Katz’s shutout gets South back on track

Goalie helps Pirates hockey to win

By: Bob Nuse
   Brian McGurney doesn’t want to judge his goaltender, Dan Katz, by the number of goals he allows. He knows that number can certainly be deceiving.
   "He’s played well all season," said McGurney, whose West Windsor-Plainsboro South ice hockey team improved to 5-3-2 with a 10-0 win over Nottingham on Monday. "Even in some of the blowout losses that we’ve had, he’s been on top of his game. The way he has played sometimes can’t be shown by the goals allowed. We played Steinert (an 8-2 loss) and Princeton (a 10-2 loss) and those games probably would have been 10-goal games if it weren’t for Dan.
   "He started for us as a freshman and he has come back this year and is a much better player. He appears to be a lot more confident. And he has grown physically, which is something that you just can’t coach. We relied on him a lot last year and we rely on him a lot this year."
   The win over Nottingham came just a few days after a 5-5 tie with South Brunswick that left a bad taste in the Pirates’ mouths. But instead of getting down, they came back with a solid performance against Nottingham to earn their fifth win.
   Katz came up with his first shutout of the season in the win on Monday, making seven saves in goal.
   "It’s different for me this year because I’m not a freshman anymore," the sophomore goalie said. "As a freshman, it didn’t mean as much to me as it does this year. I think I have a better understanding of what goes on and what it means to the team. It’s not a new experience for me anymore. I have the year of experience and I think that has helped me this year."
   Katz has had two games this season where he has allowed just one goal. He also has helped the Pirates to a one-goal win and a two-goal win. And when the Pirates have lost, he’s helped keep them on the ice and in the game.
   "He’s the type of kid that even when you have a loss, he’s a standout player," said McGurney, whose team will play Notre Dame on Monday at 4:45 at Ice Land. "Sometimes you have a game where you lose by five, six or seven goals and you realize that he kept you in the game with some of the saves he made. He’s been there every day for us and he has played well."
   Katz feels like he learned quite a bit a year ago, and he is using what he learned to help him this year.
   "I feel more ready for it this year," he said. "Being a year older and having played against older people last year, that helped prepare me. I played travel over the summer in the Midget Majors, which is a level higher than I had played. I think that helped me as well."
   Now, he and the Pirates just have to find a level of consistency. They’ve had some bright spots and some down moments thus far. But there is a lot of the season left to play.
   "This has been one of those years," McGurney said. "I really don’t know how this year is going to shape up. Against South Brunswick, we were just horrible. But then we play a game like we did against (WW-P) North (an 8-1 win) and there was no stopping us. It’s easy to get up for the rivalry games like North. What we need to figure out is how to get to that point every game. It’s easy to get up for the big games, but we have to bring that kind of effort every night."
   The Pirates are 2-0-1 in their last three games, but have a stretch coming up that includes games with Notre Dame, Tenafly and Manasquan, where they figure to be tested.
   "We started off the season playing a few of the easier teams," Katz said. "But I think the biggest thing for us now is that we’re playing more as a team. For a little while we were not sticking together. Now I feel like we’re staying together more on and off the ice and that has made a difference."
   And, of course, McGurney feels like the play of Katz always makes a difference. As far as the goalie himself, it depends on the day.
   "If I give up goals, it depends on how many shots I faced," said Katz, who has added four inches and several pounds to his frame since last year. "If I give up five goals but face 50 shots, that’s not too bad. But if I give up five goals on 20 shots, that’s not a good performance."
   Most of the time, Katz has been coming up with a good performance. The kind his coach is happy to see. Now, he wants to see what happens with his team the second half of the season.
   "I’m interested to see where we will fall as far as the seeds in the county tournament," McGurney said. "Princeton and Steinert will get two of the three byes. But after that, I think it is pretty wide open. It will be interesting."