February 21, 2024

PHS Boys’ Hockey Falls in State Opener, As its Offense Sputters Down the Stretch

SHOOTING STAR: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Brendan Beatty fires a shot in recent action. Last Friday, junior star Beatty scored two goals as 16th-seeded PHS fell 7-3 to 17th-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood in a New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Public Soth Play-in round contest. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 5-13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton High boys’ hockey team having suffered five straight losses heading into its New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Public South Play-in round contest against Scotch Plains-Fanwood last Friday afternoon, the Tigers were viewing the state opener as a fresh start.

“We were hoping to re-set and see if we could get the wheels going again,” said PHS head coach Rik Johnson. “Unfortunately our numbers were down, I think we had 11, 12 skaters today.”

Finding themselves down 6-1 midway through the second period in the game at the Mercer County Skating Center, the 16th-seeded Tigers battled back to whittle the deficit to the 17th-seeded Raiders to 6-3 on goals by Brendan Beatty and Charles Ross.

“It was just chipping away. I told them to keep doing what they are doing, but spread out and put the shots on net,” said Johnson. “They started to do that — we got some opportunities.”

In the third period, PHS pressed forward but couldn’t find the back of the net as it fell 7-3 to end the season with a 5-13 record.

While the result was disappointing, Johnson had no qualms with the effort he got from his short-handed squad.

“As long as you gave it your best, that is all we can ask,” said Johnson, who got two goals from Beatty in the defeat. “They did a nice job.”

The team’s group of seniors — Charles Ross, Oisin O’Dell, T.T. Zhao, Michael Prete, and Graham Baird — have done a good job for the Tigers over their careers.

“They are good, on and off the ice they held themselves well, they never give us any problems,” said Johnson. “They are all good guys, they are all standup dudes.”

Looking ahead, Johnson believes there is a good foundation in place for PHS with such returners as junior star Beatty, the team’s leading scorer, along with fellow juniors Jack Zimet, Noah Vitulli, and Ed Zhao; sophomores Liam Campbell, Ryan Garlock, and Anders Hedin; and freshman Emil Vecchi.

“The group that is coming back is going to be younger, it should be solid,” said Johnson. “Brendan is going to be a nice building block for next year. I hope we do get a little influx of youth — supposedly there are five coming in, so we will see.”