By BRIAN JENNINGS
A pair of wins to close out the regular season clinched the final spot in the CCC South regional tournament for the Warrior-Knight ice hockey team, qualifying them for the conference tournament for the second-straight year.
“It’s a feel-good thing for the kids because it helps give them confidence,” said Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon. “They feel a little bit of success. The thing that I like about it is that it gives us an extra game, possibly two, before we get into states.”
Win vs. EO Smith-Tolland
FEB. 21—The Warrior-Knights began the week by edging EO Smith-Tolland by a goal, 3-2, at home on Tuesday, achieving their first Division II win of the season. The Bucks are currently 12th in Division II.
“We played with a physical presence tonight that I don’t think we played a game with yet this season,” said Cannon. “That made the difference because not only were we aggressive after them, but we were putting the body on them, which really kept them from getting going.”
Following a scoreless first period, Dusty Kilgore put the Warrior-Knights on the board first with a goal (unassisted) midway through the second. The Bucks knotted the score at 1-1 with a goal less than a minute into the third period.
A score—assisted by Jacob Mohr—from Miles Aronow moments later put the Warrior-Knights back on top by a goal, but Aronow circled back around to feed Jeremy Fortin for another goal to seal the deal with just over four minutes remaining in the contest.
The Bucks attempted a comeback with a score less than a minute later, but would fall short. The Bucks just missed a goal with a shot off the post in the second period.
Zach Monti saved 19 shots on goal. Hall-Southington took 22 shots on goal and committed three of the four penalties in the game.
Win at BCR
FEB. 25—The Warrior-Knights wrapped up the week and the regular season by clinching a spot in the conference tournament with a 5-2 victory over Bolton-Coventry-Rockville at the Bolton Ice Palace on Saturday. Enfield-East Granby-Stafford fell, 7-2, to Farmington Valley at home, which also helped the Warrior-Knights clinch a spot in the conference tournament.
“I don’t think we were as sharp as we were in the last couple of games,” said Cannon. “We didn’t move the puck as well as I would have liked to have seen, both through the neutral zone and attacking the net. I think we could have been better there.”
The Warrior-Knights jumped out to a 3-0 advantage with goals from Nate Zmarlicki, Aronow, and Graham Kennedy in the first and second periods. The Shamrocks interrupted Hall-Southington’s offensive production and cut the deficit to a goal with a pair of scores midway through the second and third periods. However, the Warrior-Knights pulled away on goals from Zmarlicki and Andrew Mitchell moments later.
Anthony Abbatiello (2), Brendan Moore, Kilgore, and Fortin contributed with assists. Monti saved 15 shots on goal. Hall-Southington took 37 shots on goal and committed 10 of the 17 penalties in the game.
Hall-Southington finished the regular season at 9-8-3 overall (6-3-1 home, 3-5-2 away), finishing fourth out of seven teams in the CCC South with a 5-6-1 regional record. The Warrior-Knights were also 7-3-2 against Division III teams and 1-5-1 against Division II teams.
Although Farmington Valley (15-4, 10-1) still has to play Newington Co-op (3-13-3) in their regular season finale, the Generals locked up the CCC South regular season title. The Warrior-Knights will play the Generals at Avon Old Farms on Thursday, Mar. 2 at 8 p.m. in the first round (semifinals) of the CCC South tournament.
Laying the hits on other teams first and flying to the puck are just some of what Cannon said has helped the Warrior-Knights achieve success throughout the regular season. But maintaining that aggressive style of play is what he said will also help the team throughout the postseason as well.
“Overall, we are definitely a bigger-than-average team,” said Cannon. “When we’re playing well, we’re using that to our advantage. When we’re not playing aggressive, we’re reaching and backing up. That works against us because physicality makes us a better team.”
The other semifinal contest will feature No. 2 Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville (16-3, 9-3) against No. 3 EO Smith-Tolland (11-9, 8-4). The CCC North semifinals will feature top-seeded NW Catholic (16-3-1) against No. 4 East Catholic (7-12) and No. 2 Simsbury (11-8) against No. 3 Glastonbury (8-10-2) at the International Skating Center in Simsbury on Thursday, Mar. 2.
Pairings for the Division III tournament are to be announced by the CIAC by noon on Friday, Mar. 3.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (http://southingtonobserver.com/2017/02/28/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-march-3-edition/). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.