By BRIAN JENNINGS
After getting shutout in the first round of last year’s Division III state tournament as a 14-seed, the Warrior-Knights (13-8) made more out of their trip to the tournament this time around.
Hall-Southington outlasted Joel Barlow in the first round but fell to Westhill-Stamford in the quarterfinals.
Warrior-Knights fly past Falcons
The No.4 Warrior-Knights hosted No.13 Joel Barlow (8-12-1) on Monday, March 7. And although there was no game film available to review on the Falcons from the Southern Connecticut Conference, it was quite alright. Hall-Southington just looked to their leading goal scorer to take control of the game, as the Warrior-Knights advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating the Falcons by a goal, 4-3.
The Warrior-Knights rallied for three goals in the second period, beginning about five minutes into the period. Kevin Carr wristed a shot from the top of the key through a crowd of bodies that deflected off of Jacob Herz’s stick into the goal, giving the Warrior-Knights a 1-0 lead.
The Falcons tied the contest at 1-1 with a goal midway through the period, but Jarod Florian closed the period out by putting the Warrior-Knights back on top, 3-1, with back-to-back goals less than a minute apart. Caelan Booth and Drew Mitchell assisted the first goal and Booth assisted the second.
The Falcons cut the deficit with a goal on a breakaway up the ice, seconds into the third period, but Florian would come up with an answer once again. Booth and Mitchell hooked for a second time to assist Florian with his 30th goal of the season midway through the period to give the Knights a two-goal lead, 4-2.
The Falcons stuck around, trimming the deficit to one goal. The Warrior-Knights committed an interference penalty with 23 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Flacons one last shot with a one-man advantage that fell short in a wild scrum in front of the Hall-Southington goal.
The Flacons may have only brought 12 skaters to the ice in Monday night’s contest, but every time the Warrior-Knights created some space, the Falcons came right back, and Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon said that they let them hang around.
“Even in the first period when they had some legs, they made some plays early,” the coach said. “We all knew that this was far from won coming out on that bench in the third period. You should run them right into the ground in the third period because they don’t have a lot of bodies. We still gave them opportunities.”
Florian and Booth were making a return to the ice after missing the last two games, and their impact was felt at once. Cannon said that Florian had to cut out the flat side of a plastic Coke bottle to create a shield for his injury on the inside of his left leg.
“It was a painful one because it was one that wasn’t going to go away unless he got out of his skates and stopped skating for a week,” the coach said. “He had to block a shot awkwardly and caught the puck in the perfect spot, at the top of the boot in the gap of the shin pad. He had a nasty bone bruise that was split too.”
The Warrior-Knights took 43 shots on goal in the game and committed four penalties. Adam Faust secured the victory with 18 saves.
Tourney run ends in West Haven
The postseason came to an end three days later when the Warrior-Knights traveled to the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven to take on No.5 Westhill-Stamford (13-6-2), and the Vikings wasted no time.
The Vikings went up 1-0 after scoring the first goal of the game more than five minutes into the opening period. Paul Gambardella (assisted by Mitchell) knotted the game up at 1-1 with a score moments later. But a goal five seconds before the end of the period handed the lead back over to the Vikings, 2-1.
The Vikings added another goal to their tally just over five minutes into the second period, but Miles Aronow kept the Warrior-Knights in the game with a goal off of a rebounded shot by Florian midway through the period, trimming the deficit to one, 3-2.
But from there, Westhill-Stamford took over, securing the victory with two more goals late in the period. The Vikings scored their fifth goal on a power play with 1.3 ticks remaining in the period. Tough defense by both sides would result in a scoreless third period, but Westhill hung on for a 5-2 win.
“Overall, we played a pretty good game, but we served them up too many opportunities that ended up in the back of our net,” said Cannon. “They had guys that were able to capitalize on our mistakes, and they did a good job.”
The Vikings outshot the Warrior-Knights 45-23 on the net in the game. The Warrior-Knights committed five penalties to the Vikings’ one penalty. Adam Faust saved 40 shots on goal.
“The kids did some of the things we worked on in practice the last two days, but the trouble began when they started carrying more of the game, and we started chasing,” said Cannon. “To give up two, absolute last-second goals hurt. We came out and we just weren’t quite the same team.”
The loss marked the end of Hall-Southington’s winter campaign. The Warrior-Knights are graduating seven seniors: Caelan Booth, Jack Rivers, and Connor Dombal, and team captains Kyler Cubbage, Paul Gambardella, Kevin Carr, and Jarod Florian.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.