Replacing a goalie can be a difficult thing for a high school hockey team, especially when it comes to a three-year starter like Mike Haggerty, who anchored the net for the Panthers before moving on to play at Rider University this year.
However, the Panthers have found salvage in another sophomore who is starting in his first year at the varsity level.
Robbie Campbell has helped the Panthers get to a 14-5-1 record this season, and is looking to continue his first year as starting goalie deep into the state playoffs.
Campbell started the season with a bang when he posted a 94 percent save percentage with 32 saves in a 3-2 win against Pingry on Dec. 2. As of the Feb. 3 game against Montgomery, Campbell had recorded 197 saves on the season.
With a talented core of seniors on this team, the Panthers were ranked No. 17 in last week’s Top 20, according to nj.com. Campbell has used his athleticism and previous experience as a baseball catcher to do more than his part as a starting sophomore goalie.
With the state playoff fast approaching, Bridgewater Patch caught up with Campbell, as he discussed the hockey season and what it has been like as the starting goalie for one of the top high school hockey programs in New Jersey.
Bridgewater Patch: How did you get into playing hockey?
Robbie Campbell: I got into the sport when I was around 7 or 8 years old. My stepmom got me into playing because she used to watch the Flyers when I was younger, and I grew up watching their games. By the time I was 8, I had started playing roller hockey and tried ice hockey when I was around 11 or 12. I started playing goalie at that same time.
BP: Do you play any other sports? If so, what sport do you prefer to play and why?
RC: I used to play a lot of sports. I played football, basketball and baseball and last year I started playing lacrosse for the high school team and I am going to continue lacrosse this year.
BP: Why do you like hockey over the other sports you have played?
RC: I like the team atmosphere that comes with hockey. You need the whole team to back you up and not one person can do it by himself. You can also never predict the outcome of any game because it can change so quickly.
BP: Why did you choose to become a goalie?
RC: There’s a lot of pressure on the goalie and I like the pressure. Goalie kind of just clicked with me right away. I always played catcher when I played baseball and they are very similar positions. From the first day I put the pads on, I loved the position.
BP: What were your expectations at the beginning of the season?
RC: Honestly, they were not as high as in years past. At the start of the season, no one was really talking about us and we were being overlooked a little bit. When the season started and we beat Pingry and Ridge, we started getting some recognition and we really showed how good of a team we are.
BP: How has the confidence level changed now that the team has performed better than expectations?
RC: The confidence level has gone through the roof. We all trust in each other and Coach [Patrick] Alvin has been great. He has always had the confidence in us, and it is really paying off this year.
BP: What has it been like to play for the hockey team?
RC: It has been a lot of fun. Last year watching Mike Haggerty play was a really great experience. He taught me a lot of how to play the position and how to handle the pressure. We have a lot in common because he started as a sophomore as well and he really showed me the ropes and what to expect as a varsity starter.
BP: How do you think playing for this team has helped you grow and mature as a player?
RC: It’s really helping me improve everyday because I have learned a lot about responsibility. Just coming out every day to practice and giving it all every game really has helped me mature as an athlete.
BP: What would a state championship this year mean to you?
RC: It would be great because we have a lot of seniors on the team. It would be so great for all those guys to go out with a championship. It would be very special for them and I would be very happy to see them go out like that.
BP: How do you think this season will help you through your next two years at BRHS?
RC: I have learned a strong work ethic this year and it will be something that I will take with me for the rest of my playing days. Also, I am learning to stay confident no matter what is thrown my way. We lost a lot of seniors this year and we are having a really good season and we will lose a lot of seniors next year. I have gained valuable experience this year that will help me in my next two years.
BP: Although you are only a sophomore, have you begun to look at colleges or think about your hockey future?
RC: I haven’t started looking at colleges yet, but I would love to play at the next level. That is my goal to one day play college hockey, but for right now, I am only thinking about my present and the rest of this season.