December 22, 2021

Despite Producing an Up-and-Down 5-5 Start, Hun Boys’ Hockey Sees Potential for Big Finish

FROST ADVISORY: Hun School boys’ hockey player Riley Frost controls the puck in recent action. Senior forward Frost has tallied three goals and six assists to help Hun get off to a 5-5 start. The Raiders are next in action when they host Don Bosco on January 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Hun School boys’ hockey team has gotten off to an up-and-down 5-5 start, Ian McNally believes the record is not an accurate barometer of his squad’s potential.

“Everybody we have played has been good, we have shown each other that there is something here and we are not out of it in either of our leagues,” said Hun head coach McNally, whose program competes in both the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) and the
Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference (APAC).

“There is potential to play for playoff spots and the hope to have a big finish. In some of these pretty disappointing losses against PDS (a 2-1 defeat on December 1) and Lawrenceville (a 5-4 defeat on December 14) where you feel like you deserved better, maybe that comes back around in the end. There is enough optimism there for that, we have had some big moments so far. The biggest takeaway is the proof, showing each other we can beat all of these teams.”

The Raiders came tantalizingly close to beating Lawrenceville, taking a 4-1 lead early in the third period only to see the Big Red score four unanswered goals to pull out the win.

“They scored early and then we got up 3-1, it was a very similar game a few weeks ago when we were in Pittsburgh,” said McNally.

“We played Hoosac (N.Y.) and we won 4-1. It was fast, hard. We were getting our shots and competing and we made the best of our chances. In the Lawrenceville game, they were never not there. They probably could have scored on some other occasions. We were holding on but as soon as it started to go, it went in a hurry.”

Junior forward Elian Estulin starred in the defeat for Hun, tallying three goals.

“Elian took over, he scored on every chance he had,” said McNally.

“They weren’t flukey, he scored some legitimate goals. It was him on the end of it and he scored. He has definitely been playing great. If you were an outsider watching that game, you would be saying who is that kid. He was the difference maker. He just full of confidence and it was awesome to see.”

Another player who has been making a difference for the Raiders is Seth Kaplan, a post-graduate who previously starred at Morristown-Beard.

“We were lucky to have him show up on our doorstep for us,” said McNally of Kaplan who had three assists against Lawrenceville.

“He didn’t anticipate playing hockey this year. He was going to go to college. He changed plans last minute and decided to do a post grad year to get more ready for it, not hockey-related. He was looking for a boarding situation and landed at Hun. He said I play hockey, can I play. I knew him, we had played against him. He has been great. I think it is this pressure-free, fun situation for him that he is taking advantage of.”

Estulin and Kaplan have combined with senior Riley Frost on the team’s top line along with senior defenseman Nick Dimatos to give Hun a potent attack.

“We have played 10 games but four of them came that weekend in Pittsburgh,” said McNally, referring to the season-opening Shady Side Academy Thanksgiving Classic.

“Those guys Estulin, Kaplan, and Frost were a line and Nick Dimatos playing D at the same time all had big production weekends. Everybody played great but certainly they were the ones on the finishing end of things on a lot of the play. They are being counted on to be the ones providing the offense and they have. If you look at our stats, you know who the first line is.”

Two other players, senior Josh Ouellette and post-grad Ryan Croddick, have also been providing production.

“Josh has been a secondary scoring threat which has been nice,” said McNally.

“He has scored some timely goals. He shoots and scores from the blue line like an NHL defenseman would score, not like a high school defenseman. The other guy that is part of that mix is another kid who just landed in our lap in Ryan. He is a postgrad from Rumson Fair Haven and is a lacrosse commit to Princeton. He is a lacrosse goalie and he ended up at Hun through that. He has been awesome. He is smart, quiet but big and strong.”

Another lacrosse player, sophomore Brendan Marino, is making his presence felt on the ice.

“We don’t count in his scoring game but he has been scoring a lot regardless,” added McNally.

“He has got a good little shot. He is our youngest kid, he is the only sophomore on the team. He is a guy who came to us through lacrosse. When we played Holy Ghost and we kind of found something on offense and we won 6-1. He scored twice on great little quick shots. He buried them and he came back to the bench smiling saying this feels like lacrosse. I finally get to score some goals.”

At goalie, senior Jack Borek and junior Stephen Chen have formed a solid rotation.

“They have both played five games but Stephen has had some pretty big moments so far,” said McNally.

“The biggest one was when we played St Joe’s Prep. It was 0-0 through overtime. I felt like we had the puck two-thirds of the game but we kept letting up chances. For every one of our two good chances, we let up a breakaway or a 2 on 1 and he was super human. He stopped all three shootout shots and we won 1-0. We should have scored more but we won because of him. It was a coming out party for him. He has had to wait his turn.”

With Hun currently on holiday break and returning to action when it hosts Don Bosco on January 6, McNally believes his squad has what it takes to come out on top down the stretch.

“You have your scrimmages, you have your tournament and then you have your first league games,” said McNally.

“In January, it starts this six-week sprint, it is grueling. By the time you get to February, you have been playing two or three games every week and they all matter. We have shown we can play, we have had success and we have had these individual accomplishments. Now it is time, you have to get points.”