The Princeton Day School girls’ ice hockey team has picked the right time of the year to heat up.
With the state prep tournament and the Women's Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic playoffs on the horizon, the Panthers have won five of their last six games to even their record at 9-9.
For PDS, it was just a matter of getting everyone back on the ice together to get themselves rolling.
"We had a lot of players who were injured for a while, but now we have them all back,” said senior captain Julie Patterson, who scored the game-winning goal when the Panthers topped Immaculate Heart Academy, 2-1, last Friday. “We’re working some lines and getting used to each other. We’re picking up some wins and we are really working hard.”
Jillian Wexler made 25 saves in the victory over IHA. Caroline Haggerty had the goal that tied the game in the second period before Patterson broke the tie with a power play goal in the third period. It was the second time in less than 10 days that the Panthers had posted a one-goal victory over the Bergen County school.
“Going into the third period we had a lot more energy knowing it was a tie game,” Patterson said. “We’ve been tied going into the third period against a ton of different teams. I think we picked up the pace a lot and the power play we had really helped getting that winning goal. We won by one goal over there, too. They are close games when we play IHA. They are a good team.”
And PDS topped Princeton, 6-1, to get back to .500 for the first time since December. After opening the season with two victories , the Panthers lost six straight games to fall to 2-6 heading in January. But the Panthers went 7-3 to start the month and appear to be playing their best hockey.
Haggerty had two goals and two assists against Princeton, while Ellie Schofield added a pair of goals. Wexler made 13 saves against the Little Tigers. The sophomore goalie was coming off a great effort against IHA, where she turned away a number of tough shots in the third period to preserve the lead.
“I was just trying to keep the puck to the corners and let the defense do their job and we got through it,” Wexler said after the win over IHA. “The defense did a good job today. I like (being in a close, low-scoring game). It means I am doing my job and it is nice to see for the goalie on the other team.”
As the Panthers prepare for the post-season, it will be the final run for Patterson and her fellow seniors. It’s been a fun journey for Patterson, who has come full circle on the ice.
“When I first joined PDS as a freshman, the seniors helped me and now the roles are switched,” she said. “As a senior, I like to try to help all the freshmen learn. They are working hard. I love it. I have seen them grow so much and it is nice to see some of them get out there on the line. It’s nice to see them grow and get goals.”
The Prep tournament will begin with a semifinal matchup against Morristown-Beard on a date to be determined. The WIHLMA tournament begins Feb. 15.
“It flew by fast,” Patterson said of her time at PDS. “(The seniors) are going to miss it a lot and hopefully we do well in the playoffs. We’ll play Holton-Arms, which is going to be a good matchup for us. We played them before and lost when we had some people out. So it will be good to see them compete against our whole team and see what we can bring.”
Next year, Patterson plans to play at Wilkes University. Reaching that level is something she has aspired to since she first took to the ice.
“I started when I was 4 and I grew up with it and then I switched to playing with just the girls,” Patterson said. “I love the sport and I definitely wanted to keep playing in college.”