PDS hockey works to overcome slow start

Panther boys fall to Lawrenceville

By: Justin Feil
   The Princeton Day School boys’ ice hockey team didn’t get off to quite as good a start as it wanted to against Lawrenceville School on Wednesday. It mirrored the start to its season.
   Just 17 seconds into Wednesday’s game, the Panthers fell behind, 1-0. PDS never stopped skating, but the Big Red never relented in a 3-0 win.
   "In the first 20 seconds, we gave up a goal," said Panthers head coach Chris Barcless, whose team fell to 4-4-1 going into Saturday’s game at Kingswood-Oxford. "We made a mistake in our D’ zone coverage. They made us pay for it. It’s not the way we wanted to start the game. They scored early and scored at the end of the first period."
   The Panthers allowed nothing more than a power-play goal in the final 31 minutes of the contest. PDS is looking to build on its final two periods play as it takes on Kingswood-Oxford and then St. Thomas More on Sunday.
   "We have two this weekend," Barcless said. "I’m hoping it helps. Playing (Lawrenceville) Jan. 11 is early in the year for us. We usually play a handful of teams that are as good or better than they are. This is our first game at this level. It makes it a little difficult. In the past, we’ve played some teams before them to get us ready. It took us a little time to adjust. Hopefully it helps. The schedule doesn’t get any easier."
   In the coming weeks, the Panthers host the top public school team, Morris Knolls, and play at highly regarded Wyoming Seminary, Seton Hall Prep and Hill. PDS is hoping the final 30 minutes of Wednesday’s game will help them as they go forward.
   "We’re 4-4-1," Barcless said. "We tied Bergen Catholic, who is a Top 10 team and then we lost to Bishop Eustace, which probably isn’t even in the Top 30. We don’t have the same team and the same level we’ve had. But we have the same character and heart."
   Those intangibles came out in a game that has developed into one of the better annual hockey games around. It’s how PDS hung tough, though it also helped that Jared Tepper making 33 saves.
   "They had a lot of shots," Barcless said. "A lot of their shots, our goalie was able to make saves. He was able to see them. We didn’t care how many shots we gave up. We didn’t want to give up quality shots. We did a good job keeping them outside and staying in position.
   "We played hard. All they got was a power-play goal in the last two periods. We had some opportunities. I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of the way they battled. Derek Mayer and (Justin) Mimmo are playing with a lot of heart. Jared Tepper did a nice job in net. We’re getting a team effort. We’re deeper than we’ve been. We’re getting effort out of our guys."
   Barcless never expects anything less regardless of the opponent. With Lawrenceville, he doesn’t have to worry about a consistent effort. It’s how the Panthers have managed to give the Big Red a contest annually.
   "We have been competitive, and 3-0 is still a competitive game," Barcless noted. "I went through the last eight years. They’ve all been one-goal or two-goal games. We beat them by three. They beat us by four one year. As I told the guys before the game, talent and level and size and strength, you can throw that out the window when it’s Lawrenceville. It’s the team that has the bigger heart and works hard. The last eight matches, this team has more than risen to the occasion."
   Barcless continues to keep his team focused on meeting the upcoming challenges. The Panthers will have to elevate their level to get wins in the weeks to come.
   "Right now, we have a lot of hockey left," Barcless said. "We have the Prep (B) Tournament again. We are not the champs. We have our tournament and we’re not the champs in that either. So we have some goals left to achieve.
   "We’re still trying to come together as a team. We’re not where we want to be yet."