By JOHN GORALSKI
Kyler Cubbage tied the game with just under 12 minutes remaing in the second period, and for the next five minutes the Warrior-Knights scrambled to put the game out of reach.
Jarod Florian scored the go-ahead goal, and Jeremy Fortin beat the goalie for the second time in the game to give Hall-Southington a 4-2 lead.
On Friday, Jan. 2, the hockey co-op broke a long losing streak against their conference rivals, and Coach Brian Cannon hopes that it’s a sign of things to come.
“We haven’t won a game in Bolton in three or four years, maybe more. Usually we come in here and fall on our face,” said the coach. “Time will tell if we turned the corner or not, but this was our best effort to date.”
The young Warrior-Knights have been inconsistent in the early season, but the back-to-back wins at the start of last week have revitalized the team. On Monday, Dec. 29, the team rallied for their first home victory with a 5-1 win over Tri-Town, but it was the dominant performance in Bolton that really impressed their coach.
Fortin (assist) and Florian finished with two goals apiece. Cubbage had one goal and one assist, and Jackson Maxwell capped the scoring with just under nine minutes left in the game.
Jacob Herz, Matt Briscoe, Caelan Booth, Dusty Kilgore, and Andrew Mitchell added assists as nine different players contributed to the scoring. In the net, Erich Bender made 24 saves to get the win.
“I think we played our best game of the season so far,” said Cannon. “We tried a couple of different things that seemed to be working. We tried a couple of different methods for getting out of the zone and down the ice. The kids had a physical presence and worked hard.”
The win marked the first time this season that Hall-Southington has manufactured back-to-back victories. On Monday, the team exploded for three goals in the final period to jump past Tri-Town, 5-1.
Cannon said that it was the first time that his Warrior-Knights set the pace and held it.
The first goal came on a penalty play with four minutes left in the first period. On an odd-man rush, Briscoe’s shot ricocheted off Tri-Town’s keeper and Maxwell capitalized on the rebound.
Tri-Town tied the game at the start of the second period, but Anthony Abbatiello and Dominick Zmarlicki pushed the puck to Jacob Herz for another hard-fought score.
“They didn’t give up on either one of those goals,” said Cannon. “We were able to get some numbers to the net and poke them in. We told them before the game that we wanted to see them shooting the puck. We didn’t manage to do that a lot early on.”
The second score opened the floodgates. Florian scored twice in the final period, sandwiching one by Cubbage. Maxwell assisted both Florian goals. Fortin and Jack Rivers also notched assists.
“I think we’ve incrementally improved our play each game, but we still have a long way to go,” said Cannon. “We saw some spurts here today, but the turnovers are still too high. We have way too many lapses of coverage in confrontation. We’ve seen a lot of things tonight that we really haven’t seen so far, so we’ll take it as a positive.”
Once again, Bender anchored the defense. The senior co-captain collected 42 saves, holding off Tri-Town until the offense could take over.
“Today, he made at least a half dozen stops that I really didn’t think he could make,” said Cannon. “He’s playing so well right now. He’s really giving us a chance to win these games.”
Even a close, 4-2, loss in Woodstock on Saturday couldn’t spoil the week for Cannon. Woodstock sped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second period, but Hall-Southington responded with two of the final three scores.
Cubbage and Herz scored. Fortin and Booth notched assists, and Bender collected 33 saves in the loss.
“We didn’t play badly, but they were a little bit quicker team,” said Cannon. “We let them play hockey around us. We played pretty decent, but we didn’t move enough. They were able to put in goals primarily off our mistakes or turnovers.”
Now, the team will try to clean up those mistakes as January heats up. The team will have seven days before a rematch at Tri-Town, and then they’ll jump into the heart of the conference schedule.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Cannon. “We won’t know for a week or so if we turned the corner at BCR, but I really hope we did. “
The Warrior-Knights are 3-4 (2-2 in the CCC).