January 18, 2023

Led by Senior Standout Silverstein’s Tough Play, PHS Boys’ Hockey Gets Back on Winning Track

SILVER STAR: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Gabe Silverstein controls the puck last Friday against the WWP Ice Hockey Coop. Senior star and assistant captain Silverstein scored two goals to help PHS defeat WWP 6-1. The Tigers, who improved to 7-4 with a 6-1 win over Notre Dame last Monday, face Lawrence on January 22 and Middletown South on January 24 with both games to be played at the Mercer County Skating Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As an assistant captain for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, Gabe Silverstein looks to lead by deeds rather than words.

“The leadership is a group thing, everyone steps up for different reasons,” said senior standout Silverstein. “Some guys are locker room guys, some guys lead on the ice. I take more of a physical approach on the ice, sticking up for the other guys. We have got to look out for the younger guys.”

Utilizing that approach, Silverstein stepped up last Friday as PHS faced the WWP Ice Hockey Coop at the Mercer County Skating Center. With the Tigers trailing 1-0 early in the first period, Silverstein banged in a goal to knot the game at 1-1. Later in the period, he swooped in on an odd-man rush and found the back of the net again as PHS built its lead to 3-1.

“You get one and you start rolling,” said Silverstein. “We are better than that team and once we put one in the net, we knew were going to start rolling.”

The Tigers kept rolling, tallying three more goals on the way to a 6-1 win.

“We get a lot more time and space against a team like this,” said Silverstein. “We moved the puck around and got more shots and crash the net and get more goals.”

With PHS having started the week by falling 8-2 to Robbinsville on January 10 and then topping Hopewell Valley 5-2 a day later, the Tigers were determined to keep on the winning track.

“Every dog has his day — we are used to winning in this league a lot,” said Silverstein, who picked up two assists as PHS defeated Notre Dame 6-2 last Monday to improve to 7-4. “When we are faced with adversity, we have just got to come into every game with a different mindset and score more goals than the other team. That is how you win.”

Boasting a core of seniors which includes captain Cooper Zullo, assistant captain Ethan Garlock, Julian Drezner, Nico Vitaro, Andrew Benevento, and Ryan Friedman, PHS has a solid group of battle-tested veterans who have won a lot of games.

“It is leadership among all of the seniors, we have got a really good thing going,” said Silverstein. “The chain of command is great, everyone respects everybody. We come in, we do our work, and we leave. Julian [Drezner] and I have been best friends before we could even talk. Cooper and Ethan are pieces of the puzzle. We really mesh. We get along on the ice and off the ice, hanging out in school and out of school. It is a great, great group of guys.”

PHS head coach Rik Johnson respects the way Silverstein works hard on a daily basis.

“Gabe will always bring his game,” said Johnson. “Sometimes it is working, sometimes it is not, but he is always going to give his best effort.”

In the win over WWP, junior Charles Ross brought his game, tallying two goals.

“He has been feeling more and more comfortable as we go,” said Johnson of Ross. “He was good.”

Johnson acknowledged that PHS may have been a little too comfortable in the early going on Friday as it fell behind 1:02 into the contest.

“I think they realized we have to start playing,” said Johnson. “We came out a little loose maybe and then it was time to play.”

As the game unfolded, PHS played very well. “I was happy with the whole team, everybody did pretty much what they needed to do,” said Johnson.

“They skated hard, they got a little loosey-goosey and then they tightened it up and got a couple of goals.”

With PHS facing Lawrence on January 22 and Middletown South on January 24 with both games to be played at the Mercer County Skating Center, Johnson wants his players to enjoy themselves on the ice.

“The biggest key is playing fundamental hockey and having fun,” said Johnson. “If you are pressing too much, you are going to be too tight and make mistakes. It is have fun and just play.”

Silverstein is looking to have fun as he wraps up his high school hockey career.

“It has been a long, strange trip, I have gotten better over the last 15 years or whatever playing hockey,” said Silverstein, who currently plays club hockey for the Princeton Youth Hockey Association after playing in the Nassau program for many years. “Now I am putting final pieces on the cake and that will be it and I will hang up my skates at some point.”