By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Both Tim Chase and Ian McNally were happy that their respective ice hockey teams had a chance to face each other early in the season.
The matchup between Chase’s Princeton High team and McNally’s Hun School team ended in a 3-3 tie last Friday at IceLand in Hamilton, giving both head coaches a chance to see how their team would react against a strong opponent.
“Hopefully we can get some more games in with teams like this to see what our guys have,” said Chase, who is in his first season as the Little Tigers’ head coach. “I think our goaltender (Harry Skopas) played well. I think when we are playing our positions and pressuring, we’re a good team. When we don’t pressure that is when the other teams look better.”
The tie has been part of a four-game unbeaten stretch to start the season for Princeton. After opening with an 11-1 victory over Nottingham, the Little Tigers topped South Brunswick, 8-2, prior to the tie with Hun. Princeton improved to 3-0-1 with a 5-2 victory over Lawrence on Monday.
Through four games the scoring has been balanced for Princeton, with Aidan Trainor leading the way with five goals. Ben Drezner and Stephen Avis each have four goals, while Max Garlock has three. Against Hun, Aidan Trainor, Drezner and Robbie Trainor scored goals.
“We came out a little flat the first period and they were all over us,” Chase said after the tie. “But then we took the momentum back and got a nice lead and then we sat on it a little bit and they jumped back on us.
“Hun was all over us at the beginning. We came out a little flat and they had the jump. It’s a momentum game. If you keep the pressure on and you keep that momentum you ride that. Sometimes it is hard to get it back.”
The tie is the only thing keeping Princeton from a perfect 4-0 start.
“Sometimes you play well and a tie is a good thing,” Chase said. “I think we gave that game back to them and some of it was we didn’t keep the pressure on.”
After winning its opener against Holy Ghost of Pennsylvania, Hun needed to rally from a 3-0 deficit to earn the tie with Princeton. Hayden Watson and Kyle Mandleur scored goals in the second period before Guillaume Hebert tied it with a goal with 45 seconds left.
“It was a pretty spirited game for the second one of the season,” said McNally, whose team opened the season with a 5-2 win against Holy Ghost. “(Princeton) had every one of their buddies here and it made it feel like a playoff game for them. We didn’t respond that way initially. Hats off to them. They played extremely well.”
The Raiders, who were scheduled to face La Salle o Pennsylvaniaon Wednesday, have a tough schedule ahead of them this season. Having someone like Hebert come on and add some offense will be a big help.
“He’s been great,” McNally said of the senior from Quebec. “He’s playing on our top line. He is kind of the grinder of the group. He had a similar goal (against Holy Ghost) where he just gets to the net and creates chances. He’s been everything we’ve asked of him and more. Last year was frustrating for him because he didn’t score any points. This year he wants to score goals and he has two in two games.”
Mandleur will be counted on to provide a bulk of the scoring for the Raiders. After scoring 20 goals a year ago, the University of Vermont commit opened this season with three goals in the first two games. Against Princeton, Hebert and Hayden Watson also added goals.
“Hayden Watson is a sophomore and that was his first goal,” McNally said. “He went all year last year not scoring and then he got us that second goal. We had two vastly different games this week. All of these games through Christmas break are kind of preparing you for the second half. (Holy Ghost) was one where we probably shouldn’t have won but we wound up winning by a few because we took it to them. And today was one I think we should have won and we didn’t.”
In the end, the Raiders earned a tie thanks to a last-minute goal from Hebert, who along with his teammates had to work hard to earn that result.
“I wish we had won,” Hebert said. “We played pretty bad at the beginning but we just kept working hard and kept going after them.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor