Brown Stars as PDS Boys’ Hockey Wins State Opener; Panthers Fall to Gloucester Catholic in Non-Public Quarters
WILL TO WIN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Will Brown streaks up the ice in a game earlier this season. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Brown tallied two goals and one assist as fifth-seeded PDS defeated 12th-seeded Morristown-Beard 5-2 last Wednesday in first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public tournament. Last Monday, the Panthers fell 8-4 to fourth-seededGloucester Catholic in the Non-Public quarterfinals to end the season with a 7-11-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
It was Will Brown’s last game at McGraw Rink for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team and he wanted to make it a special evening.
“I was excited to play and just go out and put on a good show and get a win with the team,” said PDS senior defenseman Brown, reflecting on the matchup last Thursday which pitted fifth-seeded PDS against 12th-seeded Morristown Beard in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public tournament.
“It is a great group of guys here and we just wanted to keep playing for one more. We didn’t want to have it end on our home ice.”
Brown ended up putting on a very good show, tallying two goals and an assist as the Panthers defeated Mo-Beard 5-2 and snapped a six-game losing streak.
“We bought in today, senior captain Ryan Vandal gave a great speech in the locker room before the game,” said Brown, reflecting on the win. “Everyone was excited to play and full of energy. We knew we could come out here and get the job done.”
Opening the scoring, Brown found the back of the net with a one-timer 3:33 into the contest.
“I just got the puck and shot it, I had no idea where it was going,” said Brown. “It was put it on the net and let chaos happen, and it found its way to the back of the net.”
Less than a minute later, PDS went ahead 2-0 on a goal by freshman standout Brady Logue. The Crimson scored a pair of unanswered goals late in the first and second period to make it a 2-2 contest going into the third.
Brown and his teammates were confident that they would come through in crunch time.
“We weren’t really concerned, we trusted each other,” said Brown. “We knew what we were going to do, just keep grinding away. We were going to get our chances, they were going to get their chances. We just had to capitalize more than they did. It was stick together, stay positive, get pucks in deep, and bury one.”
Slotting a puck in deep, Brown set up the winning goal by Logue. Brown found Liam Jackson on a rush who then passed it to Logue.
“I saw Liam stretching out from the left side,” said Brown. “I looked up and just threw the puck and it kicked off one of the pieces of the glass and ended up in the middle of the ice.”
In the waning seconds of the contest, Brown found the back of the net to cap his home finale.
“It was great to end the career with five seniors out there on the ice — guys I have been best friends with for four years,” said Brown. “It has been incredible. There are seven of us this year, five of us have been together since freshman year, seven since junior year. It has been great, we are like a family.”
PDS head coach Scott Bertoli liked seeing things come together for his squad against Mo-Beard.
“At this point in the year, a win is a win, we hadn’t won a game in a while,” said Bertoli. “A lot of it is based on the quality of opponents, but a lot of it is that we have outplayed better teams than us. For long stretches but we just haven’t figured out a way to score. It was nice to score a few goals tonight, it was nice to get a couple early.”
It was particularly nice for Brown to have a big night in his home finale.
“He is a kid who has really evolved over the last four years when I think back to where he was as a freshman and where he is now,” said Bertoli of Brown, who tallied three goals and 10 assists this winter. “He is just a confident kid. He is a leader — he wants to play. He has got a way about him. He is very endearing so the kids naturally gravitate to him. It is good to see him have some success offensively. The reality is that is not what we need or expect out of him but when we can get it, it is a bonus. He has been able to provide more and more of that this year. He has really evolved that part of his game. I think a lot of it is just confidence and opportunities.”
The team’s senior group provided a lot during their time with the program.
“They all play hard, they are passionate about one another and they are passionate about the school,” said Bertoli, whose Class of 2023 includes Cole Fenton, Rosh Nissangaratchie, Ace Ewanchyna, Nick Bruno, and Oliver Hall in addition to Vandal and Brown. “They have done a wonderful job bringing our younger kids along. That is the big thing; we want them to leave a mark and set an example for our younger kids. We have some really talented younger kids.”
Star forward Logue has emerged as one of the team’s top young players.
“Brady is awesome; we have got a good, talented group of young kids but Brady is pretty special,” said Bertoli of Logue who scored a team-high 11 goals and added nine assists. “He has just got a way about him, he has got poise. We struggle to score and he is the one kid that has really scored consistently for us.”
Last Monday, PDS struggled as it fell 8-4 to Gloucester Catholic in the state quarterfinals to end the winter with a 7-11-3 record. Coming into the contest, Bertoli knew that his team faced an uphill battle.
“The reality is that we know what they are bring to the table, their top guys are as good as anyone we have played this year,” said Bertoli, whose team had tied the Rams 5-5 in mid-December before falling 8-2 and 7-3 to them in subsequent meetings. “We are going to get zone time. We are going to control a lot of the play but it is going to be the ability to neutralize them in transition and slow their top kids down because they are going to get their chances.”
While Brown had hoped that the Panthers would turn the tables on Gloucester Catholic, he has relished his PDS hockey experience.
“It has been incredible, just this team in the locker room over here, it is a family in there,” said Brown, who is heading to Syracuse University where he may play club hockey. “Everyone loves each other, the coaches are great. We have so much fun together in school, out of school, and at the rink.”