in The Trentonian.
WEST WINDSOR — Brian Nelson has always been a smart, savvy player, but this season he added another gear to his offensive skill set.
In fact, Nelson’s hat trick was the catalyst for the Hun School ice hockey team's offense in the Mercer County Tournament final.
The Raiders, who have now won an unprecedented sixth straight county championships, took home the hardware with a 9-4 win over Princeton on Friday night at the Mercer County Ice Skating Center.
After Princeton (13-9-3) answered Hun’s first goal, the Raiders (15-8-1) went on a run, scoring three straight to take a 4-1 lead just 90 seconds into the second period.
Twice the Tigers pulled to within two goals, but the firepower of the Raiders was too much as they scored the final three goals of the second period to take an 8-3 lead into the third period.
“This means everything," said Nelson, the game's Most Valuable Player. “We look forward to this right from the beginning of the year. We become brothers through the year and to be captain is always an honor."
Nelson, a senior who now has 50 points this season, led the way with the hat trick, while Eddie Evaldi, who always plays solid in the MCT, had a goal and four assists.
“It amazing," said Nelson of the MVP honor. “I never would of thought about this when I was a freshman. I have grown a lot as a player here and it’s all thanks to coach (McNally) and some great guys that have come through the program. I knew I was going to have to step up and this has been the best year of my career. It’s been awesome."
Hun got single goals from Chris Brake, Zachary Kandel, Nicholas Dimatos, Aidan McDowell and Dan Carney.
Dimatos, Hayden Watson, Felix Turcotte, Maxwell Schmuckler and Alexis Landry all had two assists. Zachary Wellman had one.
Princeton was led by Keith Goldberg with a pair of goals, Calvin Rogers and John Zammit each had one. Aidan Trainor, Colm Trainor and Stephen Avis had assists.
It’s been a season with a little adversity, and yet the Raiders rose above it all to claim another title.
“We went 0-6 in our league and then all the sudden the last two or three weeks we found it again," said Hun coach Ian McNally. “It seemed every game we were missing a few guys."
Jackson Cole, who was in goal for Hun’s last two MCT titles, is out with an injury, and several other players, including Matt Argentina, who had scored four goals in two MCT games this season, was also unavailable.
“It seemed like when we are missing some guys the other are really stepping up," said McNally. “Brian Nelson has been a great captain and he is a player that leads by example. He has been awesome."
Every time the Raiders needed a goal, Nelson found a way to get it in the back of the net.
He scored the first goal of the game, the goal that made it 5-2 after a Princeton goal and then one down the stretch as Hun opened things up.
“We just wanted to dig down and play our systems and play smart," said Nelson. “We got a couple bounces and we were able to get off to a quick lead. We knew we had it in us."
Nelson just kept it in high gear.
Princeton (13-9-3) 1 2 1 – 4
Hun (15-8-1) 3 5 1 – 9
Goals: P: Goldberg 2, Rogers, Zammit. H: Nelson 3, Evaldi, D. Carney, McDowell, Dimatos, Kandel, Brake. Assists: P: C. Trainor, A. Trainor. H: Evaldi 4, Dimatos 2, Watson 2, Turcotte 2, Schmuckler 2, Landry 2, Wellman. Shots: P: 37. H: 30. Saves: P: Prokoshin 12, Mayers 9.H: Borek 29, Carney 4.