The new ice hockey king of Mercer County is now setting its sights on winning another tournament.
Princeton High School, fresh off of winning the Mercer County Tournament championship, will now bid to win a state tournament championship.
Princeton will face Southern Regional High School in the first round of the NJSIAA Public B Tournament on Feb. 28.
The state tournament game will be played at Winding River Rink in Toms River at 6 p.m. Princeton will enter the state tournament as the No 9 seed while its opponent from Manahawkin is seeded eighth.
The Princeton-Southern winner will advance to the quarterfinal round on March 2 and will meet either top-seeded Randolph High School or 17th-seeded West Milford High School.
Meanwhile on the local front, the Little Tigers secured the Mercer County Tournament championship when they defeated their old nemesis, Hun School, 7-5, at the Mercer County Skating Center in West Windsor on Feb 21.
“I knew we had a good chance of winning. We are just absolutely so thrill right now. We beat a really good team in Hun,” Princeton coach Joe Bensky said. “We did not give up and that has been our motto all year. We came out on top with seven unanswered goals.”
Princeton has battled Hun in the MCT title game for four straight years and had lost the previous three matchups until Feb. 21.
Princeton’s victory in the county final thwarted Hun’s bid to win a seventh straight Mercer County Tournament championship.
“They are a really amazing group of hockey players. They are all there for each other and stayed positive throughout the game,” Bensky said. “It was the fourth year of Hun and Princeton, for the seniors this was their fourth time and there were some tears when we won. They were excited and passionate. It means so much for them and the community.”
The Little Tigers currently have a 18-3-2 record this season.
“We want to keep the confidence up heading into the states. The season is not over. We will definitely be enjoying this win, but in the state tournament we want to show we can beat Southern,” Bensky said. “We want to show we are a quality hockey team in the state.”
Bensky continued to praise his squad.
“We have had a lot of games were we needed to battle to the end and you learn a lot about your team through the season. You know when we win games like that, we can beat anyone,” Bensky said. “To have a long run in the state tournament we need to limit our turnovers and not give teams great chances.”
Princeton’s offensive charge against Hun was led by senior forward Rocco Salvato, who produced four goals.
“Rocco (Salvato) is one of the best players in the conference and he was one of the best players on the ice in the title. He really just changed the game,” Bensky said.
Salvato pointed out that his team was able to finally defeat Hun in the county title game because of Princeton’s work ethic and family chemistry.
“We wanted to prove something. We seniors had a chip on our shoulders and it just had to come to this,” he said. “The team is what got me going on offense in the title game. I fed off them and they fed off of me. Now that this game is over, I think we are all on the same page. We want to win states.”
Offensively this season, Princeton has been led by senior forward Aidan Trainor, who has registered 24 goals and 19 assists, junior forward Colm Trainor, who has recorded 22 goals and 25 assists, senior forward Rocco Salvato who has delivered 20 goals and 20 assists and sophomore forward John Zammit, who has collected 18 goals and seven assists.
Senior defenseman Stephen Avis displayed his talents when he was forced to play goalie in the MCT final since sophomore goalie Daniel Prokoshin who has collected 295 saves in the net this season, was unavailable. Avis’ stellar play in net helped Princeton win the game–and the MCT title.