Hun hockey wins to begin MCT chase

Raiders top Nottingham in opener

By: Bob Nuse
   Mike Williams can remember what it was like to win a Mercer County Tournament ice hockey championship.
   Now, he would like to see the younger players on the Hun School team get the same opportunity.
   "Each year we are doing better and better," said Williams, a senior who scored a pair of goals as Hun opened the MCT with an 11-1 win over Nottingham on Friday. "Two years ago we won the country tournament. Last year we lost in overtime to Notre Dame (in the quarterfinals). So we’ve usually played well in this tournament. This year we’re hoping to make it just as far and maybe win it."
   With the win over Nottingham, the Raiders earned a shot against second-seeded Steinert in the quarterfinals, which will be played on Feb. 20. The teams played earlier this year, with Hun dropping a 6-1 decision. Williams and his teammates are hoping for a better result this time around.
   "We don’t play many Mercer County teams at all," said Williams, who has three goals and three assists this season. "We played Steinert a couple weeks ago and that’s who we play in the next round. They gave it to us pretty good, so we’re excited for the game and a chance to play them again.
   "We play a lot more prep teams now than we used to. We play some real quality teams like PDS, Morristown-Beard and Landon. But as you go on in this tournament, the teams we play get better and better. Princeton, Notre Dame, Steinert, they’re all good teams."
   The MCT offers the Hun players a chance to go against friends and teammates from outside club teams. And it also gives the Raiders a chance to show where they stand locally.
   "We know a lot of the kids on the teams we play in this tournament," Williams said. "We’re all from around the area, so we’re all friends with some of the kids we play on the other teams. It’s fun to play against some of your friends."
   The Raiders certainly had fun on Friday, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the opening period before finally ending the game by the 10-goal rule early in the third period. With the win, the sixth-seeded Raiders improved to 6-8 overall this season.
   "We had a rough start, but the last few games we have been playing real well," Williams said. "We’re starting to get our act together. We always get real pumped up for the Mercer County Tournament. Two years ago we won it. A.J. Blackburn, Brendan Ryan and I were all on the team that year.
   "Every game we come out and play hard. Our first line has put up a decent amount of points. Steve Norman stepped up today because we have a PG, Andy (Aschenfelter) who could not play today. Steve filled in for him on our line and had a real good game."
   Norman had a pair of goals in the win, while fellow freshman Brendan Gallagher added three goals. Joe Deane and John Del Rossi also scored twice, while Williams and Ryan Schmitz added one goal apiece. The Raiders hope the win got them started on another run through the MCT.
   "This tournament still means a lot to us," said Hun coach Francois Bourbeau, whose team is scheduled to face Princeton on Wednesday night and Notre Dame on Friday. "Last year we lost to Notre Dame and we had really wanted to get back-to-back championships. Every year, that’s why we’re in it, to win it. It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my kids. I think if it didn’t mean anything, we would not sign up for it. The kids get to play against some of their friends on the CVC teams, so it means a lot to them and they want to do their best."
   Games against Princeton and Notre Dame this week should give the Raiders a pretty good idea where they stand against the best of the CVC. And they may also see those teams again down the road in the MCT.
   "We always try to keep a relationship with Princeton and with Notre Dame because we know, every year, we have a good game with those teams," Bourbeau said. "So we try to keep that going."
   "Last year I had a lot more seniors and a lot more offense. This year, we have a nice balance and a lot more chemistry. That’s what we have been working with this year. We’re younger and it shows, but I think they are gaining their experience quickly. And I think that throughout the year we have seen a big improvement in their talent as hockey plays, and also with their maturity."