January 10, 2024

With PHS Boys’ Hockey Producing 1-4 Start, Tigers Hoping Find a Rhythm in CVC Action

CHARLES IN CHARGE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Charles Ross controls the puck in recent action. Senior forward and co-captainRoss has tallied seven points on three goals and four assists so far this season to rank second on the team in scoring behind Brendan Beatty (10 points on 7 goals, 3 assists). PHS, which moved to 1-4 with a 9-1 loss to Middletown North last Wednesday, faces Hopewell Valley on January 10 and Robbinsville on January 12 with both games to be played at the Mercer County Skating Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Showing rust after not having played a game in 15 days, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team dug an early hole as it faced Middletown North last Wednesday night in its first action of 2024.

PHS fell behind 4-0 seven minutes into the contest. While the Tigers did get on the board with a goal by Liam Campbell midway through the second period to make it a 5-1 game, PHS couldn’t find a rhythm as it fell 9-1.

“It was a tough team to come out against; we never got it going, we were chasing the whole game,” said Tiger head coach Rik Johnson, whose team dropped to 1-4 with the setback. “There were flashes but at no point did it feel like they were poised to come back.”

Sophomore forward Campbell has been a bright spot for the Tigers, tallying four points this season on two goals and two assists.

“Soup contributes all of the time,” said Johnson of Campbell. “If he is not getting points, he is certainly contributing with hustle. He is always hustling.”

Another key contributor for PHS has been junior star Brendan Beatty, who is leading the squad in scoring with 10 points on seven goals and three assists.

“He can be a consistent scorer,” said Johnson. “He has been productive.”

Against Middletown North, senior forward and co-captain Charles Ross battled through some knocks to stay on the ice.

“He took a couple of shots. He took one to the foot and he took another groin shot and then one off the knee — he is kind of beat up,” said Johnson of Ross, the team’s second-leading scorer so far this season with seven points on three goals and four assists. “Chuck has always been a solid player in front of the net. He always does what is asked of him, he is a good hard worker.”

In addition to Campbell, two other sophomores, Anders Hedin (1 goal, 2 assists) and Ryan Garlock (1 assist), have been making an impact for the Tigers.

“Anders has been jumping in for TT [Zhao] on the top line,” said Johnson. “He has been doing a great job there on face-offs with hustle and a lot of physical play. We ask a lot of him. Anders and Ryan have been hustling, they have gotten bigger.”

A pair of freshmen, Emil Vecchi and Jake Rotenberg, came up with some good play against Middletown North.

“We have Emil and Jake, those two are good hustlers,” said Johnson. “They had one of the best shifts of the game in the third with Campbell. They hustled, had a couple of hits, and a couple of opportunities there.”

With PHS facing Hopewell Valley on January 10 and Robbinsville on January 12, Johnson is hoping that getting into the grind of the Colonial Valley Conference action will help his team shift gears and get on the winning track.

“The potential in that room is really good, that is what I told them today,” said Johnson. “They need to see some games now. It is just simple hockey, tape passes and stop chasing. There is a lot of watching right now. We have practice Sunday and then we come back and have Hopewell Valley, and Robbinsville. That is where we have to start getting some Ws, but it is not going to be easy.”