By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The Purple Puck Tournament in Washington, D.C. has become a holiday tradition for the Hun School ice hockey team.
For the last three years the team has traveled to the tournament over their winter break for a chance to see some good competition and also for some team bonding. For the season straight season, the Raiders made their most of their trip by coming away with the tournament championship.
Hun won its first four games in the tournament by a combined score of 28-2 before coming away with shootout win over St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia in the championship game.
“We were really excited,” Hun senior Patrick Brake said. “It was a huge team win for us and a great bonding experience. We came together as a team. It really helped the team chemistry. We started stringing along some nice passes for goals. Kids that weren’t scoring started scoring. Our big guys like (Jon) Bendorf, (Blake) Brown and (Kyle) Pettoni all got going and it carried over to this game.”
The Raiders won the tournament for the second straight year. The event has proven to be just what the team needs as it heads into a challenging part of its schedule.
“We went three years ago and we were just looking for a tournament,” Hun coach Ian McNally said. “We played it and we did well. We made the finals. And then I thought we would look for something else and the kids all wanted to go back the next year. I didn’t realize just how much they enjoyed hanging out together. So we have gone back the last two years since. It is kind of our favorite time of the year.”
The Raiders came home with the tournament title and have split their first two games back in New Jersey. After falling to Delbarton, 7-0, on Tuesday the Raiders picked up their first Mid-Atlantic Hockey League win of the season when they topped Wyoming Seminary, 6-2, on Wednesday.
“The key for this team is we are searching for consistency,” said Brake, who had a goal and three assists in the win on Wednesday. “That is really the goal. We have big wins and big ties and then we lose a game we shouldn’t lose.”
“The tournament was great for the team and helps us come together. We become better friends at school and really start to gel.”
Pettoni scored twice, while Bendorf, Brown and Kevin Guns also scored in the win on Wednesday. Hun is now into a very tough portion of its schedule with games against Lawrenceville and St. Augustine next week.
Brake, who is an assistant captain this year, has been playing a bigger role for the Raiders. He’s been called on to be a leader while also doing more on the ice.
“We did a team vote and he was picked as one of the assistant captains,” McNally said. “A lot of guys mentioned that one of the reasons they wanted him as a captain is that he is one of the only four-year varsity guys we have. He has a bigger role. Our scoring options are pretty limited when we have some of our guys on defense. So guys like Pat and Kyle have to score goals or we don’t get any. He’s been scoring at a much higher rate than he had before.”
Added Brake: “This is the first year that I have been handed such a big role. It’s fun playing with my friends that I have been playing with for four years. I’ve been scoring some goals. I have been lucky. My teammates have put me in the right position and I have just finished.”
Brake has certainly been enjoying his senior season. It’s his last at Hun as well as his last with his brother, Thomas, a junior who is the Raiders’ backup goalie.
“He had the win against Bishop O’Connell,” Brake said. “He’s a really good goalie. I give him credit. He always prepares himself. It’s really hard being a backup goalie. This season has been fun. It’s great playing with Kyle Mandleur and Blake Brown. Kyle is four years younger than me. Since he is just a freshman it’s nice to look out for him at school. Even though he is 6-foot-3 he’s still only 14 years old.”
Hun has been solid on defense all season with Diesel Pelke in goal and different combinations getting the job done on defense. Now the offense is coming together which could be a good sign of things to come.
“We were trying to find our identity before so the tournament was good for us,” said McNally, whose team is now 6-5-2. “I think scoring a bunch of goals today was a direct result of how we played in the tournament. We were having trouble scoring before that.
“This was a big win for us. We get six cracks at the teams in the Mid Atlantic League. We’re banging on the door trying to get in and they said we have a one-year trial basically. We dropped the first two. They were close games but they are still a loss. I think today was important to show we can beat one of these teams and that we belong there.”
PRINCETON: Hun hockey captures Purple Puck
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor