By BRIAN JENNINGS
An overtime win on the road and a shutout at home over the week catapulted the Hall-Southington hockey team into second place in the Division III CIAC rankings, behind Westhill-Stamford (4-0-1).
The Warrior-Knights started their week on Wednesday, Dec. 30 with a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory over Wethersfield-Rocky Hill-Middletown (1-4-0) at the Newington Arena.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead with just over five minutes into the game, but Wethersfield wouldn’t find the back of the net again until the third period.
Hall-Southington jumped out in front, 2-1, by the end of the first period with goals from Jacob Mohr and Drew Booth. A goal by Jarod Florian in the second pushed the lead to 3-1, but the Eagles rallied for three straight scores in the first half of the third period to regain the lead, 4-3.
With just 22 seconds remaining, Jeremy Fortin tied the contest to force an extra period. In overtime, Florian returned to put the game to rest with his second goal of the game 3:54 into the period, securing the win.
Hall-Southington took 37 shots on goal and the Eagles took 28. Zach Monti saved 24 shots on goal for the Warrior-Knights and Stephen Vaughan saved 32 for the Eagles. Hall-Southington committed five penalties (10:00) and the Eagles committed four (8:00).
Saturday marked the first home game of the season for Hall-Southington, as well as the team’s third-straight victory when they defeated Division II Fermi-Enfield-East Granby-Stafford (0-5-0), 2-0, at Veterans Memorial Ice Rink in West Hartford.
Kyler Cubbage scored the Warrior-Knights goal (assisted by Jack Rivers) early in the second period from just inside the blue line, when he flicked his wrist and watched the puck slide through the zone unnoticed and through the five-hole.
The second goal came late in the same period, when Rivers streaked through the Falcon’s defense on a breakaway, splitting between two defenders to deke past the goalie for the score.
The Warrior-Knights took 34 shots on goal and the Falcons took 20. Adam Foust is part of that three-goalie shuffle and was in the goal for Hall-Southington to hold the shutout with 20 saves. Sam Roy came up with 32 saves for the Falcons. The Warrior-Knights committed two penalties (4:00) in the game to the Falcons’ three (6:00).
Before the season started, Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon said that you could see three different goalies start in games throughout the season, and the Warrior-Knights are still shuffling those cards, starting two of those goalies through their first five games.
“Foust appears to be the guy that we suspected was going to bubble up,” said Cannon. “So far, he’s shown well. Monti has played two games and has shown decently. Harry Freda hasn’t gotten a chance yet, but we’ll look for a place to play him and give him a shot at it too. A game like this today shows you why we have pretty good confidence in Foust, which is not a lack of confidence in the other two because we’re not worried about playing them either. He’s a little bit beyond where those guys are and made some big saves to keep that game in control today. When they had a couple of good shots, he squares up to them well. And even though he doesn’t take up a lot of net, he’s athletic enough and is disciplined to understand the position well.”
Foust stopped the Falcons from scoring on multiple occasions, including two major saves on breakaways.
The Warrior-Knights have been showing a different style of play in their first five games of the season, as opposed to the look of last year’s team, which is a more aggressive approach. Cannon said that his guys are trying to play a faster game getting the puck up the ice.
“We’ve got reasonably decent speed on our team right now,” said the coach. “We have some mobile forwards that can move. We’re getting some real strong efforts out of kids that are bubbling up in age now, especially from Florian, Jack Rivers, Caelan Booth, and Miles Aronow. We’re getting those guys in motion, and that’s the whole thing we’ve been trying to do since the beginning of the year. Get those faster, more mobile kids moving. Don’t bog them down. We’re not trying to make fancy passes. We’re just trying to get the puck up ice and use our speed against other team’s defensemen.”
Cannon went on to say that his team isn’t fully vested in it yet, but that it is a work in progress.
“They don’t fully understand it because we’re asking them to do something they’ve never been taught before,” Cannon said. “In youth hockey, you’re going to do it differently than what we’re trying to do here. It’s taking some time to get on board. The key is that the defensemen have to move the puck up effectively too, but they’re not always able to do that. It’s coming along and I think it’s going to be successful for us over time.”
With the wins, Hall-Southington improved to 4-1 overall, but 3-0 against division three opponents. The team will look to build on their streak at Trinity Catholic (1-3-0) in Stamford on Wednesday, Jan. 6.