March 6, 2024

PDS Girls’ Hockey Falls Just Short of State Final, Losing in Semis on Late Rally by Immaculate Heart

HEARTBREAKER: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Lily Ryan races up the ice in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior star Ryan tallied a goal and an assist as second-seeded PDS fell 4-3 to third-seeded Immaculate Heart Academy in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Girls’ Ice Hockey State Tournament semis at the Mennen Sports Arena. The Panthers, who led the Blue Eagles 3-1 in the third period, ended the winter with a 12-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was round four this winter between the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team and Immaculate Heart Academy as the foes met in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Girls’ Ice Hockey State Tournament semis last Wednesday at the Mennen Sports Arena.

In the previous three meetings, the teams played tight, tense contests with PDS coming away with two wins, including a 4-3 victory over the Blue Eagles in the Librera Cup semifinals on February 7 in their last clash before the state tournament.

In the state semis matchup, third-seeded Immaculate Heart jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period even though the second-seeded Panthers built a 9-6 edge in shots.

Heading into the second period, PDS head coach Jamie Davis urged his players to keep pressing forward.

“It was just continue what we were doing, we have a strong team,” said Davis. “It was keep getting shots and doing all of the stuff that got us here.”

Responding to the coach’s message, the Panthers produced a strong second period, outshooting Immaculate Heart 19-6 and tallying two unanswered goals. The first tally came from senior Emily McCann on a power play goal with 5:12 left in the period. Just over two minutes later, senior captain Logan Harrison put PDS up 2-1 as she found the back of the net with 2:35 remaining in the second.

“Emily’s goal brought us back to life, it was a clutch goal,” said Davis. “They were all working really hard.”

The Panthers kept up the good work early in the third period as another senior standout, Lily Ryan, lofted a shot over the Immaculate Heart goalie to put PDS up 3-1 with 13:52 left in regulation. The Panthers mobbed Ryan behind the goal and the players on the bench roared their approval.

“That was great, going up 3-1. We should be able to finish that game out,” said Davis.

But it was Immaculate Heart that produced the big finish, tallying three unanswered goals in the last 10:13 of the contrast, including the game-winner with 1:46 left in the game to pull out a stunning 4-3 win.

The Panther players trudged to their locker room with blank stares and some crying.

“I think we were all a little bit in disbelief as I am sure the other team is, and everyone who watched that game,” said Davis, whose squad ended the winter with a 12-6 record. “It is a tough loss. This one stings for sure.”

The defeat was particularly stinging since the Panthers controlled the puck for much of the contest.

“I think we outplayed them but sometimes hockey doesn’t  work like that,” lamented Davis, whose team outshot the Blue Eagles 28-12 through two periods and 33-24 on the evening. “They had a really strong second half of that third period and they kept it on us. They scored their goals there. They didn’t let up and they kept pushing. They were being aggressive. They were continuing to get shots on net and they put them in the net.”

Davis credited his group of seniors with setting a positive tone as the Panthers enjoyed another winning campaign, highlighted by topping nemesis Morristown-Beard 3-1 in the Librera Cup final on February 14 and posting a pair of wins over eventual state champion Pingry (4-3 on January 4 and 2-1 on February 1).

“They are the core of our team,” said Davis of the team’s Class of ’24 that includes Julia Miranda, Elena Sichel, Colleen Mayer, Isabel Cook, Ceci Scheil, Madison Trend, and goalie Brigid Milligan in addition to McCann, Harrison, and Ryan.

“They work hard every single shift, they are definitely going to be missed. We are very proud of the girls, this is not where we wanted to finish up today. We did win the Librera Cup, it is shame we had to end here.”