By BRIAN JENNINGS
The sixth-seeded Warrior-Knight ice hockey team trailed top-seeded Woodstock Academy by one entering the third period. It didn’t take them long to knot the score at 3-3 with a goal nine seconds into the final period of the title game.
However, four unanswered goals from the Centaurs all but put Hall-Southington’s hopes of clinching their first-ever Division III title as a co-op to rest, as the Warrior-Knights fell, 7-3, to Woodstock in the championship at Ingalls Rink in New Haven on Saturday, March 18.
“We just had to keep their big guns in front of us and try to let them run rough shot over us,” said Hall-Southington coach Brian Cannon. “We did that for a while, but we couldn’t keep it up.”
The Centaurs took a 2-0 lead with goals from Ryan Black and Avery Riva in the closing seconds of the first period and opening minutes of the second. The Warrior-Knights scored the next three out of four goals to knot the score at 3-3 in the final period.
Jacob Mohr (1 assist) scored a pair of goals, his second coming as time expired in the second. Jeremy Fortin (2 assists) wasted no time from the moment the puck was dropped and scored nine seconds into the third. Nathan DeLuca cut into Hall-Southington’s run with a goal shortly after Mohr’s first.
Following Fortin’s goal, Woodstock’s Gunner Moore nabbed for the lone penalty of the contest on a two-minute tripping call. But Hall-Southington’s power play proved to be ineffective as the Warrior-Knights were only able to get off just one shot on goal with the extra man on the ice.
“We came out and scored that one right in the beginning that gave us hope because we were looking good,” said Cannon. “But then we botched the power play, and they ended up scoring towards the end of it. That one hurt and was the knife in our back.”
During the power play, DeLuca snuck past the Warrior-Knight defense on a breakaway up the side of the boards to put away a shorthanded goal that give the Centaurs a 4-3 lead.
“When we gave up that shorthanded goal, our wheels just kind of fell off,” the coach said. “It took the wind out of our sails.”
That’s when the momentum of the game shifted towards Woodstock’s way for good as the Centaurs would go on to net three goals in a span of 1:17.
Riva extended Woodstock’s lead to two with 4:25 left in the third on a 2-on-1 off a one-timer. Just 26 seconds later, DeLuca put his finishing touches on the hat trick with his third goal of the contest. William Liscomb capped off Woodstock’s victory when he found the back of the net with 3:08 remaining in the game.
Moments after Fortin’s score to open up the third, the Warrior-Knights came close to taking their first lead of the game after hitting the crossbar on a shot attempt that just missed the top shelf, leaving Cannon the anguish to ponder what could have been.
“If that had gone in, God knows what would have happened, but it didn’t,” said Cannon. “That was good momentum to take into the third period. Then our kids started changing up what we’ve had success with. We started opening up holes out on the ice, and they started pouring in goals because that’s what they do.”
Miles Aronow contributed with a pair of assists. Michael DiPietro finished with 10 shots on goal, firing at the net five times in the third.
Zach Monti saved 25 shots on goal for the Warrior-Knights with 10 coming in the first. Both teams took 32 shots on goal.
“There’s no doubt that he stopped a couple of big plays and saved us early on,” the coach said. “Monti played a great game, right up until he got victimized a couple times. But those were plays that no goalie was going to stop.”
Caleb Wilcox saved 29 shots on goal for the Centaurs with 12 coming in the third.
“Cal was the difference in the end because we were pulling some stuff on them early in the third period, other than the one that found its way behind him,” said Cannon. “He did what he had to do to make sure these guys had the opportunity to close this out.”
The win was Woodstock’s first CIAC title in their four years as an established ice hockey program. The Centaurs were eliminated in the semifinals as a No. 2 seed in last year’s tournament, the quarterfinals as a No. 13 seed in 2015, and the first round as a No. 10 seed by Hall-Southington in 2014.
The Centaurs finished the season with an overall record of 21-2-1. One of their losses, 3-2, came at the hands of the Warrior-Knights at the Veterans Ice Rink in West Hartford back in early Feb.
Hall-Southington finished the season at 12-10-3 overall.
Division III Semifinals
MARCH 16—The Warrior-Knights advanced to the final by blanking No. 2 Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville, 1-0, in the semifinals at Ingalls Rink a couple days earlier.
Following two scoreless periods, DiPietro scored the lone goal (unassisted) of the game with 10:58 remaining in the contest on a shot that deflected off a defender and trickled past WMRP’s goalie, Stephen Vaughan.
“I got the puck from great board play by one of my teammates,” said DiPietro. “I was looking to put it across the net to my teammate that looked open. It went off the defenseman’s stick with a nice bounce.”
Monti saved 13 shots on goal. Hall-Southington took 31 shots on goal and committed all four penalties in the contest.
The semifinal game was the third meeting between both teams. The Warrior-Knights lost twice, 6-5 and 4-1, to the Eagles during the regular season, but it’s tough to beat the same team three times in one season.
Prior to the semifinals, Hall-Southington’s run through the tournament included wins over No. 11 Newington Co-op in the first round, 4-3 (overtime), and No. 3 Housatonic-Northwestern in the quarterfinals, 6-1.
The Warrior Knights are losing the following six players to graduation after this season: Jeremy Fortin, Eric Bienstock, Dusty Kilgore, Colby Glidden, Jacob Herz, and Matthew Carlson.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (http://southingtonobserver.com/2017/03/20/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-march-24-edition/). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.