March 1, 2023

Sparked by McCann’s Work Ethic, All-Around Play, PDS Girls’ Hockey Advances to State Semifinals

TOURNAMENT RUN: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Emily McCann, right, goes after the puck in recent action. Last Thursday, junior forward McCann, who also stars in cross country and track, tallied a goal and an assist to help fourth-seeded PDS defeat 13th-seeded Newark East Side 8-1in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) girls’ hockey state tournament. On Monday, PDS edged fifth-seeded Summit 1-0 in the state quarterfinals. The Panthers, now 7-5-3, face top-seeded Morristown-Beard in the state semis on March 2 with the victor advancing to the title game on March 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Emily McCann got things rolling for the Princeton Day school girls’ hockey team as it started play in the NJSIAA girls’ hockey state tournament by hosting Newark East Side last Thursday afternoon.

Just over four minutes into the first period, junior forward McCann poked in a rebound to give fourth-seeded PDS a 1-0 lead over 13th-seeded Newark East Side in the opening round contest.

“I was just trying to get my rebound that was there,” said McCann. “I was just trying to get things moving, especially so the rest of the team could play.”

The Panthers kept moving from there, cruising to an 8-1 victory as PDS got contributions throughout the lineup.

“We were definitely playing well as a team, keeping the energy high,” said McCann. “It was a good game, it was good to get it done.”

With the Panthers having advanced to the final of the NJSIAA state tournament last winter in its debut in the competition, McCann and her teammates are bringing a lot of energy into this year’s tourney.

“This is the biggest tournament and we were all anxious to get into it,” said McCann. “I think last year’s run gives us confidence — we definitely want to be back there but we know it doesn’t come for free. We have to work really hard in order to get there again.”

McCann, who also stars for the PDS cross country and track programs, puts in a lot of work to excel in running and on the ice.

“I am not playing club hockey this year so I could focus on running, I have been running just as much as I have during the fall,” said McCann, who averages running 30-40 miles a week. “I have raced three times. I work out with Garden State Track Club, I do workouts with them once a week. I practiced less hockey and just play in the games. I came into the season a little rusty not playing on a club team, once I got going it was final. I think hockey makes me stronger for running and running makes me have more endurance for hockey.”

PDS head coach Julie DeSimone liked her team’s strong start in the state tournament.

“It was nice to get back to it, they played hard today,” said DeSimone. “Everybody got some ice time, so that was good. We know how to play at that level.”

DeSimone credited McCann with being a catalyst for the Panthers.

“Emily always gets things moving, that is why we like to have her on the ice,” said DeSimone. “She is always working hard. In addition to scoring goals, she is backchecking and really just playing a full-rounded game. We love Emily.”

The Panthers displayed good balance as five other players besides McCann also found the back of the net.

“We really did a nice job of getting everybody involved in the play,” said DeSimone, who got two goals apiece from Grace Ulrich and Brynn Dandy in the win with Eibhleann Knox, Madison Trend, and Mariana Lee also scoring in the win. “I thought we played our game throughout, which is what we wanted to see. We wanted to make sure that we were using this as preparation to go forward. We were happy with how we played our positions and moved the puck well. That is all you can ask for in those games.”

On Monday, PDS came through in a tough game as it edged fifth-seeded Summit 1-0 in the state quarterfinals on a third-period goal by Ulrich with goalie Brigid Milligan coming up big in earning the shutout.

Coming into the clash with Summit, DeSimone knew that her squad faced a challenge.

“I think not having our full roster will be tough, so that is not great,” said DeSimone, whose team is now 7-5-3 and will play at top-seeded Morristown-Beard in the state semis on March 2 with the victor advancing to the final on March 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark. “We have played them before and we know what to expect. It is about putting pucks on net and getting those scoring chances.”

McCann, for her part, was confident that PDS would cash in its chances against the Hilltoppers.

“I think if we really just play hard and do our best, we will do well,” said McCann.