December 1, 2021

Joining Gordon Conference, Debuting in State Tourney, PDS Boys’ Hockey Primed for Memorable Campaign

HAN SOLO: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Han Shin gets ready to fire the puck up the ice in a game last winter. Sophomore defenseman Shin figures to be a key performer for PDS this winter. The Panthers, who open their 2021-22 season by falling 3-2 to Pope John, play the Hun School on December 1 at the Ice Land Rink and then host St. Augustine on December 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The 2021-22 season will mark the dawn of a new era for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team.

While the storied program has established itself as a traditional power, winning state Prep and county titles and posting some memorable victories over Mid-Atlantic Hockey League foes like Lawrenceville and Hun, it is branching out this winter to join the Gordon Conference and compete in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) state Non-Public tournament for the first time.

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli is fired up about the program’s new path.

“I feel like the expectation and hope that it will be a normal, uninterrupted season — it lends itself right from the get-go to get really excited about being back on the ice,” said Bertoli, who guided his team to a 4-1-1 record last year in an abbreviated season.

“Every game we are going to play this year is a league game or a conference game. That is exciting.”

The Gordon Conference which includes such formidable foes as Delbarton, Don Bosco, Bergen Catholic, and Seton Hall Prep, among
others, will provide some stern tests for the Panthers.

“Personally I think it is awesome, it is a perfect fit for us,” said Bertoli, whose team fell 3-2 to Pope John in its Gordon debut last Monday.

“We have had relationships with many of those top programs for years. I think it puts our kids in a good situation on a number of fronts. As much as we attempted  to and have had a success against the boarding schools, there was a physical disadvantage because they are older. Some of those schools are bringing in post-grads. They focus on developing those kids whereas our focus is on the ninth graders. We inject ninth graders into our roster and those programs have kids two, three, four years older and six inches taller.”

PDS has brought in some exciting players this season with the arrival of Wyatt Ewanchyna, Ace Ewanchyna, Liam Jackson, and Rosheen Nissangaratchie.

“Wyatt is a new freshman. Through the first two and a half weeks and the first two scrimmages, he has shown he is a kid that can play,” said Bertoli.

“Ace came through PDS middle school and went to Lawrenceville. He transferred back this year and is a junior. Those are two kids that should step in offensively. They play the game the right way and understand the responsibility in all three zones. Liam is a sophomore and is a very good player. He may end up being our most complete player. He has got a way about him, he understands the game, he plays hard. He has very good offensive instincts and ability. Rosheen transferred from Delbarton. He is a very good player. He is complete, he plays both ends of the rink.”

A quartet of veterans, senior Adam Teryek, junior Ryan Vandal, junior Oliver Hall, and sophomore Riley Schmidt, figure to provide some offensive production as well.

“We are looking to these four to take on bigger and expanded roles, especially offensively,” said Bertoli, who got goals from Teryek and Hall in the loss to Pope John.

“They all have the ability to generate offense and be on the  scoresheet on a regular basis.”

As for the defensive units, sophomores Connor Stratton and Han Shin will have a big role.

“They are definitely the two that will play the most minutes,” said Bertoli.

“They have both gotten bigger and stronger. They were very good as freshmen; I am expecting bigger and better things this year.”

Bertoli is also expecting some good work on the blue line from senior Chris Babecki, junior Will Brown, and junior Cole Fenton.

“Chris is a forward/defenseman,” said Bertoli. “I think we will start him on the back end to solidify things there. Will and both players have looked to have improved. The big thing for both of them is confidence with the puck.”

Senior star goalie Timmy Miller is poised for a big final campaign.

“Timmy is back for his senior year, he looks awesome; we have had some great goaltenders here and to me, he is as good as we have had,” said Bertoli, noting that the squad has two solid backup goalies in sophomore Mason Watson and freshman Calvin Fenton.

“He is big, he understands the game, he is such a good kid, and he is a competitor. He had a ton of success last year, he played five games but I think his goals against was just outstanding. He will be our starter and will play most of our games in net. We are pretty comfortable with what we have backing Timmy up this year.”

In Bertoli’s view, his squad can be outstanding at both ends of the ice.

“I anticipate us being strong defensively, we did a really nice job last year; our goals against was really low, I think it was sub two,” said Bertoli.

“So with Timmy and a group of five retuning defensemen and some new pretty talented freshman in there, I expect us to be good back there. Up front we are balanced. We don’t have an elite level scorer like we have had in the past. It is having two or three of the guys kind of step through and be the guy on the power play and be the guy who can be out there in critical minutes when you need a goal. It is just figuring out what that combination is because I don’t expect it to fall on one or two guys. Through preseason, we have been really good on the rush and have scored some nice goals.”

In order to be really good on offense, the Panthers will need to show some grit.

“We are really harping on these guys, they can’t be one-dimensional and just live off the rush,” said Bertoli, whose team plays the Hun School on December 1 at the Ice Land Rink and then hosts St. Augustine on December 7.

“It is exciting but for any type of sustained success, you have got to eat minutes up and the puck cannot be in their end the majority of the game. They can’t just play in the rush, they need to engage and battle. I tell the kids year in, year out, you should work hardest in the offensive zone, that is where you should just be relentless and pursue the puck.”