By BRIAN JENNINGS
WEST HARTFORD—It was cold outside of Veteran’s Memorial Ice Skating Rink in West Hartford on Wednesday night, with the temperature only in the teens. But inside the rink, play on the ice was hot for a high school boys varsity ice hockey thriller.
The Lyman Hall-Haddam-Killingworth Trojans fired shots and exchanged hits along the boards back and forth with the Hall-Southington Warrior-Knights, making it a close game down to the final ticks on the clock.
The Trojans wasted no time. As soon as the puck was dropped, Kyle Stoddard scored the first goal of the night on the Trojans’ first shot attempt, a minute and seven seconds into the first period. When asked about the goal, Warrior-Knights coach Brian Cannon knew exactly what went wrong.
“Kids came out totally unprepared to play the game,” he said. “They came out and decided they were going to stand around, move at half speed, and not put effort in…simple as that.”
The Warrior-Knights tied the game shortly after and took the lead late in the first period, 2-1. The Trojans fired back and tied the score at 2-2 about 30 seconds later, going on a 4-0 run until midway through the third period. The Trojans would sit on top of the lead for the rest of the game, defeating the Warrior-Knights, 6-5.
Hunter Boileau sealed the deal for the Trojans, scoring his second goal of the night late in the third period. The Warrior-Knights would get one last opportunity at tying up the game after pulling their goalie, just after a near miss from the Trojans at an empty net, but a shot just wide of the net with seconds to go would all but tie up the game for the Warrior-Knights.
Stoddard and Boileau led the Trojans with two goals apiece. Stoddard also led the team with three assists and ten shots on goal. Jeremy Fortin led the Warrior-Knights with two goals. Kyler Cubbage, Ocean Curling and Jackson Maxwell all led the Trojans with two assists apiece.
The Warrior-Knights came into this game coming off of a two-game skid, losing last Saturday to Tri-Town, 2-6. The Warrior Knights also came into the game without senior co-captain goalie Erich Bender starting behind the net, due to illness. Freshman Zach Monti filled in and showed his coach some promise.
“I thought he did okay,” said the coach. “He made some of the stops, but I thought he just got left hung out to dry way too many times…on pucks that any goalie would have had a problem stopping.”
Monti finished with 16 saves, while Zach O’Toole of the Trojans finished with 28.
Cannon believes that his team has to work out their problems beyond Monti and the net. “He is simply a work in progress,” he said. “He is simply a matter of training, getting older, getting stronger and working on his form. The problem is out in front of him with the five players that are playing in front of him.”
Read and react, hustle and grit are the three overall changes that the Warrior-Knights need to make. “Their read and react is poor. The work ethic is poor,” said Cannon. “The commitment to each little part of a play is poor. Until that straightens out, it doesn’t matter who we put in that net.”
Although the Warrior-Knights gave up six goals, there still were positives to take from the game, scoring five goals. “When they do as they’ve been taught and trained, they have the ability to have success, if they’re willing to put a little bit of effort into it. We weren’t looking for pretty goals. Basically, we’re looking to get the puck to the net and jam it in. It’s a simple matter of getting the puck. We’ve been having them just trying to get the puck to the net and following it…we had some success doing that.”
When times are tough, Cannon still expresses the love he has for his boys and the reason why he is in his fourth year as head coach of the Warrior-Knights. “Hey, they’re good kids,” he said. “They’re fun. It should all be fun, but I have fun winning, executing and performing.”
The Warrior-Knights traveled to the Newington Arena on Saturday night, only to lose a heartbreaker to the Newington/Berlin/Manchester Indians in overtime, 1-2. Jared Florian scored the first goal of the night in the first period for the Warrior-Knights, but the Indians answered back with a goal in the second period, eventually sending the game into OT. Dante Gugliotti scored the go-ahead winner for the Indians with 2:49 left. The Indians had 45 shots on goal, while the Warrior-Knights had 12.
The Warrior-Knights (3-7) currently sit in sixth in the CCC South (2-4 in the CCC South) and travel back home to take on the Farmington/Avon/Windsor Generals (2-5) on Wednesday, Jan. 21.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at bjennings@ southingtonobserver.com.