By BRIAN JENNINGS
A couple defenders surrounded the puck against the boards near the blue line of their territory. One of them attempted a pass up the ice, but the puck was deflected, and spinning out of control to an unguarded Caelan Booth.
With no defenders in front of him and an open lane to the goal, Booth glided in with a few dekes and slipped a wrist shot past the goalie to the top shelf of the net.
“We felt like we were having success with an aggressive, physical game,” said Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon. “We started getting some pucks to the net in the second period off our physical play. We picked it up in the third period a little more, and I think it was mostly just a belief thing. We felt the pressure we were putting on them, so we kept playing physical and got a couple bounces.”
Booth’s game-winning goal with 1:39 to go in overtime at home on Saturday, Feb. 13 propelled the Warrior-Knights past Newington Co-op, 4-3.
The Warrior-Knights got caught in a hole early, falling behind 2-0 after the first period, one of which came off of a power play goal. To make matters worse, the Indians added another power play goal late in the second period.
“We got caught out of position, but part of what’s happening is that we’re not taking many penalties this year,” said Cannon. “Our whole season’s penalties right now are less than two games in previous years. So our penalty killers are not getting the time in practice that they used to.”
But the Warrior Knights overcame the deficit, starting with a Paul Gambardella goal (assisted by Jeremy Fortin) with 32.6 seconds left in the period. Jacob Herz continued the comeback with a goal (assisted by Anthony Abbatiello) early in the third period.
Midway through the period, the Warrior-Knights went on the power play and Booth had control of the puck at the top of the key in the Indians’ zone. Booth attempted a wrist shot, which hit off the tip of the goalie’s glove and ricocheted off the crossbar out to an open Fortin on the rebound.
Fortin quickly flicked the puck in the goal from a few yards out and tied the contest at 3-3, eventually sending the game into overtime.
Cannon said that he saw one of the most physical performances out of his team this year, as the Warrior-Knights were able to knock down or disrupt most of the Indians’ passes and shot attempts. Hits along the boards were common as well.
“We were putting good, aggressive pressure on their puck carrier,” the coach said. “So they’re looking to get rid of it, but they don’t have time to assess the situation, whereas, they did in the early part of the game. By putting pressure on the puck carrier, you make them rush and they don’t quite have people in place yet. And they make mistakes.”
The Warrior-Knights took 35 shots on goal while the Indians took 33. Adam Faust was switched for Harry Freda in the first period and Freda combined with Faust for 29 saves, including a game-saving goal in overtime.
“We have the luxury of three legitimate goalies,” said Cannon. “Unfortunately, one’s been getting the lion’s share of time, but he can’t be perfect every game. We switched out the goalie and the team responded, clawing their way out of a deficit they dug themselves into.”
Dave Mix saved 31 shots on goal for the Indians. Each team committed four penalties in the game.
Swept by DII rival
The Warrior-Knights traveled to Avon Old Farms on Wednesday, Feb. 10 where they lost their second straight game to Farmington-Avon-Windsor-Lewis Mills (10-6-0, 6-3-0) in another shutout, 2-0. Hall-Southington suffered a 4-0 loss at home last month. The Generals are currently ranked ninth in the Division II standings.
After two scoreless periods, the Generals found the back of the net twice early on in the third to secure the win. The Warrior-Knights took 32 shots on goal and the Generals took 22. Faust saved 20 shots on goal for the Warrior-Knights and Connor Adams saved 32 shots on goal for the Generals. Each team committed a penalty in the game.
Hall-Southington is currently ranked fourth in the Division III standings behind New Fairfield-Immaculate (14-2-0), Woodstock Academy (14-3-0), and Westhill-Stamford (10-4-2). The Warrior-Knights are also fourth in the CCC South behind Newington Co-op, Farmington-Avon-Windsor-Lewis Mills, and E.O. Smith-Tolland (8-4-1, 5-2-1).
Of note, Jarod Florian scored his 100th varsity goal during the team’s 5-0 shutout at Shepaug-Litchfield earlier this month.
With four games remaining in the regular season, the Warrior-Knights will try to fight for better seeding in the conference tournament when they host Wethersfield-Rocky Hill-Middletown (3-12-0, 0-8-0) on Wednesday, Feb. 17 and head north towards the state border for the Enfield Twin Rinks on Saturday, Feb. 20 to take on Fermi-Enfield-East Granby-Stafford (4-10-1, 2-6-1). The CCC Tournament is scheduled to start Thursday, March 3.