By John Goralski
The season was barely started, and the Warrior-Knights had already found the net. On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the Hall-Southington hockey team swarmed the Rocky Hill-RHAM-Middletown (R-M-M) net during their first shift, and it took just 45 seconds to tally their first goal.
Coach Brian Cannon didn’t know what to expect at the start of the season, but the Warrior-Knights didn’t miss a step. The coach had questions about his offense, and they answered with five unanswered goals. He had questions about his inexperienced defense, and they came away with a shutout on opening day.
Cannon isn’t ready to put aside all his concerns, but the coach admitted that it was a pretty good start.
“This was a good start for us. The only offense that R-M-M even mounted was basically on our errors and omissions or forechecking when we let them out of the zone,” said the coach. “Luckily, either [goaltender Erich] Bender turned it away, or it didn’t work out.”
The Warrior-Knights showed a balanced attack with five different players scoring goals and six different players earning assists. On the first shift, Jarod Florian and Dave Valentukonis found Kevin Cop in front of the net to break the scoreless tie. With 1.5 seconds remaining in the period, Dylan Roach gave the locals a little breathing room off passes from Cody Backus and Ethan Shaeffer.
Hall-Southington scored three times in the second period and emptied the bench for the final period.
Paul Gambardella, Florian, and Backus scored second period goals. Backus, Cop, and Brian Mahon notched assists. Bender (7 saves) and Kyle Partiss (4 saves) combined for the shutout.
“All things considered, I’m happy,” said Cannon. “I think it was real important to score so quickly. I think that, if we let that team stick around long enough, they could have put one in the net. In fact, I was a little worried that it would happen and they’d tie it up, 1-1. Luckily, we held out and did all the scoring.”
Despite the victory, Cannon still sees areas that need to be improved before the team enters one of their upcoming tests. Despite the shutout, the defense still has work to do with their gaps and spacing. Cannon said that there were a few opportunities missed with forechecking, and at times the team was slow to react to offensive opportunities.
“We’ve got to improve those things against better teams, or we’ll get ourselves into trouble, but this game went pretty much the way that I expected,” said Cannon. “I think we’ll be able to compete with all of the division III teams on our schedule, but we’re still going to have to really work to play with those division II teams. That’s what I took away from this. We’re going to do fine competing at our level, slightly below it, or slightly above it, but it’s going to be a battle against the more skilled teams.”
Still, it’s a good start for the winter team.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.