you have these little windows where you can be pretty competitive and I think last year seemed like the pinnacle of one,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally.
“Everybody was very excited to play and then we didn’t; the air came out.”
Understandably, the Hun squad was very excited to start the 2021-22 season by heading to Pittsburgh, Pa., last weekend to compete in the Shady Side Academy Thanksgiving Classic where it played more games in three days than it did all season, going 3-1 at the event.
“Once we got on the ice here this season, the excitement was very high,” said McNally.
“People started looking around, saying wait a minute, we are going to be pretty good. The whole point of doing this tournament was to feel like we were hitting the ground rolling in December instead of it taking a couple weeks for you to get going. That is what we got out of it.”
After losing 5-2 to host Shady Side last Friday to open the season, Hun rebounded with a 7-2 win over the Blyth Academy (Ontario).
“We scored three or four goals early on in the first
period, it changed the whole game,” said McNally, who got two goals and two assists from Elian Estulin in the win with Seth Kaplan chipping in a goal and four assists.
We have a pretty strong first line for sure and they broke free. They put up a bunch of points.”
Building on that win, Hun posted two more wins, topping St. Francis (N.Y.) 2-1 and then defeating Hoosac School (N.Y.) 4-1 to end the weekend at 3-1.
“It just kept going, we played St. Francis and that was a closer game,” said McNally.
“We played Hoosac who tied Exeter last week and plays Avon Old Farms next week. They are a legit independent New England team and we beat them. We got to learn how to win in different ways in all of the different games. We had to fight to preserve leads in the third period so I think it will be very beneficial to our team.”
The squad’s top line of senior Riley Frost, junior Estulin, and post-graduate Kaplan should provide plenty of firepower this winter.
“Riley is back, he got hurt his sophomore year and didn’t get to play his junior year,” said McNally.
“He has been waiting to explode here I think. He did very well last weekend and the same thing with Elian who played for us a freshman and was good. Now he is a junior and he is big and strong and he is
showing what he can do here too. Seth, who put up 10 points this weekend, was at Mo-Beard and he is doing a post-grad year. He realized he needed a little more before going off to college.”
Two newcomers, post-grad Ryan Croddick and sophomore Brendan Marino, should give the Raiders some more scoring.
“Ryan is committed to Princeton for lacrosse as a goalie; he played at Rumson Fair Haven last year and he is a good hockey player,” said McNally.
“There is another kid Brendan who is from Ontario, he is also a high end lacrosse kid.”
Hun features a pair of high-end defensemen in post-grad Nick Dimatos and senior Christian Clover.
“Nick has got offensive skills, I think we are able to win because he decided to also be a very good defensive player,” said McNally of Dimatos, a stalwart for the Hun program over the last few seasons who was granted an extra year at the school due to the unique circumstances surrounding COVID.
“I think this is a year for him to feel like he is a big part of whether we win or lose every game. In one game at Shady Side, he scored both of our goals. The other one on defense is Christian, he is much more defensive-minded. He is our typical heavy hitter, blocking shots where Nick is the offensive guy.”
The Raiders boast some depth along the blue line. “We have plenty of kids who could be defensemen, of the six who played this weekend, Josh Ouellette is the one who will stand out more,” said McNally.
“He came last year and didn’t get to play much. He scored a couple of goals, he is strong and fast.”
The pair of senior Jack Borek and junior Stephen Chen will be sharing goaltending duties.
“They are both good, I think they will rotate unless there is a reason not to,” said McNally.
“They both played really well over the weekend. I think they like each other and having a quality person to be around.”
Playing good defense will be a key to success for the Raiders this winter.
“I think our ability to play a desperate defensive game will be a difference,” said McNally.
“Usually we have out high-powered three or four kids every year who are happy to score goals and if we are better than a team we win. This weekend we showed each other even in a tough game, we have the ability to get the win in the gritty ways.”
In McNally’s view, the opening weekend helped solidify the bonds among the players that should make a difference for Hun.
“It is a different vibe right now; it is a very good chemistry that I haven’t seen in very many teams and I think that is going to carry us,” said McNally, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on December 1 and St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.) on December 2.
“The offense is there naturally; we have had good hockey players but everybody is going to share for sake of winning. I think this weekend it was nice to see it. Everybody was very happy on the ride home as a result.”