By John Goralski
With two minutes elapsed in the final period, Hall-Southington finally broke through. Dave Valentukonis pushed the puck forward on a fast break. Cody Backus fell forward as he reached for the goal, and officials signaled the end of the scoreless tie.
On Saturday, Jan. 4, the hockey co-op put a stranglehold on the Tri-Town for two periods. They fought for loose pucks. They they battled on defense, and Erich Bender made 27 stops in the net, including a one-on-one breakaway attempt that he foiled in the final two minutes of the second period.
When the team finally scored at the start of the third period, nobody was more relieved than Coach Brian Cannon. He’s been lecturing about the need for full game efforts. He’s been begging for his team to embrace the challenges before them.
The hard work finally paid off and the team held on for a 2-1 win to even their record at 3-3.
“We hit a couple of posts today, too. We had one early on and one late in the game,” said Cannon about his team’s efforts. “I don’t see this team getting a lot of pretty goals. We’re going to have to do it by shoveling and sweeping after rebounds and bounces. There were a lot of bouncing pucks and changes in direction. You never know what’s going to happen. Luckily, we were able to get the better of them.”
Hall-Southington has been anything but consistent in the early season, and Cannon said that he hopes the victory is a clear turning point. So far, the team has posted a strong effort in a win over Conard. They’ve posted a lackluster effort in a win over Rocky Hill, and they’ve compiled three dismal efforts capped by a 10-2 loss to NW Catholic two days before New Years Day.
“We got absolutely embarrassed. We came out with a half-baked effort, and NW Catholic was more than happy to take advantage of that,” Cannon said about the loss. “They came out and thoroughly out-worked us. They thoroughly out-executed us. It was like men playing with boys. It shouldn’t have been that, but it was.”
The victory over Tri-Town was the perfect answer. Hall-Southington out-shot their opponent, 41-28. Kevin Cop stretched the lead to 2-0 off a pass from Dylan Roach. Tri-Town managed to cut the deficit to one goal in the waning minutes, but the Warrior-Knights dominated from start to finish.
“It was nice to see them come out of their coma,” said Cannon. “We controlled a lot of the game. We had a tough time figuring this goaltender out because he’s a big kid and he’s good. Anything on an angle, he’s going to stop. We just had to keep swatting at it. We had over 40 shots. Eventually, something’s got to go in.”
Cannon said that he was cautiously optimistic that the game can serve as a turning point for his squad. His biggest question is whether the team can carry that momentum into the next game against Wethersfield and the rematch with Farmington-Avon-Windsor.
“We don’t have an easy schedule,” said the coach. “We have a lot of hard games coming up, and we have to play even better than this. We can. We have just chosen not to.”