January 26, 2022

PDS Boys’ Hockey Excited for Clash with Lawrenceville, Battling Hard but Losing 4-0 in Renewal of Heated Rivalry

SEEING RED: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Will Brown skates up the ice in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior defenseman Brown and the Panthers battled hard but came up short in a 4-0 loss to Lawrenceville as they resumed their rivalry with the Rig Red. PDS, which moved to 5-4-2 with a 4-2 defeat to Seton Hall last Friday, hosts St. Joe’s Montvale on January 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After a hiatus of two years, the heated rivalry between the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team and Lawrenceville, its neighbor five miles to the south down Route 206, was back on the ice last Wednesday evening.

While there were some attendance limitations at McGraw Rink, the sights and sounds were familiar.

A throng of PDS students arrived early and packed one end of the rink, many wearing Panther hockey jerseys and some holding up handwritten signs with some unfriendly messages for the visiting Big Red.

There was a buzz in the air as the players swirled through their warmups, banging pucks off the glass and whirring around the ice.

Once the opening whistle blew, the rivals went at each other with their traditional verve, delivering bone-crunching hits into the boards and producing end-to-end action.

After a period, the foes were knotted in a scoreless tie. “The first period went better than I could have dictated,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli. “Timmy [Miller] played great in goal.”

But utilizing its depth, Lawrenceville broke through with a pair of unanswered goals midway through the second period. The Big Red added two more to earn a 4-0 win.

“They are a little more balanced in their top two lines than in the past,” said Bertoli.

“They have kids who can make plays. They have a really active defense. They are hard to account for. They are a good group.”

Fatigue became an issue for the Panthers as the game unfolded.

“Our kids got tired, they were playing four lines and six defensemen,” said Bertoli.

“Our lineup isn’t as deep, it got evident in the second period and late in the third. As we get tired, you are going to make bad decisions. You are going to have tired legs and tired decisions. We are going to turn pucks over, they are going to get offensive opportunities. It is one of those things where we just couldn’t hold on long enough to make it a game at the end.”

Bertoli, though, had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“The commitment, the focus, things that I would hope come out in a game like this and this type of environment, we saw that 100 percent,” said Bertoli.

“I knew it was going to be an uphill battle today but ultimately it doesn’t matter what I think. As long as the kids in our locker room believe they have a chance, which they did, and they played that way. Even going in after the second period, you are one shot away from getting really, really close. We had some opportunities. We needed a lucky bounce.”

While the result was disappointing, Bertoli believes PDS will benefit from battling the Big Red.

“It is a good learning experience,” said Bertoli. “I just want to see a good hockey game. I want the kids to represent the school in the right way and take pride in playing for PDS. Any time you play a quality opponent, it should bring the best out of you and for a period and a half it did. We played better hockey the first 20 or 25 minutes but then you get tired.”

Going forward, the Panthers will need to learn how to play through fatigue as they face a gauntlet of challenging Gordon Conference foes.

“We are going to play teams that are arguably more talented than Lawrenceville down the road, maybe they don’t have the depth,” said Bertoli, whose team moved to 5-4-2 with a 4-2 defeat to Seton Hall last Friday, and hosts St. Joe’s Montvale on January 26.

“We are going to have to figure out how to play tired and how to defend and how to make decisions. As your legs go, your mind can’t go and that started to happen a little bit.”