Producing Solid Effort at Shady Side Tournament, Hun Boys’ Hockey Gets Major Jolt of Confidence
ON THE MARK: Hun School boys’ hockey player Mark Gall, right, goes after the puck in a game last season. Senior co-captain Gall has moved to defenseman this winter and has been a spark on the blue line for the Raiders. Hun, now 2-3, hosts Devon Prep (Pa.) on November 30 and the Haverford School (Pa.) on December 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As the Hun School boys’ hockey team headed into the Shady Side Academy (Pa.) Thanksgiving Classic last weekend, Ian McNally feared that his squad might not be up to speed.
“When people asked me in the fall, ‘how is the team going to be?’ I said I genuinely didn’t know. I am not sure, we will see,” said Hun head coach McNally. “There have been years where I know we are going to stink or we are going to be very good. This is one I wasn’t sure. I was a little worried about this week.”
Showing skill and tenacity, Hun held its own, going 1-3 with two of the losses coming in shootouts. The Raiders fell 2-1 to St. Francis (Pa.) in a shootout on Friday and then topped Blythe Academy (Canada) 3-2 and lost 4-3 in a shootout to Shady Side in action on Saturday. They wrapped up the event with a 5-3 loss to Fort Erie (Canada) on Sunday.
“We have some new guys and we hung in there with some pretty decent teams,” said McNally, whose team is now 2-3, having topped Father Judge High (Pa.) 4-0 in its season opener on November 16 before competing in the Shady Side event. “That is the reason we go to this. All of the teams there are more like the Pennsylvania model, they are playing in the fall. They are two months into their season. It was great. We could have won all four games, it was good to see that.”
Hun got a good contribution over the weekend from junior newcomer forward Justin Laplante, who tallied two goals and two assists in the tournament.
“We had a kid last year, Seth Kaplan, who was a power forward and Justin has turned out to be a clone,” said McNally, noting that two other newcomers, juniors Charles-Etienne Jette and Ryan Levesque, have also given a lift to the forward unit. “He is strong, he is fast. He just played for the Hun football team this fall and he contributed there. He can shoot, he can skate.”
Laplante has quickly developed a connection with senior co-captain Elian Estulin.
“Elian has got points in every game so far,” said McNally. “He is wearing a C on his jersey, he has taken on some of that leadership too. Those two not knowing each other up until two weeks ago have bonded. They found some chemistry this weekend.”
Returning junior Brendan Marino showed his offensive skill over the weekend.
“Brendan has a wicked lacrosse shot and he has translated that to hockey,” said McNally, who noted that veteran senior Josh Sosner also performed well at Shady Side. “He scored twice this weekend, they were just bullets. Shots from far away that went in and out quick. He has nice little snap shot and he scored a couple of big ones. We have two lines right now that are pretty decent — we can roll with anybody.”
Lacking depth at defenseman, seniors Mark Gall and Scott Richmond have been converted from forward to the blue line.
“Not that he had any experience but Mark took it on, he is one of our captains,” said McNally. “He gave it the old ‘I will do anything for the team’ response and he has been awesome. It is totally unnatural to him, he is figuring it out as it goes. The other guy doing that is Scott. He hasn’t that much varsity experience and it was the same thing, ‘if you need me, I will try it.’”
Battle-tested senior Vincent Gregoire will be counted on to spearhead the defensive unit.
“We will lean heavy on a few guys,” said McNally. “Vincent is going to have to log a lot of minutes, he is up for it so far.”
At goalie, senior co-captain Stephen Chen and junior transfer Julien Arseneault give Hun two good options between the pipes.
“Stephen is on another planet, he looks very, very solid right now,” said McNally of Chen, who had 39 saves against St. Francis and 33 stops against Shady Side. “There are pockets where guys develop at the right time and this is Stephen’s time. Julien had a couple of weeks of practice and we gave him one period in the Father Judge game. He was pretty cold going into this tournament and he was awesome.”
In the wake of Hun’s performance at the tournament, McNally believes his squad could do some awesome things this winter.
“We have two first lines and when you have Stephen in the net, you have a chance to win,” said McNally, whose team hosts Devon Prep (Pa.) on November 30 and the Haverford School (Pa.) on December 2. “We were out chanced and outshot and we are winning every third period, that is a pretty unique thing. This is a year where we are going to have that ability, we can sneak out wins on any night.”