By BRIAN JENNINGS
Since Plainville joined the Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill ice hockey program as a cooperative team at the start of this season, the Eagles have lost just one game out of the four they have played in thus far.
WMRP scored a pair of wins this past week and are four wins away from qualifying for the Division III tournament for the first time since 2011 when Middletown-RHAM-Rocky Hill made the postseason as the 11th seed. Wethersfield was skating solo in Division II at that time.
In their four wins, the Eagles have scored a total of 16 goals and allowed just three.
“If we move the puck and do what we practiced, we’ll be able to score goals,” said WMRP coach Dennis Tulimieri. “We very much approach it as a team game. When we play team hockey and dish it off on a give-and-go or other puck support plays, we will score goals. Some guys have really good shots.”
Coming into the season, Tulimieri said that he expected a competitive Eagle squad.
“It’s always difficult to determine whether or not you have a winning combination,” the coach said. “But I knew we had enough skill with the guys that were returning, not just with the new Plainville players. They brought some skill with them, and we’re getting an awful lot out of some young players.”
Speed and defense are what Tulimieri says are the bright spots that he has seen in the team in the early going of the season.
“We have good quickness and good coverage in the defensive zone,” said Tulimieri. “I think it’s indicative that we’ve taken 180 shots and the opposition has taken 80 through the first five games. Because we play good team defense, the opposition doesn’t get good position to take good shots.”
Loss at Avon-Farmington-Windsor
DEC. 31—The Eagles wrapped up 2016 by suffering their only loss on the season thus far, shut out, 3-0, by Avon-Farmington-Windsor at the Avon Old Farms Rink on Saturday.
The Generals scored a goal in each of the three periods. Stephen Vaughan saved 28 shots on goal for WMRP. The Eagles took 30 shots on goal and committed three of the five penalties in the game.
“They’re a solid Division II team,” said Tulimieri. “Things we learned from that game is that we can’t afford mistakes particularly in our end. You may say that every goal is the result of a mistake, but in this case, it was quite true.”
Win at Eastern Connecticut Eagles
JAN. 2—A couple days later, WMRP traveled to Connecticut College in New London where they recorded their second shutout of the season in a 4-0 sweep of the Eastern Connecticut Eagles.
“This game was a very good team defensive game,” said Tulimieri. “All the forwards, the defense, and goalie did their job. It was a real good team effort.”
Trevor Piecewicz hit the back of the net with the puck first late in the opening period. Following a scoreless second period, Tyler Piecewicz, Ben Mroczka, and Paul Wheatley secured the victory with goals in the third period. Tyler Piecewicz’s and Mroczka’s goals were 27 seconds apart from one another.
Mroczka, Zac Forrest (2), and Sean Fuller each contributed with assists. Vaughan saved nine shots on goal. WMRP took 36 shots on goal and committed five of the eight penalties in the game.
“The Eastern Connecticut Eagles are a tenacious team,” the coach said. “They never quit and always come at you. But by the end of the third period, I believe that we just kind of wore them down. We had too much depth for them.”
Win at Lyman Hall-Haddam/Killingworth-Coginchaug
JAN. 4—The Eagles earned their second-straight win and fourth victory on the year by edging out Lyman Hall-Haddam/Killingworth-Coginchaug by a goal, 3-2, on the road at the Northford Ice Pavilion on Wednesday.
“The competitive level was really high in this game,” said Tulimieri. “We played them in the last game of the year last year to a 0-0 tie and needed a win, in order to get into the tournament. Both teams felt that they should win, and when that happens, it’s a very competitive game.”
Mroczka and Paul Ciarcia gave WMRP a 2-0 advantage with goals early in the first period. But the Trojans knotted up the score with a pair of scores in the second and third periods. However, Tyler Piecewicz set up Wheatley with the game-winning goal early in the third period.
“The goal was close to the net,” the coach said, “We had the net presence, which is what you want to have. All of that worked out real well.”
Riordan Mertens and Braydon Mertens contributed with assists as well. Vaughan saved 13 shots on goal. The Eagles took 28 shots on goal and committed three of the seven penalties in the game.
Saturday’s road contest against Enfield-East Granby-Stafford at the Enfield Twin Rinks was cancelled due to inclement weather.
WMRP will look to extend their winning streak this week with home games against Bolton-Coventry-Rockville-RHAM (1-4) and Newington-Berlin-Manchester (0-5-1). The Eagles are currently 4-1 overall and 0-1 in the CCC South Region.
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