By JOHN GORALSKI
For three periods, the Hall-Southington skaters were struggling to center the puck in front of Wethersfield’s net. But with less than two minutes elapsed in the overtime period, the young team executed the dance like a troupe of veteran artistes.
The defense set the stage as the Warrior-Knights with a scoreless tie after one period despite seven minutes of penalties that spanned nearly half of the opening period. The offense survived the second period with a goal to match Wethersfield’s sole score. Both teams struggled through the third period. Hall-Southington dominated play but couldn’t find an open skater in front of the net.
Overtime was like flipping a switch.
“It was a big scramble, but we had pretty good control in the zone, and that was what did it,” said Warrior-Knight coach Brian Cannon. “We didn’t lose the zone.”
Ocean Curling made the first attack, with a shot that deflected into the space in front of the goal. The Warrior-Knights won the battle and kicked the puck back in front of a charging Kyler Cubbage. Wethersfield’s goalie never knew what hit him.
“Kyler stopped it on his backhand, moved it to his forehand, and shot,” said Cannon. “The angles all looked good, and I knew it was going in when the puck was passed to him. Everything lined up, and he came through.”
With the goal, Hall-Southington salvaged their first week of play. On Wednesday, Dec. 17, the young co-op opened the season with a lackluster performance on the road. For three periods of the second contest, they out-worked Wethersfield but managed just a one-goal tie.
Cannon said that he hopes that the overtime win will spark his young team.
“It would have put us in an awful hole if we came out of the gate with two losses against teams that I think we’re capable of beating,” said the coach. “We’re a young team, and we’re making a lot of mistakes and turnovers. We cleaned it up a little bit after our first game, but we still have to get better.”
Hall-Southington actually led in the first game Jarod Florian and Anthony Pasquarelli notched first period goals, and Florian’s second score in the first minutes of the second period gave the co-op a 3-2 lead. Fermi-Enfield-East Granby-Stafford rallied for three goals in the second period to put the game out of reach and added another in the third to score a 6-3 win.
“We just got out-worked,” said Cannon. “I think that our kids were nervous. They were over-excited and gripping their sticks too tightly. We just weren’t recovering fast enough from our mistakes, and they made us pay.”
The team responded with a hard-fought overtime road win in game two. Jeremy Fortin scored the first one for the Warrior-Knights, and Cubbage notched the go ahead score in overtime.
Defensively, the Warrior-Knights were solid in both contests. Erich Bender made 40 saves in the first game and 18 in the second, but Cannon said that it won’t get any easier as the team’s schedule gets harder in the upcoming weeks.
“I hope we can pick it up, and I think we will. The good news is that our young kids have really been playing well. They’re playing to the upper end of their abilities at this point,” he said. “Hopefully, it will come along. We just have to keep working on it and pounding home concepts, so that they can turn it into something on the ice.”
Hall-Southington will face two conference rivals during the holiday week with Farmington-Avon-Windsor (1-1) on Tuesday and EO Smith-Tolland (0-1) on Saturday.