Energized by Gordon Conference Competition, PDS Boys’ Hockey Primed for Stretch Drive
SPEED SKATING: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Ryan Vandal races up the ice in a recent game. Last Monday, junior forward Vandal scored a goal to help PDS defeat Pope John 4-1. The Panthers, now 4-2-1, host Bergen Catholic on January 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team has made its debut this season in the highly-competitive Gordon Conference, it has been a bit of bumpy ride.
PDS has posted a 3-2-1 record in Gordon play in going 4-2-1 overall.
“The nice thing about being part of this conference is that every one of our games is a meaningful game,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, whose team topped Pope John 4-1 last Monday in a conference game to avenge a 3-2 defeat to the Lions in the season opener.
“I am excited to come off the break, hopefully the kids are refreshed. I think club hockey has slowed down a little bit.”
Bertoli acknowledges that the season could be slowed by postponements due to the COVID surge resulting from the Omicron variant.
“That is going to be everyone’s reality over the course of the next few weeks; we talked about it today at practice,” said Bertoli.
“I just said we have to plan to play. We will prepare and have ourselves ready until someone tells us otherwise. That is the focus.”
In their last action before the holiday break, the Panthers lacked their usual focus as they fell 7-1 to the Christian Brothers Academy.
“They are a very good team, they are a talented team,” said Bertoli of CBA.
“We were down two of our top four forwards. Unless we are full strength against a group like that it is always going to be an uphill battle. At full strength, I think we can play with them; we have to play the right way. In addition to being shorthanded, we just looked tired.”
A week earlier, PDS showed its strength as it defeated Gloucester Catholic 5-3 on December 15 and topped St. Peter’s 6-1 on December 10.
“We played well, I felt really good about the way we played against Gloucester; we really competed and we played hard,” said Bertoli.
“We just got into the habit of playing too much in transition both ways, looking for odd man rushes and giving up way too many to be successful down the road against the better teams. We started to do some of those things. We had a lot of offensive zone time, we created down low offense and it wasn’t all in transition. I was happy, it was a good result.
Junior forward Ryan Vandal has been playing well for the Panthers.
“Ryan was opportunistic on the opportunities that he had; it is good to see some of our older kids chipping in offensively,” said Bertoli of Vandal, who tallied three goals and an assist against Gloucester Catholic and contributed a goal in the win over Pope John.
Two other experienced PDS players, junior Oliver Hall and senior Adam Teryek, have been chipping in as well.
“Ollie was arguably our best player against St Peter’s and Gloucester,” said Bertoli of Hall, who had a goal and an assist against St. Peter and a goal in the win over Gloucester Catholic.
“He is flying around the rink, he has got confidence. He is scoring goals, he looked great. Teryek has looked good. He is a senior captain, he is expected to elevate his offensive production and he has.”
The return of junior forward Rosheen Nissangaratchie should help spark the Panther offense.
“We get Rosheen back who is the Delbarton transfer,” said Bertoli of Nissangaratchie who had an assist in the win over Pope John.
“He is a very good player, he plays the right way. The energy, the way he plays, the edge he plays with, it is exactly what we need.”
Bertoli has been getting what he has needed from his corps of defensemen, senior Chris Babecki, sophomore Han Shin, sophomore Connor Stratton, and junior Will Brown.
“Will has been really solid back there; I think he understands the type of player he needs to be to be successful,” said Bertoli.
“At times, he will jump in offensively. He is willing to be physical. He has some really nice games for us. A lot of these teams we are playing have highly skilled guys. Having that willingness to just buckle down and be responsible in your end is something that Will does. It has been great to see and it is important. As good as Stratton and Shin are, they want to get involved offensively and they want to make plays and we encourage that. Babecki has also been good back there.”
With PDS hosting Gordon foe Bergen Catholic on January 6, Bertoli knows his team will need to buckle down to come away with a win.
“Next year, we want to be in that top division with CBA, Delbarton Don Bosco, Seton Hall, Bergen Catholic, that is where we want to be,” said Bertoli, whose team is currently in the league’s National Division and can move up to the American Division next season if it ends up as the top National team this winter.
“Getting to that division is one of our goals in addition to having an extended run in the Gordon tournament and the state tournament. I think that is where we all believe our program belongs.”