Princeton, Hun clash for county crown
Princeton High and the Hun School bring two different resumes to the ice on Friday in the Mercer County Tournament final.
The top-seeded Tigers come in with 16 wins and a penchant for scoring goals.
The seventh-seeded Raiders have almost just as many wins in the Mercer County Tournament as they did in the regular season.
While it might have been two very different routes to Friday’s title game set for 5:30 p.m. at Mercer County Park, both deserve to be there.
Along with the MCT hardware comes bragging rights around town.
Princeton (16-2-4) has handled the pressure of being the No. 1 seed by reaching the championship game, while the Raiders (716), who are the three-time defending champions, are 14-0 in MCT play since 2014.
“You pick a victory song in the beginning of the year and we really haven’t heard it that much this year,” said Hun coach Ian McNally. “So, there guys are really Jonesing for another win.”
While Hun is no stranger to the county final, the Tigers are making their first appearance since 2012. They last won it in 2011.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Princeton coach Terence Miller. “It’s this group’s first trip to the finals and we are looking forward to the challenge.
As a show of team unity, all the Raider players went for a mullet haircut, and it must be working. They came into the tourney on a nine-game skid, but have outscored their MCT foes, 20-4.
Princeton has tallied 115 goals this season and has six players with over 15 points. But, it has been the Tigers’ defense that has been setting the tone lately.
“Defense has to come first,” said Miller. “Sawyer (Peck) has been dialed in for us and when you come up against quality teams you can’t be relinquishing many goals and expect to be successful.”
It has been a very balanced game plan for the Tigers; play sound defense, pressure the goal offensively and don’t lose the special teams battle.
Brendon McCormick has a county-best 35 goals with 25 assists and is the triggerman for Princeton. A pair of freshman have benefited from playing on McCormick’s line as Rocco Salvato and Aiden Trainor each have 15 goals. Trainor leads the county in assists with 35.
They have gotten plenty of support from Max Garlock, Justin Joyce, Eamonn McDonald, Nathan Podgalsky.
Hun’s speed has been the catalyst to generating its offense.
“We want to go as fast as we can and cause chaos,” said McNally. “As the other team starts to wear down we get turnovers out of it. It comes down to winning the endurance battle.”
Blake Brown and Tanner Preston are the two most notable players who have played a major role in the Raiders’ three straight titles.
Brown, who had a hat trick in the semifinal win, has 21 goals and 15 assists. Preston, who is a premier defenseman, has 22 assists and sophomore Kyle Mandleur has been very effective in the MCT. He has 19 goals and 11 assists on the season.
“We know a lot of their players,” said Brown. “This is amazing to be going for a fourth and we’d love to get it.”
Princeton’s Brendon McCormick, left, controls the puck against Robbinsville during MCT semifinal action.
Hun’s Guillaume Hebert, left, and Notre Dame’s Sean Whittaker, right, chase after the puck during an MCT semifinal game.