By BRIAN JENNINGS
WEST HARTFORD—It won’t get any easier for the Hall-Southington hockey team as they try to manufacture a postseason bid. With two losses this week, there’s no chance for a .400 record to automatically clinch a berth.
Instead, the Warrior-Knight future will hinge on a pair of games against their division II cross-town rival, Conard, and the rest is out of their hands. With two games to go, Hall-Southington is clinging to the 14th position in the race to finish in the top 16 in division III.
Hall-Southington opened the week with the last game in their six-game homestretch on Wednesday, Feb. 18 against the Wethersfield-Rocky Hill-Middletown Eagles (0-15) at Veterans Memorial Ice Rink in West Hartford.
The Warrior-Knights won the CCC South divisional matchup, 4-3.
Jack Rivers scored the first goal of the night for the Warrior-Knights midway through the first period. The Eagles tied up the game seconds later making it 1-1 at the end of the first period.
The Eagles found the net minutes into the second period with their second goal, going up 2-1. The Warrior-Knights were able to take the lead with a goal from Matt Briscoe minutes later and a goal from Kyler Cubbage with just before the end of period, going up 3-2.
Jared Florian would give the Warrior-Knights the secured lead with a goal midway through the third period, adding to their total 4-2. The Eagles tried for a comeback with a goal at just over three minutes to go in the game, but would be too little too late.
The Warrior-Knights’ four goals came from four different scorers. Hall-Southington had 28 shots on goal and the Eagles had 23. Erich Bender had 20 saves for the Warrior-Knights and Steve Vaughan had 24 for the Eagles.
“The kids played well enough to win,” said Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon. “Wethersfield is down on their luck, but they’re not a team that you can take lightly. They did come in with a decent effort, but we outplayed them. And we got a narrow victory. We didn’t want to fall as their first victim.”
The Warrior-Knights looked to carry the momentum when they hit the road for Enfield on Friday night, to play a rescheduled game against the Fermi-Enfield-East Granby-Stafford Falcons (11-7) at the Enfield Twin Rinks.
The Falcons were coming into the game riding on a seven-game winning streak to a home ice rink that served as a difficult place to play for visiting teams. It proved too much to handle, and Hall-Southington fell, 5-2.
Cannon presented a different game plan to his team before the game in order to adjust to an aggressive style of play, due to the short neutral zone that the small Enfield ice rink offered.
“They went out and had a good first period, executing the game plan fairly well,” said the coach. “Our guys tailed off a little in the second, but not too bad. We just reverted back to business as usual in the third. In a five-minute interval, we gave up three goals and fell apart in one spot. And we were ok afterwards. That team has enough good players to take advantage of the game and they did.”
The Warrior-Knights’ only two goals by Dusty Kilgore and Cubbage would come midway through the first period. The Falcons tied the Warrior-Knights with two goals in the first period.
For the next two periods, the Falcons would go on to shut them out in the next two periods, scoring three goals in the third. Andrew Crane led the Falcons with two goals.
Hall-Southington had 24 shots on goal and the Falcons had 52. Bender had 47 saves for the Warrior-Knights, and Sam Roy had 22 for the Falcons.
Swept by Newington
The Warrior-Knights tried to get back on track on Saturday, Feb. 21, returning home to host the Newington-Berlin-Manchester Indians (13-5). Going up against a strong team that was a division above, the Warrior-Knights walked into the game with not much sleep after arriving home from Friday night’s game close to midnight.
“We knew that they probably wouldn’t be real sharp today and we were right,” the Hall-Southington coach said. “We played a good team on no legs. They got a night’s sleep, but it’s not a lot of rest to come in and have to play Newington. You could see that in the first period. We could see the kids were down before they even went out on the ice. There was not a lot of energy in the room and in warm-ups. There’s only so much you can do.”
The Indians defeated the Warrior-Knights, 11-2.
Hall-Southington’s only goals came from Jackson Maxwell midway through the first period and Kilgore midway through the second. The Indians scored four in the first, five in the second, and two in the third. Marco DiPaolo led the Indians with five goals.
The Warrior-Knights had 17 shots on goal and the Indians had 37. Bender had 26 saves for the Warrior-Knights and Cam Criniti had 15.
The Warrior-Knights are currently ranked 14th and will be fighting to stay alive for the CCC Tournament when they take on the Conard Chieftains (11-4) this week in two final regular season games at Veterans Memorial Ice Rink.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.